group·ie /ˈɡro͞opē/ noun informal noun: groupie; plural noun: groupies a person, especially a young woman, who regularly follows a pop music group or other celebrity in the hope of meeting or getting to know them. "he pulled a different groupie every night" derogatory an enthusiastic or uncritical follower. "the contemporary art groupie" magazine* a journal for fans who are moved by music - moved to talk about it; moved to connect it to something more, something personal; moved to make something new because of it. it’s a place for creatives of all kinds who are inspired by music, lyrics, musicians, each other as fans, and how the world is sculpted, changed, and made sweeter by all of those things. “groupie is a music journal run by 3 fangirls with writing degrees.” note: the only definition of ‘groupie’ that is acceptable now.
Official definitions from oxford languages unless stated otherwise. *otherwise
issue 001: first times
Issue 001: First Times
letter from the
We’re new here. Despite the idea for Groupie Mag being a few years old, it took us a minute to make it the thing you’re looking at (or holding). Eventually, we made it to now. Issue 001: First Times. In the spirit of that, we asked the groupies (is it okay if we call you that?) to create on and around the concept of firsts. In this issue, you’ll find everything from a YA dystopian record shop to Harry Styles-inspired poetry to several perspectives on poppunk concert-going. Thank you for trusting us with your firsts. We feel so privileged to high-five our clammy palms with yours.
Our aim here is to connect music to something more. We hope you like it.
Team Groupie 01
Art courtesy: Canva
Issue 001: First Times
e MIxt ape
We took inspiration from our favorite first time-y songs, as well as from the pieces you’ll find while reading along. Turn it on the next time you need to stare nostalgically out a window.
10. “Angel from Montgomery” Bonnie Raitt
1. “I’ve Just Seen a Face” The Beatles
11. “Mad World - Live at Glam Nation” Adam Lambert
2. “First Day of My Life” Bright Eyes
12. “White Houses” Vanessa Carlton
3. “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter in a Small Town” Pearl Jam
13. “Build God, Then We’ll Talk” Panic! At The Disco
4. “Complicated” Miller
5. “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” SZA 6. “Playing God” Paramore 7. Venus”
8. “Make Out in My Car” Moses Sumney 9. First Love/ Late Spring” Mitski
14. “Child Please” Tierra Whack 15. “Dance in the Dark” Lady Gaga 16. “Adore You” Styles
17. “All the Things She Said” t.A.T.u. 18. “Sprained Ankle” Julien Baker 19. “How I Get Myself Killed” Indigo De Souza 02
Issue 001: First Times
After: “I’ve Just Seen a Face” Song by: The Beatles, Help! (1965)
Gloria Perez, Visual Art
How to be a Groupie
in the Digital Age Isabelle Crabtree, Prose
o, you’re sitting at your desk under the fluorescents in your office, not a window in sight and it’s a year after The Concert. You’re not quite over The Concert that you’d spent every last dollar in your bank account on, you still think about it approximately three times a week, when you see a tweet from your favorite band, teasing an appearance in your city. Your pulse quickens, your pupils dilate, honing in on those characters, halting your scrolling thumb. First, how do you discern if it’s true, or just clickbait from the social media team? Head to Instagram, sift through each individual members’ profile and stories to
cross-reference. You’re 83 percent sure they were all at the pop-up store in the LES, the poster for which you saw retweeted last week. Well, you decide to take a leap of faith because those who don’t try will never succeed (read: meet the band). Maybe you even ditch work a few minutes early, if you’re working with someone who won’t complain and you think your boss is too busy/stressed/ tired to care about the 5:47 pm punch out on your digital time card. You hop on the M to Essex Street and frantically try to download the Eventbrite app using NYC Free Wifi while your phone goes in and out of service underground. Sweat
Issue 001: First Times gathering between the back of your thighs and the shiny subway seat, you close your eyes for a moment and remember the euphoria of the show, the best night you’ve had since moving to New York. You picture the rain pouring down, the highlighter streaming into your eyes as you screamed from your nosebleed seats and pounded your waterlogged Docs. The subway screeches to a stop and you tap the door with a chipped-polish-encrusted fingernail, waiting for it to open. When it does you spring out and sprint up the stairs into the bright early evening light. Outside the pop up you see fans milling around, demonstrably not awaiting an appearance with excitement. You go up to one Kindred Spirit, look in her eyes and say,
“Did you see them? Were they here?” You hear yourself, breath ragged from taking the subway stairs two at a time, and wipe the sweat from your forehead. Momentarily, you wonder if you sound/look like a serialkiller-stalker. You remember the image of Kate Hudson getting her stomach pumped in a fancy hotel bathroom then
you shake your head and picture her in a cowboy hat and fauxfur jacket saying “We’re not groupies, we’re band aids.” Then you remember the article you read last month when work was painfully slow about how criticizing people for being groupies is sexist so you decide to try and not to worry about it anymore. Kindred Spirit’s crestfallen expression and quick answer shove that personal insecurity to the back burner as you hear her words uttered: “We just missed them, they left forty-five minutes ago.” An arrow of disappointment shot straight to the heart makes you shudder. Your eyes well up and you think: Well, at least I can go in and buy a t-shirt or something. Inside the merch is mostly stuff you’ve already bought online and made evergreen in this fast-fashion world. You ripped off the sleeves of three tees last summer when the A/C unit in your fourth-floor walkup broke. At the concert you took a selfie in front of the stage to track the band’s outfits, started an Instagram account where you find every piece of clothing they wear in paparazzi shots, consistently buy half that clothing, and get stern emails from your manager because all you seem to be doing is online shopping and obsessively refreshing Twitter. Thankfully
As you stand in a room full of strobe lights and heartbreak, eyeing shelves of limitedrelease vinyl and retroinspired phone cases, a whisper snakes its way to your ear: “I think they went to get dinner in the West Village.” The friendly cashier looks into your eyes as you fork over three twenties for a canvas tote to carry your hopes and dreams, a tote on which a strap breaks two weeks later on the platform of Hoyt-Schermerhorn on your way home from Trader Joe’s.
Running outside, you type the lead singer’s handle into the Instagram search bar but pause, reflect, and punch the backspace. He’s too humble! He hates fame! Instead, you try the drummer, he’s more the type, and Yes! there’s a shot of Manhattanhenge from the window of their car. You discern
Illustrations courtesy: Canva
he doesn’t mention the (many) days you’ve shown up hungover after staying out all night at gigs or the mess you make in the kitchen while frantically trying to fuel yourself for a long day at work by pumping your system full of caffeine and green juice.
Issue 001: First Times from the angle of the shadows and the presence of the orange awning of the bubble tea place you tried last week that they’re in Greenwich Village, somewhere between 6th and Commerce. Your mind races as you sprint to the subway, going over every tweet and post and interview you’ve seen in the last three weeks since the tour hit the North East. You remember the guitarist saying it’s been a long tour and all he wants is a taco and some peace and quiet. You know just the place and run down Bleecker Street to that one place where you saw that guy who was in the newer James Bond movies, you can’t remember his name but it was Ben something maybe? He made the new fingerprint gun for Daniel Craig and sat at the table having what sounded like a private conversation quite loudly on his cell phone. Slowing to a walk so you can catch your breath you see the restaurant and casually peek in the windows as you walk by. No sign of the band from this angle but you see a leather jacket you like and tell yourself to look it up later. After an hour of loitering, you almost give up but notice a few more people loitering and decide to wait it out. You scroll through Twitter, where your pro pic is a grainy, zoomed-in photo of the band.
Your friend’s account has a better picture of them and once the band’s manager even liked one of her tweets about a concert you’d both gone to. You decide to find a better photo for your profile so maybe someone, maybe even the drummer if you’re lucky, will like your tweets. Forty more minutes go by and then you see some paparazzi show up and stand on the street in front of the door smoking. In an explosion of noise and flashing bulbs a car pulls up to the curb, the restaurant door bangs open and the band walks out. People are begging and screeching for selfies but you use your sharp elbows to push past four people to stand near the lead singer for a brief moment. He’s wearing short sleeves in the late spring humidity and you see the new tattoo on his wrist that he posted a picture of on Instagram two weeks ago and decide it looks even cooler in person. You yell his name and he looks over, one foot in the car, and he smiles and waves.
“I love your work,” you yell after him.
Peel the Onion Tallie Gabriel, Poetry
chop it, dice it, whatever that width of slice is called throw in the pan, sauté with butter (all this time, you’ve been afraid of butter, and for what? life is crumbling, quite actually for some people, eat the damn butter) let the acid prickle tears into your un-made-up eyes, it’s the onion’s fault, but as you whack, slice, dice, you can’t help but think of that article that quoted fall of too-long-from-now as the earliest return of live music, of your friend who’s been in and out of the hospital, of what you’d give to meet a friend at a bar, order fries, eat them without thinking to wash your hands first, beer from a tap instead of a bottle. to greet that friend with a hug, instinctual, automatic.
