Afterthoughts: Dancing Room Only

Nothing compares to taking part in the action.
Dancing Room Only
illustration: kim sielbeck


If you’re the kind of person who sits down at concerts, we can’t be friends. I’m not talking about a symphony performance or a piano recital where you’re respectfully appreciating art. I mean rock, punk, pop, alternative and indie concerts, where all you wanna do is dance from the moment the band walks onstage.


When I first started going to concerts at Pipeline Café in high school, I’d come home smelling like sweat and other people’s cigarettes—smoking was still legal in venues at the time—half deaf with ears ringing and a sore throat, covered in bruises, muscles aching, never happier. My friends and I would get our ritual Powerade from McDonald’s after, recounting our experiences on the way home and then trading burned CDs of our pictures and videos. For me, it was a monthslong experience, from the anticipation to the afterglow. I’ve been to more than 60 shows since and that feeling never gets old.


After Pipeline closed and before The Republik opened, most shows I wanted to attend moved to the Waterfront at Aloha Tower. I was out of my element there. Sometimes the crowd was divided with a barrier, with those under 21 (me) relegated to one area farther from the stage. Once, security got mad at us for moshing and tried to stop us. At a New Found Glory show! What were we supposed to do, just stand there?


I hate seeing these types of bands at the Blaisdell Concert Hall or Waikīkī Shell, where you can’t get close to the stage. The few times I did, those experiences weren’t memorable—because they weren’t really experiences. The artists were so far away they could’ve been anyone, and trying to dance in a 3-square-foot assigned space that’s at least 50 yards away from the action just doesn’t cut it. I had to do that when Paramore performed at the concert hall in February and I felt so disconnected.


This month, I’m traveling for the third time to see my favorite band. Tickets sold out so quickly that the only ones I could get were for seats at the very, very back of the upper level. It was unacceptable. Last time, I was on the floor, holding up the band on a platform above my head with others in the crowd around me. The singer grabbed my hand for support and I almost dropped the drummer at one point. My arms were shaking, and my face was sore from grinning. For this month’s concert, it took weeks of planning and hundreds of dollars changing hands among a few friends before we were able to exchange our upper seats for open-floor tickets.


To me, there’s nothing like being in a crowd, smashed up against people from all walks of life. I’m a fairly shy person, but I won’t hesitate to pass around a water bottle to my fellow concertgoers or ask them if they’re OK when the show is getting rough and it’s hard to breathe. You’re united in the pit, taking part in creating something with every fist pump, jump or scream. That’s also why the crowd goes crazy whenever a musician says, “What’s up, Honoluluuu?!”—even though they’re playing the same songs we’ve listened to dozens or hundreds or thousands of times, it will never be exactly the same anywhere else. Aaron Gillespie from Underoath said it best on Twitter: “People don’t want to be entertained, they want to be included.”


So I don’t understand those who are content sitting back at the bar or in the rafters. That’d be like climbing the rock at Waimea just to watch the waves below. To me, if you’re not taking part, you’re missing the point. I don’t want to just stand on the rock. I’m jumping in. Are you with me?