Illustration courtesy: Canva
layers, the onion, like this: layers of confused and misplaced grief, of moments of profound peace, a walk in the sun becoming the highlight of a day. hope: how simple and scary and powerful and utterly necessary
Issue 001: First Times coming out of the fog feels like: several whole-lung gasps oh my god, there’s not enough room in your rib cage to hold all this cleanclear air songs put on repeat at LEAST twice go back, play that middle part again, could you? all of your senses turned up, you can feel every meter change in your marrow someone in your building is cooking something magic the scent wallpapers your hallway and you dance back to your door, dreaming up tastes that have yet to meet your tongue feels like wanting to make eye contact with every stranger in the street hey, you have a minute? come and spill to me your secrets, point me in the wrong direction, i wanna get lost in the pink cinnamon haze today come, let’s overturn the pebbles and leaves in our community garden and count up their stories i wanna exist in the in betweens, in the color that’s not quite purple or blue, in the silence just before a first kiss in the moment when you first hit the open highway on a road trip i don’t speak the language yet but pass me your vocab book and flashcards, i’m a quick study
Tallie Gabriel, Poetry
Photo courtesy: Canva
when the subject is a fascination
Don’t Meet Your
Illustration courtesy: Canva
Heroes Tallie Gabriel, Poetry
Issue 001: First Times Yes, right, so it’s nothing new, me saying this, (it’s what they always say) but the candy pop crush bursts your arteries, just the same (even when they warned you that it would) when you whisper their words like the only bedtime lullaby that works, the prayer that finally makes you feel like you’re talking to a god when you take baths in the movement of their notes because it’s the only way to get you showpony clean you sign up, you save up, you front-of-the-line park your tent and it’s so fast you don’t realize, it’s walls-up-thick-skin-I-know-this hurt at first, it’s playground rules, walk it off, a scab is a badge of honor a nurse’s office hall pass outta class and it’s only after when you see their book peacocking in your best shelf spot, when their opening riff start your lonely listens mix and you know it’s like a bad first kiss (or worse) after highschool hormone anticipated buildup it’s the I can sing my own heart to sleep tonight (when you wish you didn’t have to) it’s the mariana trench bruise-too-easy make everyone worry when they’d rather pretend they didn’t hear, parts of you that stay safely hidden in the light of day but you still keep your scuba suit hanging in your closet, behind the cowhide coat you never really outgrow your second grade sensitivity if you’ve made a practice out of borrowing it for art
Cara DuBois, Prose
November 2008. Starland Ballroom. Senses Fail. Never mind that I had been to shows before this one—they were in larger venues with more space and sometimes seats, and while I had enjoyed myself (how could I not, attending Warped Tour and seeing the likes of Fall Out Boy and The Cheetah Girls), this was the first show where I experienced the anxiety of the pit. A chaotic pile of bodies, everyone touching each other, vying to be closer to the stage. My
Ballroom are a bit muddled because the venue was renovated after Hurricane Sandy damaged it. Nestled in Sayreville, New Jersey (home of none other than Jon Bon Jovi), the venue could easily be mistaken for a manufacturing plant or an abandoned school—a sad brick building with frosted windows and a large parking lot on Jernee Mill Road, speed limit forty-five miles per hour. (Parking across the street from the venue was always a mildly treacherous venture.) I have
Issue 001: First Times
for GM CW: violence, sexual assault, eating disorders
fractured images of the interior from my youth and adulthood, creating one franken-venue. The general structure has remained the same: a large, open floor with no seating and raised standing areas to the right and left sides of the stage; a sound booth in the center-back of the floor; and a long bar separated from the floor in the back of the venue. I was thirteen years old when I visited the venue for the
first time. Deemed too young to attend the show by ourselves, my two friends, both men, and I were accompanied by two of our fathers. They promptly went over to the bar, where they spent the duration of the show, checking in occasionally via text. Before we parted ways, my dad told one of my friends to take care of me, which I remember feeling peeved about and flattered by. Didn’t he know that I could handle myself? (And, really, how much could another thirteen-year-old do
Groupie Mag if something were seriously wrong?) But I also had a crush on this boy, and I liked the idea of him looking out for me. I was wearing a white zip-up Roxy jacket, the hood lined in brown fur and the fabric quilted with hearts. My hair had been flat ironed, my eyeliner applied. I felt cool, and anxious, hoping that the other folks in the crowd would think I was cool. Everyone around was older than us, and I remember hearing a snide remark about children attending concerts now. (Maybe my Roxy hoodie was not having the desired effect.) We snaked through the crowd with little resistance, perhaps because we were children. I don’t remember seeing many women, outnumbered in the crowd as I was in my own group. I didn’t know that I was walking into an initiation, a drama that would be played out in crowds for years to come, long after I started going to shows on my own. Gender has always been in the pit, but this show was the first time I became conscious of it. We found a spot to the left of the sound booth where we could see the stage, and we waited there with nervous
anticipation for the show to begin. Soon, the lights went dark, and the crowd roared. My dad texted to tell me he liked Foxy Shazam, the first opening band, but that was the only one he enjoyed. (“Too much yelling!”) Sky Eats Airplane and Dance Gavin Dance followed, which I enjoyed well enough, but I was more focused on the commotion around me than the commotion on stage—a small mosh pit had opened up near us. Men twice my size were flinging themselves around haphazardly, and for the first time, I felt afraid rather than just nervous. I divided my attention between the performers in the crowd and the performers on stage. I could feel the tension building as we approached the headliner’s set. The crowd chattered, and more people pushed their way onto the floor, sacrificing any semblance of personal space we had left to share in this almost religious ritual. When Senses Fail burst on stage, they opened with “Wolves at the Door,” a thrasher from their new record Life Is Not a Waiting Room. I had carefully ripped an advertisement for it out of Alternative Press, circling
Issue 001: First Times the Sayreville tour date and hanging it in my locker. Senses Fail, too, are from New Jersey (an hour north of the venue, from Ridgewood), and Buddy Nielsen’s lyrics frequently reference the Garden State. It’s part of the reason why I liked their music so much. Now I found myself in a room of folks, likely from or tied to New Jersey, seeing a band singing about the angst of growing up in New Jersey. Angst is an isolating experience, an emotion that tells you no one else is feeling what you’re feeling. Angsty music makes that experience a little less lonely because the artist is vocalizing what you feel—and to be in a crowd, where everyone is singing passionately, earnestly, about this pain, angst begins to feel like a collective experience. This collectivity can be selective in who it includes, though. Nielsen’s early lyrics are violently misogynistic—he sang “One Eight Seven” at this show (“You ripped my heart out, you tore my eyes out, now
you’re gonna pay. / I’ll stab you one time. / I’ll eat your heart out, so you feel my pain. … I wanna kill you.”) and to this day, I can’t forget the lyrics to “Every Day Is a Struggle” (“I was the finger in your throat to keep you cute.”). As Jessica Hopper writes in her essay, “Emo, Where the Girls Aren’t,”
“Girls in emo songs today do not have names. We are not identified beyond our absence, our shape drawn by the pain we’ve caused.” As a young woman, I flocked to songs about my own denigration. I can’t remember listening to any female vocalists, besides the occasional Paramore hit. (And, really, wasn’t “Misery Business” its own brand of internalized misogyny?) I’m still discovering ways that this has shaped my psyche after six years of studying gender. What was I trying to prove? Though I was screaming along with everyone else, rocking on my feet and bobbing my head, I
¹To Nielsen’s credit, he now uses the stage to speak out against homophobia, sexism, and misogyny and doesn’t play songs that perpetuate these violences. The band (which has changed members multiple times over almost two decades, with Nielsen as the only continual member) even re-recorded their first EP, From the Depths of Dreams, removing the misogynistic language.
couldn’t lose myself in the music. The mosh pit that had opened near us during the earlier bands was back in full force, and I was on edge. My friends expressed that it was cool and funny, though I can’t account for what they might have been feeling. Two young women were on the edge of this mosh pit, which primarily contained men, and they would push the moshers away when they got too close. Toward the end
of Senses Fail’s set, when perhaps more alcohol had settled into the bloodstream and folks were feeling reckless, two bodies collided. He broke her nose. Blood was everywhere. Her friend quickly ushered her away from the floor, holding her as she cried. The men didn’t stop moshing, as far as I can remember. One of my friends laughed and said, “That’s pushing pit.”
what you get the big guys in
Illustrations courtesy: Gloria Perez
It has been brutal to learn that not everyone sees my body as mine.
Issue 001: First Times This education has occurred everywhere, though the music scenes I love dearly perhaps taught me best. Between lyrics that erased my subjectivity and men who grabbed or hit (on) me, the message was clear. Hopper spoke to me when she wrote about young girls who discovered music during this era of emo: “I wonder if this does it for them, if seeing these bands, these dudes on stage, resonates and inspires them to want to pick up a guitar or drum sticks. Or if they just see this as something dudes do, since there are no girls, there is no them up there. I wonder if they see themselves as participants, or only as consumers or—if we reference the songs directly—the consumed.” And it’s true; despite being a melomaniac, I’ve never picked up an instrument.
crowd, and I slumped against a wall to sit down. I hadn’t been there a minute when a security guard came up to me and told me that I couldn’t sit on the floor. I told him I felt sick, and he apologized and said I still couldn’t sit there. I took my jacket off, stood up, and controlled my breathing. Passing out and puking were not options. Somehow I made it through the last two songs. As the crowd made its exodus outside, I found my friends. I had kept my jacket on for the entirety of the show, sweating through it, and the autumn air kissed my skin.
I started to feel lightheaded after seeing all of the blood. Terribly squeamish, I’m prone to passing out. (It runs in the family.) I tapped one of my friends on the arm and said I was going to get some air, and he nodded. My vision was going black as I made my way out of the
Hearing men scream increases my heart rate. I don’t miss it. You’ll still find me at shows, though. I’m timid, I never crowd-surf, and I always bring earplugs. I want to ensure that I feel safe enough to make it to the next show, which isn’t a guarantee.
I’m angrier now than when I was thirteen, but I turn away from most loud music.
Issue 001: First Times
SOUNDTRACK to my First Solo Drive Jenny Woodford, Visual Art This digital collage piece is based on the soundtrack to my first solo drive: “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter in a Small Town” by Pearl Jam. I really sucked at driving. Hated it. Was super fearful. Fought with my mom. Took lessons from my angel of a brother. Took lessons from the creepy Driver’s Ed teacher. I don’t know if I was just an angry teen, but I was stubborn and frustrated that I couldn’t quickly pick up the skill. I was also embarrassed that I kept failing that fucking test. Eventually, I passed. I vividly remember exactly how it felt to drive alone for the first time. It was 2008: I had an old black Camry, a red iPod with my name engraved on it, and a cassette player hookup. My destination was my high school, maybe a tenminute drive. I couldn’t believe I was being trusted to do it alone. I was petrified. I remember getting in the car, pulling out of the driveway. My mom waved from the front door. Backing up down the driveway felt WRONG - how are you supposed to go backward and see what you’re doing? I slowly
crept down my street and headed to school. While checking my speed, my mirrors, and my heart rate, I wondered - was I having a panic attack? I put my iPod on shuffle. I’ll never forget the opening lyrics, the soundtrack of the moment. I seem to recognize your face / Haunting, familiar / yet I can’t seem to place it... Suddenly I was Rory Gilmore in Stars Hollow, living out my 90s/ early-aughts-teen-school-girl fantasy! With each house I passed by on the street I grew up on, the fear slipped away. Driving past a large field down the street with the ocean in the distance - I became strangely choked up and emotional. It felt like one phase of my life was over. I was no longer tethered to my house and the weird shit going on there with no option to escape. I could leave when I wanted. It scared the shit out of me and excited me at the same time.
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away. Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away. 20
Photo courtesy: Canva
do you know or does it even matter whether the road or the going came first have you covered your ears spied the lines weighed the distance and discovered that growth is a circle and the rims of your heels have spread good your path in all of this, meaning have you taken tasted the seaweed rubbed the rust in a cab have you passed yellow and wondered how many more maybes until September and at what point will the corners finally stop needing to be cut to put it like the cart is always in front of the horse apparently backwards momentum does not make us younger steady the rails fix our islands we could make it easy splice the detail in all the questions let’s resolve that pinballs should always be round returning to beginning and also end only one day fits in a fist are both hands full be like still or be like clouds each turns the tide
Issue 001: First Times
BEHIND THE WHEEL BUT STILL AIN’T ON
MY WAY After
Samantha Niedzielski, Poetry
Issue 001: First Times
After: “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” Song by: SZA, CTRL (2017) Gloria Perez, Visual Art
Anna and I were bus friends. In fact, she was one of my first real friends at Madison, one of the first friends that didn’t care that I was a little too quiet and a little too loud at once; one of the first people who didn’t make me feel scared to be seen. She was also the first person to ever show me music that wasn’t what was already on the radio. One day on our route home, she asked, “Hey, do you know the band, Paramore?” I didn’t, but Anna was a certified superfan. She quickly molded me into her image. We created a ritual: the first one
on the bus saved a seat for the other with our bookbags. Sitting shoulder to shoulder, with one earbud plugged into each of our tiny middle-schooler ears, we listened to our favorite All We Know is Falling and RIOT! tracks like “Pressure,” “That’s What You Get,” and “Fences,” while the boys threw crumpled-up papers overhead, and the driver yelled at everyone to shut up. We sang along to the concert films and music videos in her bedroom on the weekends after long days at the lake and Twilight marathons. It was pre-teen bliss.
Wild Truth Gloria Perez, Prose Discovering Paramore was quite literally seeing life through new eyes. Before them, music wasn’t even something to be discovered. It was just this thing I loved that was always there, uncomplicated and waiting. And don’t get me wrong, my family loved music. The car rides that raised me were filled with my parents’ disco, Motown, folk-rock, and classical favorites. My memories are full of my mother’s karaoke renditions of Diana Ross and Earth, Wind, and Fire and my dad cleaning the pool while blasting opera music in our backyard. 25
The “music taste” I had cultivated by the age of eleven was really my older sister’s music taste. I looked to her for everything and never stepped too far away from the lines she drew. She defined what was “cool” for a long time, as I had no other framework. So we listened to Taylor Swift, and whatever was hot on 106.1 BLI. Suddenly, Paramore was this thing that was all mine. To absolutely no surprise, no one in my family shared my love of the band; and it was the start of a phrase I’d hear over and over again from my sisters: “your music.”
Issue 001: First Times
“Gloria, can you please change the song? Your music is too sad.” “Your music is scary.” “Can we please not listen to your music today?” I’ll admit it stung at first, but there was another feeling attached to hearing those words – this odd pride in listening to music that my family couldn’t stand.
It was my first little rebellion, with the perfect angsty soundtrack. On my twelfth birthday, brand new eyes was released. Anna burned me a CD because I was too scared to ask my parents to buy it for me. I remember walking home in the rain, so excited. I loaded the album onto my family computer’s disk drive and pressed play, sitting criss-cross on the rug in my living room. Anyone who entered was instantly thrown dirty looks and shushed. I needed to hear the words.
album through songs like thrashy opener, “Careful,” followed by their lead singles, “Ignorance,” and “Brick by Boring Brick.” But brand new eyes was so different from the first two albums. It captivated my mind in a way that only comes once in a while. There’s this wild truth to the whole thing, a gaping wound that demands its audience’s attention through Williams’ deeply confessional lyrics. The album is tinged with a distinct melancholy we find in tracks like “The Only Exception,” “Misguided Ghosts,” and that perfect, soul-shattering closer, “All I Wanted.” It also glimmers with hope, with catchy tunes like “Where the Lines Overlap” and “Looking Up.”
I’ve come to accept that Hayley Williams has all the answers. There is some mystic quality in her songwriting that just knows.
“Playing God” was an instant favorite. When I first heard the song, it was wide-eyed wonder. Hayley sang about feelings I could never identify within myself but instantly recognized. The song was catchy and bright, but there was this anger to the words sung that really defined the track. The second time I heard the song, I cried.
This album shifted something inside of me, more than any previous record by the band. To this day, I don’t think I’ve returned to any album as many times as I have to brand new eyes. It’s one of my true noskips albums. There was the usual unabashed pop-punk energy that was true to any Paramore
As a child steeped in Catholic guilt, it was easy for me to take this song in its literal sense before the figurative meaning of the phrase. “Playing God” unlocked a feeling that was inside me for a long time – a disdain for the hypocrisy I couldn’t help but see in so many devotees of the church.
Album Art courtesy: Paramore, Digital Collage by: Gloria Perez
There was something deep inside me that wished not to point but bend the finger back to the point of breaking when it came to those who relished in the act of judgment while they weren’t such great people themselves. It didn’t align with the messages of love and forgiveness I had learned of through my upbringing. It wasn’t just the church, but the world around me that I had these inexplicable feelings about– ones I could never articulate – these feelings manifested as fear. And that fear took hold of my life for as long as I can remember. I knew that I was different; I
just didn’t understand why. Being so young, I couldn’t see that I was this chubby, neurodivergent, non-white daughter of immigrants. Whether I knew it or not, I stood out quite a bit against the ivory backdrop of suburban Connecticut. It was like everyone knew it but me. This feeling festered into an intense fear of how people perceived my every action. The feeling of being misunderstood in the slightest way was so distressing that I couldn’t cope, responding with bouts of tears and shutting down, completely unable to speak for hours.
Issue 001: First Times
My mother worried I had inherited her family history of mental illness that turned up in her brother and her mother, Gloria, my namesake. I don’t remember too much from that point in my childhood, but a big chunk of what I do remember consisted of school psychologists, special ed classes, lunch groups, Rorschach tests, and wires glued to my head. The results came back as Social Anxiety Disorder, which later cohabitated alongside depression, a general anxiety disorder, and a long-neglected case of ADHD. I was afraid of my classmates, and they could smell it. The boys gleefully picked at every single part of my existence in front of everyone. The girls only offered smug stares and whispered secrets to one another that I was forbidden from learning. I still had a few friends I could sit at the lunch table or play with at recess. But I found it easier to disappear than to stand out – to be the girl with that same “twisted-up frown” Hayley sings about in “Careful,” that protected us both from scrutiny. By that time, I came to understand some basic facts about my life: that my peers enjoyed dishing out cruelty to whoever they perceived as weak or different, and the adults in charge still praised and favored those same kids and saw me as “difficult.” My parents fought my battles fiercely, but they couldn’t protect me from everything. They couldn’t protect me from my insides – the
parts of me that I couldn’t share – the overwhelming sadness, the everyday dread, the uncovered anger that I felt not only toward the world but towards myself for not being “normal.”
I used to think I was afraid of the world, but it turns out, I was just angry. I’m not sure when I first realized this, but I know that music was a huge catalyst. I’m a sucker for any artist that translates their inner world into an art form. It’s probably because finding the words to describe my own was so difficult. When I listened to music like Paramore’s, I saw things more clearly. Throughout the album, Hayley Williams speaks of “finding demons in [her] safest havens,” and seeing behind that archetypal curtain. She describes her relationships as courtrooms and trials. There was this strange feeling of comfort and safety in the dark recesses of her mind, and “hope” was this intangible place far, far away. Even at the unripe age of eleven, I knew Hayley was reckoning her own life’s expectations, whether it be religious, societal, or interpersonal, in a way that I understood. Growing pains are called “pains” for a reason. This album was an exercise in control. Prior to the release of brand new eyes, there was some major controversy inside of the band. Paramore had reached a new level of success with
RIOT! But the band was burnt-out and had a fair share of issues between one another. I remember the rumors of a possible break-up at this point in their careers. Their guitarist, Josh Farro and Hayley had broken up, citing their relationship’s interference with the music, and he garnered backlash from his online political comments. The band posted a cryptic message to fans in 2008 about their canceled tour dates in a long-deleted blog post on their website signed by each band member (text obtained by MTV News), “We were able to fight through all of it for this long, but unfortunately we weren’t able to keep it together long enough to make it through the end of the tour. We really feel that taking this time is going to give us a chance to get away and work out our personal issues at home and on our own terms. We just aren’t willing to risk the life of our band over one tour. ... Maybe one day we will tell the whole story, but for now, just know that all five of us are going to work so hard to get it right.” Hayley Williams later told MTV that they were not splitting up but going through the life-cycle of a band they had started as just teenagers, now looking
towards adulthood. In a 2009 article, written by James Montgomery, titled “Paramore Battled Doubt, Each Other to Make New Album,” she explained, “It was just, personally, we were all growing up, and sometimes, when you’re growing up, you’re not always growing together.” The polished statements the band gave to the press and fans set the stage for the album’s lyrical bombshells describing fall-outs between old friends, hypocrisy, forgiveness, and the band’s prevailing hope that things just might work out if they keep trying. In that same interview, Hayley discussed her fears of being “too honest” on the record – not only with fans or her band but also with herself. As one of the few women in the very male-dominated emo and pop-punk scenes, she carried a weight far heavier than just being the front-woman of a male-backed band. Control was just as easy to lose as it was hard to gain. Both the music videos for “Ignorance” and “Playing God” show Hayley in a dark basement with her band members. In the former track, she’s in a cramped room, trying to make space for herself among the band while shining a
¹Which really makes sense now, given that recent openly homophobic posts and Hayley’s subsequent tweets revealing his bigotry was a major reason behind his departure from the group, as well as the weird –now-deleted– blog post signed by both Josh and his brother Zac (well, mostly from Josh, as Zac has made an official statement condemning that post and his brother’s views, and standing with the LGBTQ+ community), where he referred to the band as a “manufactured product,” with lyrics that “contradicts what the Bible says,” … anyway.
Issue 001: First Times
lightbulb in their faces; the guys look unbothered by her struggle for room and attempts at attention. In the latter, she resorts to tying up her fellow mates to finally get them to hear what she has to say. I remember my fascination with her boldness, her unwillingness to be ignored, even amongst her own band. Hayley had no other choice but to stand up and stop letting others make the decisions for once. But to finally reach her full potential and become her own person, she had to undo the restraints she tied all by herself. She had to stop being so careful around others, afraid to step on toes or offend, to get to the foreign place that she called hope. Her fears paralleled my fear of being seen, doing something wrong that burned in my brain. I, too, had to learn to be honest with myself. I had to take control and finally be the person I wanted to be. Even brand new eyes couldn’t make that happen for me; I had to do it myself, just like Hayley. I had to make the choice to live at some point, something I didn’t realize until years passed.
brand new eyes turns twelve this year, on the day I turn 24.
Just as I turned twelve on September 28, 2009, when the album was put out into the world. Paramore is a completely different band now, and they seem much more at-ease with the place they’re in now, especially Hayley. (Also, the music still rocks, even as a pop-leaning group.) Just like them, I am a very different person from the timid girl who heard brand new eyes for the first time. My mother once ran into my childhood therapist and joked with her about how the last time we saw her, I couldn’t talk, and now I never stop. My little sister now refers to my music to define what’s “cool.” My older sister is currently having her own late-stage emo phase, and (surprise) she loves Paramore. I graduated from journalism school – let me say that again because it still makes no sense – journalism school, a field of study that requires constant social interaction with complete strangers. Looking back, I don’t know if middle-school-me could’ve predicted any of this for herself. But I do think that she would look at me with wide-eyed wonder and finally see her own wild truth standing right in front of her.
Freewheelin’ Hannah Lamarre, Prose
I made sure Anaïs Mitchell’s “Venus” was playing on the store turntable when Astella came in at 3:02. I tried to look busy behind the register when, in reality, I was sketching album covers on the smartdesk and waiting for her, like I did every Tuesday after school. “Hey, Daileen,” she said, giving me a little wave. The spring sunlight jumped off the glitter pressed around her eyes and flooded into mine. “The usual, please.” I blinked, and she slid back into focus. “All yours,” I said, gesturing toward the back of the store. “Holler if you need anything.” She nodded, and I sat on my hands. She never hollered, but damn, I wished she would. All I wanted was for Astella Huuri to have another problem I could solve. Astella was here, as always, to spin one of Dezebel’s folk cover albums in one of the listening booths in the back of Banshee Records. I wasn’t supposed to encourage this since she never purchased anything, but I was in love with Astella, so she could have robbed us blind, and I would have thanked her as she walked out the door. Besides, my mom Linta always said she didn’t own Banshee for the profit, anyway—if that were the case, she would’ve sold holo screens or Vocaloid synthesizers instead of music nobody had the right systems to play anymore. Behind the counter of Banshee, I felt in tune with the world in a way I never felt anywhere else. I could see people dressed like me on the on the cover of one of the vintage synth records on display by the drum kits, or in the liner notes of a folk metal CD from 2010. I’d grown up careful not to break the vinyl records we played on the antique turntable, making faces into the reflective backs of CDs before feeding them into the boxy stereo system. I’d earned my allowance by rewinding cassette tapes with the ends of styluses with my sisters. We were the only family I knew for whom music was something you could hold in your hands, and here, it didn’t matter that I felt out of time with the rest of the world. Here, the world turned back to meet me. I watched Astella
Issue 001: First Times
Daileen Aril An excerpt (full-version: sendinthegroupies.com)
flip through the crates of vinyl, the pale pink arcs of glitter pressed from her temples to her cheekbones, and the buttercup yellow of her flower-child dress aglow in the afternoon sun. Her style was crunchier than the weird pastiche of neon colors, black-lace punk, and worn-in denim I pulled from my five moms’ closet—she favored floaty ruched tops, long skirts, and wide-legged pants in serene patterns and soft colors, like she lived in perpetual summer, even though spring was just gearing up. But like me, she looked out of time with the world, like she’d stepped off the cover of a Joni Mitchell or First Aid Kit album. She looked like she fit here, too. Finally, she pulled out the store copy of Dirges in the Dark, the final album Dezebel had released before disbanding. It had only ever been available in analog form, and I had never been so grateful for Linta’s obsession with antique playback—because I could listen whenever I wanted, and because it had let me bring Astella into my world. Although we went to school together, Astella and I had only started talking a year ago, after Dezebel dissolved in protest of the music industry’s shift from live performances to at-home holo concerts. They’d been the last big folk band, known for their live shows: rollicking high-energy concerts in small venues where you could feel every bass line hum and kick drum stomp right in your chest. Or at least, that was what we’d imagined. Neither of us had ever been to a live show, but on the Dezebel fan forum where all of our conversations took place, we’d spun out fantasies about what it must be like to be able to feel music in such a raw, tangible way—to embody it.
When Dezebel broke up, I felt like I’d lost a community more than a band. I could still listen to them, sure, but I’d never see one of their
legendary shows. I’d never feel their music like it was a living, breathing part of me. Maybe I’d never see a live concert at all. My best friends, Prop and Euke, understood that I was devastated, but they didn’t really get it—Dezebel wasn’t made for them like it felt made for me. They didn’t get the raw, profound thing it woke up in my chest, like I was unburying stories just by listening, a library of lives roaring out through me like I was the gramophone in Banshee’s front window. Linta always said that folk music was meant to be passed down, and it made me ache somewhere deep to know that passage might stop here. That some other girl who felt out of time with the world might never hear what I’d gotten to hear. And then, the day after the news dropped, Astella had come into Banshee for the first time. I’d been sitting morosely at the counter, Dirges spinning on the turntable behind me. It was rainy and gray outside, but the entire afternoon lit up with the grin that bloomed on her face when she stepped inside. Her eyes swept over the aisle of vinyl, the crates of cassettes, the instruments on the walls, and when she met my eyes, her gaze was relevant, holy. “Hey,” she said, stepping closer. “I’m looking for an album.” Her dark eyes were puffy and glitterless, familiarly despondent. There was a pin, black with the white Dezebel logo, on the strap of her bag. I caught my breath, and we held each other’s gaze for a long moment like the build to a minor-key chorus, uneasy but hopeful. “Dirges in the Dark?” I’d asked, and a match struck in my chest when she nodded. “Yes! I mean, yeah. We have it. Do you want it on CD, vinyl, cassette …?” Her face fell. “I don’t actually have anything to play it on. I just … wanted proof that it existed.” “You can listen to it here,” I offered eagerly, like I could save her whole world if I could solve this problem. “We have booths in the back.” “Really?” she asked, like she was afraid to hope for it. “Just—listen to it for free? Whenever?” I’d grinned at her: world saved. “Welcome to Banshee Records.” “I didn’t know places like this existed anymore,” she said, glancing over her shoulder like the store might have disappeared while her back was turned. “This feels like a dream. Or what the inside of my head looks like. You know?” I knew.
Issue 001: First Times
“We have civil rights history together, right?” I asked, and she nodded. “I’m Daileen.” “Astella,” Dezebel?”
I nodded excitedly. “It’s Dirges! It’s amazing. This one’s a cover of a Rhiannon Giddens song, and—” “I love Rhiannon Giddens!” she gushed. “I wish I’d been alive while she was alive. Can you imagine seeing her in concert?” “Oh my god, yes. I discovered her after hearing Dezebel’s cover of ‘’S Iomadh Rud,’ and holy shit, I knew I was into girls, but I didn’t know until I saw a video of her doing that song.” We laughed. “That’s why I feel like we lost something huge with Dezebel. They brought, like, two hundred years of music back to life.” “Yes!” she said, leaning in across the counter. “And not just the music, but the feeling, you know?” Her eyes were alight now, burning dark and ardent.
I nodded, grinning full-out, but the corners of my eyes were sharp with tears. Finally, someone who was on my frequency. Later, she’d messaged me on our school server and given me her username for the fan forum, and there, we’d talked like tapes unspooling. The next week, I’d braced for the nervous rush of talking to her again, and I’d been relieved when she’d stuck to small talk. I was more articulate online anyway, and if she wanted to keep the real conversation there, that was fine with me. But I’d held that analog connection close to my chest like a candle I was shielding from the wind, and I’d guarded it so well that it had grown into a wildfire of a crush on her. It wasn’t just that she loved Dezebel like I did—it was that she understood that they, and Banshee, and folk itself, were something sacred. The forum had been quiet lately—all the interviews and footage had already been mined, there were no new lyrics to decipher—and I missed talking the way we had. But it gave me hives to think about bringing our relationship offline in a way that was less than perfectly orchestrated. Our first meeting at Banshee, over a year ago now, had felt so fated that I wanted to do something more meaningful than just asking her out over the counter—it had to be the right time, the right move, the right note. I was starting to feel like whatever that note was, I was never going to find it. holed up since I’d clocked in at two, and I jumped. My shifts after
school were her cue to take care of the inner workings of Banshee— bookkeeping, inventory, mixing and mastering for local musicians, pressing store copies of records for use in the listening booths so the actual vintage ones wouldn’t be damaged. “Whatcha working on?” she asked, pointing at the smartdesk, where I’d been doodling. “Oh,” I said, trying desperately not to blush. “Just art for a song on this album.” I’d drawn posing on billowing the floaty
a girl rising from the sea of crates that filled Banshee, a record instead of a clamshell, her thick dark hair around her face. Her hair, the rounds of her cheeks, and yellow dress she was wearing all belonged to Astella.
Linta looked at it for a long time, and I felt that wildfire raising a flush high in my cheeks. “I’ve got a few new copies back here for some stuff we just got in,” she said finally, “if you want to make up some designs for them. There’s a First Aid Kit best-of and a couple Brandi Carliles. You in?” “Yes.” I liked doodling long, flowing hair and retro outfits, and Brandi and the Söderberg sisters had had those in spades. I tapped the screen twice to erase the “Venus” art and got to work sketching out ideas. I had Anaïs Mitchell on the turntable still, and her high, fluttery voice rose and dipped around me, birdlike, and I didn’t look up again until Astella said, “See you at school, Daileen.” I straightened, disoriented. It hadn’t been dark outside when I put my head down to draw, but the light coming through the windows now was gauzy and purple instead of spring-blue, and it took me a second to mumble back, “Yeah, see you at school.” It came out tangled, but Astella smiled anyway. “Yeah. Bye, then.” “Bye,” I croaked, and thunked my head down sideways against the smartdesk to watch her thick sheaf of hair and long skirt out the front windows until she turned the corner. Linta found me there a few minutes later. “You good to close up?” she asked, shrugging on her utility jacket. “Mom Council meeting’s tonight, I almost forgot.” Mom Council meetings occurred twice a month. My five moms had been together for almost twenty years—in various permutations of romantic, platonic, and uh, other intimacies I didn’t care to think about—and they had nailed down coparenting me and my twin younger sisters while collectively running a household to a frequently discussed science.
Issue 001: First Times
“I’m good,” I said. “Please tell the Council that we need cereal.” “I’ll pass it along,” she said, and she flashed me a thumbs-up before ducking out into the dark. I liked closing Banshee, especially because Linta usually left me to do it on my own. At seven, I wiped down the counter and door handle, then set off to the listening booths. Like its musical wares, most of Banshee’s furnishings were third- or fourth-hand, and the recycled wood paneling and cracked leather seats of the booths were no different. The wood was covered in graffiti, and it was my favorite part of Banshee, hands-down. I had backstories made up for each inscription, and Prop and Euke and I had carved our own initials at the very top of the backmost booth. But I noticed something new in the second booth from the back, tiny purple letters sunk into the old wood:
Banshee girl, you charm me to the bone. My heart began to pound. That was a track from Dirges, a cover of an ancient Celtic song. The words were a little different—the banshee chilled the singer to the bone—but the rewrite sent fire through my veins. I couldn’t say for sure who else had passed through this booth, but I knew one person who had, and I knew what she had been listening to, and, most wildly of all, I knew that maybe, maybe she could have meant me. I wiped down the last booth with shaking hands, and then I paced so many grooves around the store that if I’d dropped a needle onto the floor, I could have played the tune of my terrified thrill to the entire neighborhood. Maybe Astella had found the note that I couldn’t.
Need to know what happens next? Read the rest at sendinthegroupies.com.
Illustrations courtesy: Canva
- To be continued -
Bi Pickard, Visual Art
Citizen - Covered Up With Blush
Mitski - Covered Up With Blush
Issue 001: First Times
Japanese Breakfast - Covered Up With Blush
Shooting music was really the first time I fell in love with photography. Finding a way to simultaneously share my love for music with my love for art has been my gateway into most joys in my life. I think that’s the case for a lot of people who work in the arts; their first loves were either music or art and have created a synchronicity between them that has allowed them travel, friendships, new experiences of all kinds - overall positively impacted their lives. These photos here are my own result of that.
First Love / from Another Planet
On “First Times”:
Build God, then weʼll crowd surf Rachael Samson, Prose It’s hard to determine exactly what qualifies as a “religious experience” but I can tell you that for an angsty closetedbisexual growing up in a small conservative town on Long Island, a pop-punk concert is pretty sacred. Like many people who find themselves in their mid-20s these days, I was a shy emo kid in high school. However, when I showed up to a live show I became a very self-assured fourteenyear-old, if you could speak to her now she might even tell you that she’s “not like other girls.” I had the vulnerability to openly weep during Mayday Parade sets, the aggression to take the screaming parts in every Taking Back Sunday singalong, and the confidence to yell at anyone who couldn’t see that Patrick was the true star of Fall Out Boy. I was a fangirl through and through, and I thought I was one of the coolest kids (who never made it) existing on Long Island in the summer of 2009. All of this to say, on the night of July 13th, I vulnerably,
aggressively, and confidently chose to go crowd surfing for the first time. It was a hot and salty night at the Bay Stage behind Jones Beach theater. I was bursting with anticipation as my cousins and I handed off our tickets to a security guard (that’s right kids, we had physical paper tickets). All Time Low was headlining, with We the Kings, Cartel, and Days Difference opening (a quick Google search revealed that three out of four of these bands are still going, defend pop-punk!) This was the third general admission concert we had ever attended, so we were veterans. We made fun of people who complained that they didn’t have enough space in the crowd, chatted at the top of our lungs about all of the other bands we had seen live, and wore outfits that we thought made us look at least sixteen. Tragically for my cousin Haleigh, her cool concert outfit included flipflops, but more on that later.
Issue 001: First Times I was full of PacSun branded confidence and ready for a divine experience. There is a certain level of enlightenment that you can reach as a pre-Accutaned freshman that is simply unattainable once you find some hormonal balance. It was in a moment of We the Kings driven ecstasy that I spotted Anthony Blake. He had the confused green eyes that my Tumblr dreams were made of, a mop of sweaty brown hair that crawled out from beneath his snapback, and a crooked freckled nose. He was just unconventionally attractive enough to make you feel unique for thinking he was the cutest guy in the band. When my cousins and I later found out that he was an eighteen-year-old local musician, we swooned. He was older, he was charming, he was retrospectively creepy, and he was the first person to ever take me crowd surfing. Anthony Blake (no, that’s not his real name, but his actual name is just as fake and Long Island sounding) was a frequent member of the New York pop-punk concert scene, which is how I eventually got to know him and the fact that he was nothing special. Unfortunately, that revelation came years later, when I was actually old enough for a college boy to message me on Facebook the way he did back then. In 2009 he seemed like a concert demigod and I noticed him because he was leading the “mosh pit” during
“Secret Valentine.” If you’re not familiar with the musical styling of We the Kings, all you need to know is that in the widely debated genre of pop-punk, they are the poppiest, least punk, and safest to play in the car with your mom. So when I say leading the “mosh pit,” I mean that Anthony Blake was hysterically laughing as he convinced a group of people to form a circle and halfheartedly kick and punch while the very tame song picked up for the chorus. This was the perfect joke to participate in because you could act like it was the dumbest thing your hardcore-self had ever done while also secretly enjoying the sounds of We the Kings. This was also perfect for someone like me, who had never ventured into any kind of mosh pit but desperately wanted to reach the men who threw humans into the crowd. I entered the mosh pit (mock pit?) and tapped Anthony on the shoulder, as a religious rite I had seen many girls perform before me. “What’s up?” He asked as if we were old friends.
“Can you take me up?” I pointed up to the sky, another gesture I mimicked from watching other crowd surfers. He nodded intensely, Tumblr eyes lighting up. There is nothing straight cis-men love more than proving they are straight cis-man enough to
Groupie Mag throw a girl into the air. The greater the force, the straighter the man. He put his hand around my waist (because OF COURSE he did) and led me from the center of the pit closer to the crowd. Then, without warning, he picked me up by my hips and flung me into the crowd like I was one of the Charlotte Russe bras being thrown onto the stage, and I LOVED it. I was tossed through the crowd until I reached the barricade and a security guard scooped me out.
There is nothing more symbolic of finding a higher power than being literally thrown into the air as bright lights and music wash over your body, especially when a large security guard lifts you out in true “it was then that I carried you” fashion. I would love to end the story there and tell you that this experience gave me the confidence I was missing in my everyday life, but this is not an endearing coming of age story. This is a mid-2000s All Time Low show; the best and worst of times. Things quickly became the worst of times for my cousin, Haleigh, you know, the one in the flip-flops. She had also ventured into the mock pit to earn some concert cred but at some point, it had leveled up to a mosh pit. I will spare you the details but you should know that the toenail she lost that night has permanently affected her big toe. She can walk, but the
nail still weird.
Evidently, there are lots of ways to crowd surf. It doesn’t always have to be Anthony Blake grabbing you by the hips and whipping you into the air with his Axe body sprayed arms. There are many different types of throws and lifts, and as All Time Low replaced We the Kings on stage, the crowd started to experiment. (Please note that I am not trying to suggest that All Time Low was a hardcore band, but compared to We the Kings, they were punk as safety pins through the nose). All of a sudden there were twice as many crowd surfers and the throwers were getting tired. Some virtuous samaritan decided to get on all fours and allow people to jump onto their back and into the crowd. The most accurate comparison would be a springboard used in gymnastics because we were literally running up to this person and pouncing on their back, an altar that we sprinted to full force and then leapt off of into holy release. In my memory, this went on for a long time, at least an entire song. This may not sound too long but imagine allowing strangers to catapult off your back for three minutes straight. I don’t know how long it actually lasted but I do know that the springboard/altar
Art courtesy: Gloria Perez
Issue 001: First Times
human reached a breaking point, and they happened to do so at the exact moment that I jumped on their back. They did not collapse as one might expect but instead used their adrenaline to throw their body upwards, something that I assume was a fight or flight response. Instead of deliberately jumping into the crowd, I was hurdled sideways onto a group of unsuspecting teen girls. My skull cracked against one of theirs, all of us hit the beer-soaked gravel, and one of my panicked victims started to bite me. I was stuck on top of her because someone else was on top of me but her survival instincts kicked in and that bitch just started biting and screaming until someone lifted me off of her. I was in pain, I was confused, and I was embarrassed. A lot had happened in a matter of seconds that my fragile ego
could not endure, at least not under normal circumstances. Lucky for me, these were not normal circumstances, this was a concert. I was breathing the same air as Jack Barakat and hearing “Coffee Shop Soundtrack” live! Nothing could revive me the way my lord and saviors All Time Low could. Immediately I resumed my concert screaming, flailing, and jumping. I was bruised and scarred but I was also revived, much like the toenail that Haleigh regrew weeks later. When the show ended I was covered in the collaborative sweat of pop-punk fans and my ears rang with the music of our emo choir. I limped to the merch stand (both because I was dramatic and because that frantic chick had really sunk her teeth into my leg) and bought the last poster. A relic of one of my first deeply religious experiences. Over the years the shows got more intense and the mosh pits became more legit (and painful) but that night will always stick out to me. It gave me a bite-mark-shaped scar on my upper thigh for over a year, and a story I would tell long after it faded.
Olivia Delgado, Poetry
“If dreams were lightening, thunder was desire, This old house would have burnt down a long time ago… Just give me one thing that I could hold on to, To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.” ‘Angel from Montgomery’- John Prine I’ve lost count of the parking lots that told me their siren song. Cars that became concert halls, bruised from skylines echoing tiny counties seen in magazines withered and saved. Age sauntering with revelation. I couldn’t shake Bonnie Raitt’s “Angel From Montgomery” when I first heard it. The way it approached like bohemian weather on denim vocals. Its need to purge cherry faces over dinner and lakes you can’t quite name. How the loss of innocence is a lifelong tale. I dreamt of the city and passages that broke routine. Summer skin too charged for nightfall, ice heart rhythms. All the places that are being destroyed, their elements no longer left to be studied or honored. I’m sure it’s beautiful and I miss it, even though I don’t remember knowing it.
Art courtesy: Gloria Perez
Issue 001: First Times
Masquerading,burningthing Masquerading, burning thing found in the lyrics of songs Adam Lambert performed on season 8 of American Idol
Believe what I say: I am tired of how Is that girl with you? hurricanes through me.
Understand, I’ll never lose that familiar feeling. I was the worn-out, blue dawn; certain love was the killin’ kind of misery.
Lesson: every moment I risked the sun, a sweet clown got its makeup.
Woman, do you feel bold? Leper girl, they are out of their minds to not see that you are bound by smoke.
Your mouth knew me & my same yearning; a blossom, afraid to die. I know we will hurt each other again. It’s a drag and a miracle, you joke, the desire we tried not to see. Then fired into the night, all at once.
Kayla Carcone, Poetry 45
Issue 001: First Times
Kayla Carcone, Prose
Coming Out Tour
In 2009, Adam Lambert and I were both gay, but only one of us knew it. America was abuzz with debate over the then-27-year-old singer’s sexuality, poking at the thin, smudged kohl pencil line between “gay” and “androgynous-but-straight rockstar.” Adam, nor reps from American Idol, commented on the subject during his triumphant blaze to the finale. It wasn’t a secret, but there was a televised singing competition to be had. Once the season wrapped, Adam would set sail on a bizarre, yearslong coming out tour. Contestants on Idol were barred from doing interviews until after the show to keep things fair, but that didn’t mean there weren’t dozens of headlines speculating and journalists ready to talk. The question on everyone’s lips was about something he’d been completely open about for nearly a decade. Is that Adam guy a little, you know?
Illustration courtesy: Canva
In middle school, a lanky, freckled boy on my Cross country team approached me in an emptying hallway to let me know that he would’ve asked me to the dance, “but I heard you were a lesbian, so I didn’t.” It felt like a death sentence. I quickly told him no, the word thrown like a hot potato. I said I liked boys because I did. I liked boys because I wanted one to like me. For too many years, they were indistinguishable feelings. Pictures of Adam kissing his ex-boyfriend surfaced while the season was airing. Producers on The O’Reilly Factor censored the photos by cropping them just above the mouth. Bill O’Reilly called them “embarrassing.” What it was for straight people to hear Adam confirm their suspicions about his sexuality, I’m not quite sure, but in an eventual 20/20 special, he explained that he wasn’t repressing himself or willfully hiding it from anyone. He was instead focused on being a performer in the public eye first, as any Idol contestant would. After a performance during Hollywood week, judge Kara DioGuardi critiques Adam.“It’s so dramatic, it’s not touching me here,” she says, gripping her chest. He’d been accustomed to performing
theatre for crowds that required larger, more emphatic movements. It was also a part of his charm. A few of the judges often criticized Adam for his flamboyance and encouraged him to dampen it if he wanted to win the competition, and moreover, become a successful recording artist. In retrospect, a lot of the ways Adam was instructed to shrink himself feel driven by homophobia. Where Taylor Hicks might have been criticized for coming off cheesy, Adam was critiqued for being Broadway. It was coded language. My subconscious took notes. Before I could even gain the awareness that I was in a closet, the exit disappeared even further out of reach.
He performed Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” during a week where the remaining 8 contestants were tasked with selecting a song from the year they were born. I sat mesmerized as the usually blinged out and over-the-top rockstar began a song I had never heard before, seated and shrouded in a bluish light. He earned a standing ovation from Simon Cowell, the only judge afforded a moment to speak as the live production ran 9 minutes over time. When the end credits sped across the screen and the opening warning for the next show being intended for mature audiences droned, I sat in awe of what I had just seen. It was a moment where, in all its abstractness, the witnessing of an “artist” made a mark on me - a star was born, and born again, week after week - it was a magic I can barely explain. Despite a consistent attraction to women, the language to describe it felt wrong in my mouth. I was able to accept conflicting thoughts without interrogating them - the surface of my identity, a gleaming, newly minted coin waiting to be scratched. 47
Art courtesy: Canva, Youtube
As a young teenager, I instinctively hated almost everything about myself. My acne-covered face, my incorrect body, the way my voice sounded played back on a cellphone video - but I loved the way a powerhouse singer could make all the hair on my notright arms stand at attention, their voices cracking open the sky. Despite the judges’ critiques, Adam rarely toned himself down, only chameleoned his look to fit within a theme. So many things I was afraid to step into and claim for myself coalesced in how Adam Lambert got onto that stage, in front of millions of Americans, and spun a song into an experience.
Issue 001: First Times Being called a lesbian by my teammate was stomach-twisting, the word lesbian itself so unexplainably nauseating. I immediately snuffed out the question of my sexuality and let it die like the moth trapped in Virginia Woolf’s windowpane. Unlike Virginia, I turned away. There was not a single elegetic thought to be had entertaining one would mean I’d acknowledged that there was more to consider. I refocused all of my attention on winning over the affection of one boy. When I briefly dated a different one and felt nothing, and even worse, sick at the touch of his fingers interlacing mine, I chalked it up to him not being the other boy. With all that was going on in my teen world, one where being gay wasn’t on the table, it was easy enough to have an unrequited crush. It was just as easy to watch (and rewatch) Amanda Seyfried make out with Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body as a casual observer. Knowing, or at least feeling, that I was not comparably attractive to the girls around me, I leaned into the misogynistic, I’m-not-like-other-girls narrative perpetuated and tirelessly championed by the music of the time. I could lean on my intellect, bury my head in a book, and feel superior to those who ran around with boyfriends. Pop-punk, P!nk, and Taylor Swift were all enablers in their own right - I didn’t want to be a stupid girl, one who wore high heels and short skirts. In Paramore’s “Misery Business,” the implicated exgirlfriend is written as one of the millions of girls who manipulate men by presenting themselves as “innocent.” It was something I refused to do, too, Hayley Williams. The truth of it was, I was jealous of “other girls.” From the obstructed outside, they seemed carefree and naturally magnetic of male attention, which translated into an incredible amount of worth. Subconsciously, I was shielding myself from discovering anything that would impede my ability to get out of my hometown unscathed. Instead, I stewed in self-loathing and projected my loneliness and insecurities onto girls who were being kissed with too much tongue by boys who didn’t floss. Adam Lambert came out to his mother in the car. He was 18. The two were on their way home from a speech and debate competition where they heard a dramatic piece in which a gay son suffers from his relationship with homophobic parents. Adam’s mom asked him if he had a girlfriend. He said no. She asked if he wanted one. He said no. She asked if he wanted a boyfriend. It was as simple as that. They stayed up late into the early morning talking about all the ways he’d exhibited behaviors or clues. I came out to my mother on the phone. I had been out of college for 2 years. It went well, but she was surprised. When I asked if she knew, she said no. I had staged my song and dance so well for so long that she actually believed I had been quietly dating my friend, a gay man, for several years, though she never asked
me to confirm. Belief is a malleable construction. Performing the self is an endless, exhaustive show. Week after week America dials in to vote. For most of college, I identified (somewhat off the record, in varying degrees) as queer and bisexual, but I was so deeply entrenched in the defaults set by compulsory heterosexuality, that (to my mother’s credit) when I did finally come out as a lesbian, the most surprised person was me. When I went out with men from dating apps and knew I wanted to leave the moment I saw them wave from across the street, it was always because he wasn’t the right guy. When I removed them from my view on those apps, I didn’t think too hard about what that meant, only that I was tired of the endless stream of “6’2” if that matters” and photos showing off caught fish. When I inevitably hooked up with men, I was often drunk, and they were often gay and drunk. Even when they weren’t, what I was actually in pursuit of was feeling wanted for one sparkling moment - the promise of it transforming me into someone special always one slip of tongue away. On the flip side, when I kissed women in house party basements, no rainbow confetti exploded behind my closed eyes; the desire and the desire to be desired, both cut from the same cloth and knotted into a thick braid. My preoccupation with male attention and validation was so persistent, like a 2009 tabloid reporter prolonging a headline. Is she bisexual? A lesbian? Or just confused? I was afraid to give it up and afraid to be wrong. If Virginia Woolf could observe me, flittering helplessly around from corner to corner, perhaps she would write, “just as life had been strange before examining her sexuality, so accepting it was now as strange.” After over a year of private, deferrable contemplation, I wanted to come to a decision. I wanted something to click into place, for a sign from the universe to stop me in my tracks. Adam Lambert was at Burning Man, having a “psychedelic experience” and looking up at the clouds when he realized that we each have the power to make our own realities - and so, he auditioned for American Idol. Without the means to replicate that atmosphere, I spent a long night talking it out with a friend instead. She drilled me with questions, each one intentionally more clarifying than the last. “Do you think you’d ever marry a man?” Despite confidently saying no, I still felt conflicted. She instructed me to say “I’m a lesbian” out loud when I woke up the next morning and see how I felt.
Issue 001: First Times
At the end of Adam’s Idol journey, judge Paula Abdul, a superfan from the start, tells him, “I know with every fiber of my being that you are going to be iconic.” Despite my inability to recognize it at the time, Adam was like my gay Virgil - a guide by example in glittery, glam-rock platform boots. Whatever awe I experienced while watching him perform remains inextricably linked to witnessing a visibly queer person owning every ounce of an actualized, uncompromised self. A piece of him remains forever embedded in me; the prefix of the bygone phone number to vote on the tip of my tongue, reverently memorized and ready for recitation like a prayer.
Art courtesy: Canva, Gloria Perez
I prepared myself for an audience of one and delivered my line. The word that previously curdled in my mouth turned sweet. Transfixed by the simplicity of how a switch had flipped, the feeling that surged through me was not unlike watching Adam Lambert perform “Mad World” for the first time. Such familiar, dumbfounding magic.
Issue 001: First Times
After: "White Houses" Song by: Vanessa Carlton, Harmonium (2004)
Gloria Perez, Visual Art
Rachel Fucci, Prose
sweating a fever out 1. Introduction It’s nothing, nothing, then static. A monitor glowing blue. Two clicks in just the right places, keyboard taps like dance class to the home page and here we are. It’s a Victorian collage of floral and paisley. The vintage postcard writing reads enter the panic at the disco forum and there’s no metaphor that can make this any less juvenile because this is the truth; our sweaty pubescent palms kept us here for hours most days. This is the house we shared where we all spoke the same language. We were all at each other’s fingertips. We were brimming with access.
2. The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage In the end, was there anything we wanted more than to be seen? It could not be a coincidence, the way we spent our days with these men who wore makeup and toured with a circus troupe. Imagine that kind of attention. Imagine eyes like theirs on us. How far could we contort ourselves in front of each other, all in the name of love? Here is the band deep in my skin. Here is the moment where I was neck deep in the sand and the band carried me. Here is how I was saved. We climbed down inside of each other, so desperate to find an equal. There are still moments even now, changing clothes or in the shower, when I pull out a lost fragment.
Issue 001: First Times
3. Nails for Breakfast, Tacks for Snacks At this age, if you asked me to describe lust, I’d play you a song. There’d be woozy cello, maybe, or a dangerous synth. But no notes prepared me for the cold sweats and the simmering below the gut. It felt so good to meet a kindred, no matter the ocean of distance between us. It felt so good to talk for hours offline, over the phone, in hushed tones under a blanket at all hours. There were nights I fell asleep rolling the three syllables of her name against my tongue. By morning I’d be tapping them against my desk with my pencil, eager to get home and share my day with her. I felt it, the way we were both facing a cliffside, daring the other to jump. The afternoon I watched her slip her hand down, down past her hips, and off-screen I felt the drop in my stomach. Not a beat missed, I mirrored her every move.
When the Day Met the Night
Graphics Courtesy: Canva
If I didn’t love her before, then this was the moment where I fell into the sap and stuck, a squirmy bug preserved in amber. A crowded airport, bouncing eagerly on the balls of my feet, the logo of our favorite band dangling around my neck. No flowers, not a single suggestion of romance, just anxious parents checking their watches behind me. I wondered how convincing I was - yes, she’s just a friend, and can she stay with us this summer? When she walked through the entrance I couldn’t fake it. The strings erupted and the trumpets roared, a budget Beatles song. I remember flying and I remember the impact. Her hair was soft and smelled burnt and it was in my mouth while she held me and the words from every love song came so naturally then. We said them over and over until they lost meaning, until all they meant was we are both here, and can you believe it?
5. Lying is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off The punchline is this - we put the band’s album on when we had sex because we wanted it to be special. The setup is that we had already tried once and been caught by my parents, so this was our hail mary. Too late at night, fumbling, too frantic, and silent to stay safe. I kept my head back and looked up at the posters, eyes of grown men in skinny jeans staring blankly back. When the song about sweat and teen hearts came on I waited for the epiphany, the moment where everything would feel good and the lyrics would finally click. Instead I felt her nails digging half moons inside me, asked her to stop and rolled over to sleep. My favorite poster, the one for Rolling Stone where they’re all biting lips and mussed hair, blurred as I blinked the tears back. I had let them down.
The teen girl loves harder than anyone because she has no limits. She is born knowing devotion, doesn’t ask questions. There is so much in her world that is out of her control, she will claim her love with white-knuckle grip because it is all she owns. She is so focused on the grasp she never wonders if possession and passion are the same.
We were best at creating the fantasy. Imagine one day, the obstacles are gone and in their place, a bouquet of roses. Two brides in two white dresses. No more plane tickets or used international calling cards stuffed in our pockets. If we closed our eyes for long enough, the dream could spark behind our lids. One day, I will see you again. One day, I will stop being sixteen. One day, all of this will be a memory.
Issue 001: First Times
I Write Sins Not Tragedies
I might not know you, but I am sure that you are sick of this song. There was a time when friends and I would shriek if this came on the radio. Some school nights I stayed up late to hear it performed off-key on a talk show. It brought the house down at the junior high dance. I hope it was the same for you. But then it seemed to be everywhere, didn’t it? Where was the magic in hearing it at a TJ Maxx? Our brains stopped finding it exciting. I’m sure you know where this is going. Eventually, it all seemed out of our reach. It was bigger than us, and we were so young. There was no dramatic end. We let it fade out slowly, slowly, and then, nothing.
9. (Ever Since We Met…)
Graphics Courtesy: Canva
That corner of the Internet is long gone, but sometimes I still search for it, just in case. I do the same with the girl, who is a woman now, living happily with a man and two dogs and a career she always dreamed of having. There are times when I hear the band over convenience store speakers and it all comes back - the nights hunched over a glowing monitor, the whispered declarations of commitment under a blanket, the plane rides, and the care packages, and the anxiety, and the anger, and the passion of it all. Every day I am thankful to no longer be sixteen, but I know I’ll never forget what it felt like, especially when the right song comes on.
listen to the shrieks of 20,000 women a great train with nowhere to go rumbling all around us 20,000 splintering icicles
listen to the wave roar and crash over us don’t your ears just fill with it? feel the water burn your brain I watch your teeth grind the stuck tiny diamonds of sand or maybe just your teeth
listen to the shattering of fine China by 20,000 desperate axes you knowwhen they write about this years from now, they’ll leave our names out say we ruined the music with our wrecking sounds but the band lived in the eye of a hurricane the storm, then, is understood
listen you whisper into my mouth they’re playing our song
Issue 001: First Times
photo of two women kissing at a Beatles concert, 1964
Rachel Fucci, Poetry
Weʼre All Karin Yehoudian, Prose My biggest flex? The Monster Ball was my first concert. Paws up, Little Monsters. Let me tell you about when it all began. Probably like yourself, dear reader, I am a live music fiend. Ironically, 2019 was the year I was on my best groupie behavior and hit a new record of over 20 shows. I saw some recent favorites for the first time, bands like Mannequin Pussy, The Regrettes, and Beach Bunny. And even some all-time favorites, Catfish and the Bottlemen and Julia Jacklin, for both the first and second time in the same year– all alongside my favorite people, too. You may expect that year to cement itself as my concert-lover peak, but the truth is I will probably never have as magical of a live show experience as my first concert: The Monster Ball. I was a Lady Gaga-stan the moment I heard “Just Dance” on the bar mitzvah dance floor– I never looked back. My devotion to Mother Monster is defined by my prized middle school possession: an H&M Lady Gaga tank that I wore to high school orientation. It was important to me that my peers knew I had taste. Fast-forward to sophomore year: my identity as a music-stan was at its peak with no slowing down, thanks to Tumblr (no but seriously, thanks, Tumblr). I hadn’t yet experienced a live concert; it was almost all I dreamt about, the rest of my fantasies consisting of starring on the main stage, myself. You and I was the only song on the radio, my heart was full and I couldn’t lose. That was until I learned the
Monster Ball was coming to to town - on the same day tickets went on sale (read: sold out). The cool group in my chorus class (read: Glee cool) got floor seats and I was intensely jealous but had to go on with my silly little life and sing my silly little alto harmonies. I woke up sad the day of the concert, so of course, I spent the whole entire day on my 1D blog (again, thank you, Tumblr). One of my mutuals was taking requests to edit the boy band’s faces onto iconic album covers and I requested Born This Way for obvious reasons (as a Cancer sun and rising, I love to suffer). I would do nearly anything to have that edit in my possession today; not only for the laughs, but also because I firmly believe it was karmically tied to my soul. Not even 10 minutes into LMAO-ing about carrots and spoons did I get a call from my best frenemy that she had an extra ticket for the Gaga show that night.
After a run-in with Nassau Coliseum security over a not-
so-hidden vodka water bottle (smoothed over by my first ever lie), we arrived at our stage far far right seats. Nothing could tarnish this simple fact: I was just happy to be there. When the lights came on for the opening act, a band called Semi Precious Weapons, I was struck by the enormity of the crowd. In that moment, the energy of massexcitement you can only feel at a concert washed over me for the first time. “Dance In The Dark” kicked off Gaga’s set. My first “concert
Issue 001: First Times
Freaks, Baby sermon,” as I like to call them, is forever defined by her declaration: tonight, we are all freaks, baby. Hearing that was so life-changing for me because, finally, I agreed. I’d felt different my entire life, trying to hide and suppress the parts that made me different; being overweight, socially anxious, and from a non-white immigrant family felt like the odds were stacked against me. I wouldn’t get to experience the same joys of life as the people who fit into a world built for them. And up until that point, I was sadly alright with that.
I wanted to fit in, but didn’t, and that was okay. Some things just weren’t meant for me. The one piece of life I felt I could truly experience for all the good it had to offer was music. I may not have been able to literally relate to most of it as a fifteen-year-old first-gen kid from Long Island, but I’ve always had a big heart that music spoke to unlike anything else. From the highs of obsessing over my first favorite band, McFly, to diving into the fandom world as a Directioner – as Logic (might? would?) put it: who can relate? I created my own inner joy that, as previously mentioned, I never expected to receive from the world I lived in. Suddenly, I was standing in a room full of people who were different - each in their own unique way. Gaga was different and that fueled her. She was a proud freak. Everyone I saw in that arena was a freak, and I thought they were so damn cool. I was in that arena, too, so did I count? Was she
talking to me, too? My automatic reaction to everything until that point was to discount myself from the masses, but what was stopping me this time?
“Freak” felt right to me. For the first time, I saw myself in the collective, but this time, it was for being different. And oh, did I let that freak flag fly. I would make a deal with Satan to go back in time and watch tween Karin’s excitement, screamsinging along to every word, feeling truly free. I never wanted to live without that feeling again, and I didn’t have to. I carried it with me into the parking lot, and the rest of my life. I could tap into it at any time - I finally embraced myself. The buzz briefly lingered as Gaga performed her final song and left the stage. I was so thankful for what I had just experienced, and sat in that feeling until something unexpected happened. I didn’t know she was going to come back on stage, okay? When she did, I felt a wave of excitement that all of the joy I was experiencing wasn’t over just yet - my first encore. I sobbed to “Bad Romance” as Gaga set up backstage, all within view from my far far right seat. After I had accepted that the best night of my life was over, I got to relive the newfound belonging with all of these people who were strangers I was now tethered to. I felt a personal connection with everyone there, especially to the woman on the stage, whose message spoke to the depths of my musiclover soul before the show, and then awakened a new unabashed self-love in me afterward.
WHEN HARRY STYLES
BROWN SKIN Illustration Courtesy: Rawpixel
Lucie Pereira, Poetry
Issue 001: First Times
i hum with the fever of early June, summer baby in full bloom. days that move like molasses, brown hair streaked copper before autumn and brown fingers encircled with reverse shadows, pale where once adorned with silver. brown skin and lemon over ice cinnamon girl burns with spice, melts with the sweetness of brown sugar. and when i hear this exaltation, hear that my brown skin is adored, i feel the tangerine shimmer of every fire i walked through to land here, a world cracked open, a world where i sway golden in the kitchen with my love, making magic out of coconut oil and citrus, the tile floor glistening with spilled sunshine.
“All The Things She Said” Is Still Running Through My Head 11 Years Later Isabelle Lichtenstein, Prose
I am standing in the kitchen with my friend Kara, reaching toward the cups on the bottom shelf. Kara scrolls her iPhone 4 attentively as she leans against the counter, sending a text here and there. We are in eighth grade, and Kara’s life revolves around being cool — listening to underground music, dressing like a hipster, having an iPhone. Mine revolves around pretending to have the same interests my friends do and making sure my queerness isn’t read as intrusive or weird. “Have you seen that music video everyone’s talking about?” Kara asks, and I shake my head. At 14, I don’t listen to a lot of music; instead, I focus on the songs my parents play or the ones Kara tells me are cool. “It’s about two women in love or something,” Kara says, and my head whips around. I am immediately stricken with an intense awareness of my own
queerness. I have been out since second grade, happy to admit my desire for women before many of my friends even knew what being gay really meant. To Kara, I have been out for over a year, but this is the first time she’s ever really spoken to me about something queer. It is maybe the first time ever a friend of mine has recognized queerness in any form in front of me. As much as I walk on eggshells with my sexuality — afraid the slightest relaxation could cost me a friend — they do the same, worried that bringing it up somehow implicates them or makes them seem obtrusive. For a moment, I think Kara is targeting me, like this is a confrontation of my queerness. “No, I don’t think so. Two women?” I reply, my voice sheepish and unsure. “It’s called ‘All The Things She Said,’” Kara tells me, and before I can react, she’s pulling up the video.
Issue 001: First Times
At this point in my life, I don’t know much about music or television, or movies. There isn’t a draw for me, aside from the escapism (which, at this point, I happily get from books). If you asked me to name media that actively represents queer characters, I would tell you Will & Grace, or The Ellen Show, or probably, The Rosie O’Donnell Show. I feel no connection to the culture around me, so I don’t indulge in it. But Kara’s assertion that two women will be in love in this video feels more like a promise — of representation, of understanding, of the very thing I have been silently longing for since second grade. It’s teal-hued and pouring rain like a scene from Twilight — that’s the first thing I notice about the music video. Immediately, my stomach sinks. The colors make me think something bad is coming, that I have been led to a watering hole only to find it’s dried up. I’m about to give up on the song and video already, but then, there are two women. They appear not just together, but holding hands — touching. I want to ask Kara to rewind, so I can relive the moment the women embrace again. I wish I could watch the women enter the screen all over again, wish I could again feel the sudden pang in the pit of my stomach that said,
“Wait a minute” — the one that whispered, “That’s you.” Instead, I stand silently watching, trying not to appear
too interested or eager. The two women — the singers themselves — are separated by a fence, surrounded by people watching them. Everyone outside the fence wears stern, unwavering looks as the women behind the fence shrink in fear. It strikes me that this scene alone is a potent visualization of my own inner turmoil. I am out but straight-passing in a Southern, religious area. Often, I find myself too easily slipping into the behavior of those who ogle at queerness thanks to my privilege. In reality, I am often too afraid of what being myself would mean. In that moment, I wonder if I am one of the women being watched or one of the people doing the watching. A minute and twenty seconds in, the two women kiss. It’s not sudden; in fact, there are a number of moments where the women press their faces close before the kiss. To me, though, it comes out of nowhere. I want to gasp — out of excitement, surprise, or from being seen, I do not know. I avert my gaze from the screen for a second and wonder if Kara sees my posture suddenly straighten out, if she looks up to see me nervously turning away. Someone is showing me an image of two women being intimate, and for the first time, they are not asking me to look away. For a second, I feel shame that I can’t keep my eyes fixated on the screen. For a second, I wonder what’s wrong with me. I nervously shuffle the cups across the kitchen to the refrigerator.
Being with you has opened my eyes Could I ever believe such a perfect surprise? The words echo around the tiled kitchen — I think. At the very least, they echo loudly in my ears. These two women are really singing about each other, about other women, romantically. It’s not a joke. It’s not a bait-and-switch. Even without the video in front of me, I can feel the longing and tenderness that only comes with queer love. This singer didn’t expect her sexuality, but she accepts it fully and celebrates it. There’s no rejection of the way she’s feeling. They’re not singing that “it felt so wrong” like Katy Perry did two years ago; they’re calling queerness — my queerness — perfect. I try to fill the cups with ice from the freezer, but my hands are shaking too much.
As I walk back, I wonder if Kara knows that what she is showing me is a metaphor for the way I have carried myself as a queer child. I wonder if she knows the power in the media she chose to show me. Certainly, she must not. She’s a straight woman transfixed by the idea that two women can kiss — full stop. But me? I am transfixed by the idea that two women would be so public in a time when having a slur shouted at you in a school hallway is not only a possibility but a reality — a time when being gay is still
the punchline. They kiss multiple times throughout the musical break in the middle of the video. I look away again and pretend to go back to the drinks. Kara stops the video as I move away again. “Isn’t that just so cool?” she asks, focusing her attention back on her texts. “Yeah, that’s cool. And it’s a good song!” I reply through the sound of my heart beating quicker than it ever has. I hand her the drink that took way too long to put into the cup. Neither of us brings up the music video again — that day, that week, really ever. When I am alone in my room later that night, I watch it again — this time, the whole way through. I do not look away. The scornful looks hit me in my soul. The kissing activates a pining in me I have never felt before. It takes me a moment, but I eventually recognize that what I’m feeling isn’t worry or fear — it’s hope. For the first time, I see my queerness reflected back at me in a way that feels real.
Want to fly her away where the sun and rain Come in over my face, wash away all the shame The words hit me like bricks now that I am alone. This song is so unabashedly about loving another woman, about escaping the prison of your own shame. The internalized homophobia in me screams, but for once, I ignore it. I close my eyes and listen, letting the words wash over me. She wants to escape
Issue 001: First Times
this place and take her love somewhere safe, happy, and free. I reach up to wipe the tears forming in my eyes. I wonder if that escape is possible for someone like me, if my shame will ever be washed away.
When they stop and stare, don't worry me 'Cause I'm feeling for her what she's feeling for me The angry crowd flashes across the screen more and more as the video progresses, and somehow, I start to feel the same way the women do. I am no longer worried by the people watching them, and for a moment, I am no longer concerned with the people who have watched me. Being clocked as queer in public is scary enough when you’re not forthcoming with it; being stared at as you walk through public space is even worse. As a young queer person still navigating what it means to be out and proud, being stared at and heckled while holding another woman’s hand is my biggest fear — one that will be realized later that same year. These two women are not afraid, though. These two women are touching, kissing, and loving each other despite the oppressive gaze of what feels like everyone else.
Sure, the music video has two women dancing behind a fence in a clearly staged scene, but it’s more than that. These are scenes I have wished for in the media I have consumed up to this point. Later, I would discover that the visible queerness of t.A.T.u wasn’t real, just a marketing plot. It won’t surprise me, but it also won’t deflate me. When you’re at a loss for media to represent you, sometimes what you latch onto is a fantasy. But ‘All The Things She Said’ was more than that to me. Sitting in bed wiping tears from my cheeks as the video ends, I don’t need to wonder again if I am the watchers or the watched; I know I am both. But I also know that I am more. I see myself in these women choosing themselves over society, walking away from the crowd hand-in-hand. They are unbothered and unafraid to be themselves, even if it means they are alone. I choose not to be ashamed of my queerness, to fly away somewhere in my mind where I am myself as freely as the women in the video.
All the things she said Running through my head.
i too cannot write about anything other than death am made passive waiting for a blush to spill from my fingers i don’t remember how your voice found me but it nestled itself around like a scarf i could drown in there was a time before and then after i want to write like you like how you paint a canvas in greys so cold you know
Kieran Collier, Poetry
there’s color waiting to flood
from somewhere i want to know that somewhere i’m sorry i should’ve said nothing i mean how can i tell a stranger that i spent years clawing my dead mother’s voice out from the back
Issue 001: First Times
of my throat her story two haunting harmonics ringing in the silence after the song ends it was work i ran towards i thought there’d be a finish line but there is nothing for me to finish just a loop in which the root note dances from an open D to the third to second to first finger before loosening into an open D once again grief repeats itself like an unending song with the lyrics still unwritten i don’t know if there’s a better way to say what i’m trying to say other than i found you when i wanted to die and now i want to die less
Kieran Collier, Poetry
me & pete pete, i kissed a boy in long island while one of your songs pulsed in the background. it was a full kiss, my hands traced his beard like a warm blanket. you taught me how. at the garden you nestled your head on patrick’s shoulder, buried your cheek into the fabric of his chest to carve a tender moment amidst a concert’s chaos. a few weeks earlier you leapt off a two-story speaker, landed clean on your left foot, then got up and played it off with a smirk, so now you match your guyliner with a walking boot and that selfobsessed precision squier—the bat-heart-skull logo turducken you call the bartskull. ugly in name, tacky in application. i guess this is where i say i’m sorry for googling your nudes. you tattooed the shape right above your penis and i read in this article online how you’ll kiss men in the stolen hours of evening. i wanted to see what that desire could look like, even if you drew a line above the waist (which is a waste of your imagination for what a man or anyone can be). it’s a strange way of saying that i know i’m supposed to love you. it would be easier if i didn’t, if i could unwrap a car from the sycamore it crashed into. that boy i kissed didn’t love men but i still managed to pull a brief moan from his mouth, a song we didn’t yet know, when these open doors were open ended. pete, i like to think of queerness as a door freeing itself from the hinges. the maple of a bass thrown into the air. warped wood. an arboreal autonomy. you closed the show with saturday, stripped off your hoodie and screamed into the crowd while fans tried to rip the cotton clean off you. i love that song and the album that bore it. i loved that boy too, for a moment. the two of you are the same—both in love with the sound of your own voice. pete, i kissed a boy who went on to hurt people. you taught me how. you told your ex to drive off a bridge and i sang along. you wrote about lighting her on fire and i pressed repeat on your cd. i googled your nudes. i needed you to be an awakening instead of a person. a phantom phallus preserved in pixels. tried to bury you in memory, divorced from your own violence. a body without a face. you could be any man. even a good one.
Issue 001: First Times
i can’t listen to ben gibbard without thinking of that night our bodies melted into the polyester seats of the highlander i parked in your driveway we cried for a good long hour letting transatlanticism play all the way through and then some our love floating back into the violet ocean from which it once emerged soaking and curious in salt our first love the first waves of first heartbreak months later many rivers away the distance too much for us to row we stared at the horizon wondering where it had gone this fragile thing between us adrift in the atlantic swept out to sea without us realizing how much did we lose when we weren’t paying attention castles flattened under foam sea glass and cuttlefish bones i still remember your theory that the new year should actually be the closing track then lightness would open the album you loved the idea of ending with promise
Kieran Collier, Poetry
ON RISING MY FIRST SHOW & Carl Lavigne, Prose
Once, there were no greater gods to me than Chicago punk band, Rise Against. Walking around Fenway before doors opened to my first ever show, Dad and I ran into them. Well, three-quarters of them. I spotted guitarist Zach Blair’s bald head among all the Red Sox-capped tourists.
I got on my hands and knees. Joe Principe—the reason I started playing bass guitar— said, “Please do not do that.” Brandon Barnes, the drummer, the one musician in the band my Dad admired, was monosyllabic. Dad asked where the singer, Tim Mcilrath, was. No one answered. We took a picture together. My spirit left my body, the way any fifteen-year-old’s does when faced with their favorite band. Rise Against has a reputation these days as passé, performative pseudo-punk at
best. Earlier even than 2011, they had shifted to radio rock that was perhaps not quite as revolutionary as the band my teachers were always mistaking them for: Rage Against The Machine. As far as I know the confusion was entirely over the names—though my teachers’ mistakes make me think now of the differences. Rage ostensibly made music about and for revolutionaries. Rise Against made music perfect for a disaffected white teenager unsure exactly what he was supposed to be angry at now that George Bush wasn’t president. Rise Against isn’t unique or beyond critique. I don’t turn to their music or their sepiatoned, Bush-era videos for policy solutions or nuanced insights into American imperialism. Some of their messaging makes me cringe now. They partnered for a long time with PETA, an organization
Issue 001: First Times
AGAINST: THE NEED FOR KNIVES rightfully ridiculed for comparing animal mistreatment to American chattel slavery. They sing mostly in vagaries of “We will fight back” and “We will survive.” But fight back against what? Survive what? And when these forces are named, McIlrath sometimes misses the mark.
and destruction as it directly impacts them? Or is it another disappointing example of turning Black and brown people into silent martyrs and catalysts for the character development and redemption of racists? Maybe it’s both, but that doesn’t seem ideal to me.
“Hero of War”, a protest song in the tradition of Buffalo Springfield and Bob Dylan, focuses on the plight of an American soldier, and how bad he feels for murdering Iraqi civilians. It’s provocative, no doubt, and might rightfully make white Americans reconsider their support for war and imperialism.
In contrast, maybe Rage Against the Machine did it right. Their slogans were simple enough to be shouted again and again, and had unapologetic radical politics that made no excuses.
But what makes the American soldier more deserving of attention and sympathy than those he killed? Is it some 4D chess of lyrical brilliance playing on the heartstrings of the American public who can only fathom death
Enter videos of Trump supporters in American flag speedos singing along to Rage’s “Killing In The Name” with zero irony. If something as simple as “Cops are Klansmen” fails to make an impression, perhaps power chords and shouting will never be enough. US military interrogators used the same song to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay by blasting it on loop.
Music, as much as I love it, often fails as radical political action. What do we do with a tool so easily misused? What then is the purpose of music like this? I’m not that interested in the punk vs poser discourse, which of course makes me a poser. Many people more invested than I have said more interesting things about how it has become (or maybe always been) a veganleather jacket one can take off whenever they like. Ask Transgender Street Legend, Laura Jane Grace, from another “Against” band. (The revolution? was a lie?) Conversations about Twitter-leftists and armchairactivists are nothing new to punk fans. It’s all about image over action, posturing to have the hottest take, the most ironclad punk bona-fides. (And yes, this too is that. You caught me.) The ideal mosh pit can be like this, except in a self-aware (I hope) and sometimes freeing way. In the pit you give the appearance of reckless abandon but you’re not actually trying to hurt anyone. Crowd killers, the people who are trying to hurt participants and bystanders, are pariahs. As a teenager I was drawn to Rise Against’s anger, and beneath that, the melancholy. Say what you will about their fairly liberal overtones, they confirmed for me that anger was a justifiable reaction to injustice, and that triumph was not guaranteed. And not the kind of “injustice” other pop-punk
bands often peddle: your girlfriend dumping you, your parents grounding you, or the cool kids bullying you. Rise was familiar with the poser cliché, of course. In “Six Ways ‘til Sunday” off their debut album, McIlrath sings, “You've been hiding so long / You can't find yourself / In this sheltered life you live / When everything you want is at your fingertips / You'll never know what need is. / You're the new revolution / The angst-filled adolescent / You fit the stereotype well.” I thought I was pretty selfaware then. Around this age, a teacher of mine, upon hearing me play some Rise Against through tinny iPod speakers, asked, “Do you think you’ll always like this kind of music?” I told him my dad still listened to his favorite band from his teenage years: Led Zeppelin. The teacher gave me a look that told me just how much he thought Rise Against and Led Zeppelin had in common. Dad has, on several occasions, told me, “Led Zeppelin is the only heavy metal band.” He refuses to elaborate. In his youth, Dad grew his hair way out, played banjo, and followed a meditation guru across the country in various vehicles not his own.
Issue 001: First Times He tells me he was never a hippie because he always paid his taxes. He took me to see all kinds of guitarists in concert when I was a kid. Al Di Meola, Tommy Emmanuel, Rodrigo y Gabriela. Living in the middle of nowhere Vermont didn’t mean we didn’t have music. But we had to go all the way to Boston for the first show I wanted to see. I convinced my parents it would be an educational trip—we could visit colleges during the day— including the one I would eventually end up attending. (See Mom? It was worth it!) It was instructional in other ways.
Dad brought a knife. When the House of Blues bouncers patted us down, he folded it between his hand and wallet. He told me once we were through the door. Showed me the knife. I promptly forgot, giddy as I was waiting for my heroes to take the stage. We were up in the mezzanine, me against the rail, Dad against the wall, the knife in his pocket. We stayed high above the mosh pits. I wouldn’t end up in one of those until I had my driver’s license and could attend the hardcore shows closer to home. Good thing, too. After the show, Dad said he would’ve pulled me right out if we’d been down there. “No wonder they pat us down,” he said. “One guy with a knife could do a lot of damage.” At the time I’m sure I would’ve
never forgiven him if we left early. I know my way around a mosh pit now, partook countless times in that arena of simulated violence, that farcical fist-flying, felt the catharsis of coming real damn close to hurting yourself, hurting others. Theoretically I understood this before ever being inside one, and when I explained to Dad what it was all about, he wouldn’t hear it. And I’m sure he would’ve never forgiven himself if I got hurt in a roiling crowd of Rise Against fans. And I’m sure he was telling the truth; that he would’ve done anything to keep me from pain. Dad lives with chronic pain. It’s genetic. Someday I might be the same. He spent the show leaning on a high top table, since standing for four hours straight is a big ask. (All the concerts he took me to as a kid were seated. We only stood to applaud at the end.) Between songs, I would turn away from the stage to make sure he was still there. He would smile, content with the knowledge that I was safe and happy, screaming my lungs out. I know it scared him though. The thought that someday I would be set loose in those crowds. That I would outgrow a chaperone, the mezzanine. And maybe he was afraid of what a boy becomes in that space. Maybe he was afraid I would like it; fall in love with hitting, being hit. Kids would walk away with bruises that night, no matter how wide their grins. He saw it all. He could’ve kept me from going to
another show; but he didn’t. He didn’t mean to knife that night.
From the banjo, to the harmonica, Dad has always had hobbies. And one of them is woodcarving. He’s carved chains, woodland animals, whole tables. He knows that just because something looks like a weapon, doesn’t mean it is. He forgot it was in his pocket.
(Art is not just one thing. A wooden fox is both a block of wood and a fox. A song sung in anger is a song of grief. A boy is not a time-bomb.) A mosh pit can be a place to lose oneself, and a community of a kind. Every time I’ve fallen in a pit, someone has picked me back up. And no one ever stopped and asked me to consider if Rise Against were sell outs, or if punk was truly dead, or if I could name four Black Flag albums, before helping me to my feet. I think about my father’s knife, whose power only ever came from making something for someone else. I think about my teenage self, who saw knives and words only as weapons, and if they couldn’t reach someone else, they might as well be turned back on him. Who thought pain was art, instead of what can only inform art. It wasn’t the opener, or the closer, but Rise Against played one my favorite songs that
night, “Survive.” Mcilrath sings,
“Life for you, has been less than kind / So take a number, stand in line / We've all been sorry, we've all been hurt / But how we survive, is what makes us who we are.” Hurt, he knows, isn’t unique. Who thinks it is? In my experience: a crowd of young, angry white boys, who wear pain like a badge proving their invincibility. They don’t know how fragile they are yet. I don’t listen to Rise Against much anymore, and I’m sure my teacher would feel a little bit vindicated to learn this. I’m still angry. All the time. I understand now that the urge to fling our bodies at one another comes from knowing the terrible giant systems that hurt us and our loved ones aren’t so easily harmed. That the mosh pit is where we can pick each other back up, where we know the fighting is over when the song ends, the show closes, the lights go out. What a relief, to know you will walk away from this. Because we know the state and its actors can and will kill if they feel like it. The mosh pit can allow the illusion of confrontation with rules, with a sense of equality and camaraderie we will never see from our enemies. The pit, nor whatever punk music may be to you, is not a substitute for political struggle. We still need knives.
Issue 001: First Times
Photo courtesy: Carl Lavigne
Issue 001: First Times
AFTER: “FIRST LOVE/ LATE SPRING” Song by: Mitski, Bury Me At Makeout Creek (2014)
Gloria Perez, Visual Art
Learn more about Groupie Mag’s contributors.
(he/him) is a Boston-based writer, educator, and co-host of the Boston Poetry Slam. He is the author of When the Gardener Has Left (Wilde Press, 2015) and This to You (Beard Poetry, 2016). He listens to sad music when he is happy, and sad music when he is sad. Find him at kierancollier.com or on Twitter @kieranwcollier.
(she/her)is a journalist currently based in Brooklyn, New York. She writes about music and culture, and her bylines can be found in Esquire, Loud & Quiet, Level, Grow Up, L'Officiel USA, Luna Collective, and Oh Reader. Isabel received a BA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing with a minor in History from Emerson College. Since then, she has worked at various publications and media companies, including Esquire, L'Officiel USA, and Knitting Factory Entertainment. When she's out and about, Isabel can be found walking the city streets with her headphones on, eating eggs in every form on Earth, or swimming until her hands are raisins.
(she/her) is a recent Creative Writing/English graduate. Her work has been published in the Texas Anthology: A Celebration of Young Poets, the anthology Hidden Lights, the online journal The Junction, and Harness Magazine. She currently resides in her home state of Texas where she works on crafting new poems and short stories. She aspires to teach writing therapy in the future.
(she/they) is an Associate Production Editor at Random House, where they help make books. They hold a Joint MA in English & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Brandeis University and a BA from Emerson College. Their academic work has considered topics such as the gendering of sound and the NHL mascot Gritty. They love good food, bad movies, and small dogs. You can find them on Twitter @Cara_DuBois.
(she/her) was born in the heart of an artichoke, right under the spiky fuzzy part, nestled safely beneath the leaves. She is a writer and cellist/singer-songwriter, currently writing poetry, songs, and personal essays about hoping and risking and loving and hurting and feeling and despairing and trying again anyway. Tallie is in a band that she loves with all of her heart called Cardboard Rocketship, and her debut collection of poems, heart garden, will be published on April 30, 2021. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is passionate about contributing to her community and helping to make spaces where artists and all humans can feel seen and appreciated.
(she/her) is an asexual, demi/panromantic Bostonbased writer of young adult fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University and a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, and was a 2020 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award in Literature nominee. Her writing has appeared in several local publications, among them The Alembic, Hollow VI, and issues 3 and 5 of Wizards in Space. She can usually be found haunting her local pond, making unnecessarily elaborate playlists, or slowly phasing into an MCR lyrics bot on Twitter at @alluringskull.
Issue 001: First Times (he/him) is a writer from Vermont. He holds an MFA from the University of Michigan. His work appears in Joyland Magazine, The Cincinnati Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. He would like to start a My Chemical Romance cover band.
(she/her) is a culture and identity writer based in New York. Her work has been published in Flood Magazine, She Shreds Magazine, Backstage Magazine, Elite Daily, and more. In her free time, you can most likely find Isabelle rewatching 2010s sitcoms or secretly binging One Direction’s discography — or probably both.
Mexican-American artist Samantha Niedzielski (she/her) loves all things detailed. She can be found writing poems, painting, collaging, and cooking up songs in sunny Sacramento, CA. Her work connects the outside world with her internal feelings and often prompts a deeper understanding of both. Sam most recently completed her Writing and Producing Music certification through Berklee College of Music and currently works for Thizzler on the Roof, a Northern California hip-hop/ rap community. Her poems have been previously published in the Los Angeles Review and WB Yeats Society of NY. Keep up with her on IG and Twitter: @syncosun. (she/her) is a multiracial, San Francisco-based writer and educator. She is an unapologetic fan of early 2000's pop-punk (particularly All-American Rejects and Yellowcard) and shares a birthday with Prince. You can find her poems in sPARKLE + bLINK, Sidereal Magazine, and Honey Literary.
(they/them) is a New York-based photographer currently working out of Cleveland, Ohio. They specialize in 35mm analog works, as well as editorial style portraiture and album artwork for independent musicians.
(she/her) has a tattoo of deer antlers covered in flowers on her arm; the flowers represent her cousins and the deer antlers represent the "Sugar We're Going Down" music video because Fall Out Boy was the first concert they ever went to together. She’d like to think that there's a bit more to her personality, but that's a pretty solid summary.
(she/her) is a budding artist living in Lynn, MA. Exploring the limitless possibilities, her styles range from playful digital prints to abstract mixed media to acrylic landscapes. She is a firm believer in sharing your journey and process, living outside of the status quo and never settling in art or in life. Art is for everyone! Watch her make weird stuff @ArtBeforeYouCroak!
(Kun-reen Yuh-hoo-dee-in) (she/her) has trouble communicating her racing thoughts (Gemini Mercury) but it comes easily with things she’s deeply passionate about (Cancer sun and rising), like finding a sense of belonging through music - preferably at least 130 BPM (Sagittarius moon). She’s excited to bring her passion to the surface (12h stellium) and share the music experiences that have shaped her into the Little Monster she is today, both figuratively and literally. When she’s not disturbing her neighbor’s weeknights having a disco danceparty for one, you can find her on Instagram @YourFriendKarin.
Acknowledgments Groupie Mag would like to thank you, first and foremost, for giving us an audience. This little mag would not exist without the inspiring work of Hanif Abdurraqib, Jessica Hopper, and Rob Sheffield, for whom we are the biggest groupies. Thank you to all of our contributors for trusting us with their first times. To our families and loves - Carlos, Celeste, Amanda, and Julia Perez, Alex Friedlander, Mike Loeb-Pecci, Sol and Gab, John, Renée, and Gina Fucci, Matthew Sosa, Meg Kenneally, Evan Czyz, Jennifer Lerner, Joseph and Cody, Missy Vanseggen, Jacob DiTore, Michael Roberts, Mary Gagliardotto, Khadijah and Zaynab Holland, Sarah Alexander, Aliyah Browne, Noel Perrotta, and all of our roommates thank you for cheering us on. Thank you to our best teachers - Mo Petkus, Jerald Walker, Richard Hoffman, Caitlin McGill, Claudia Castaneda, Emily Turner, and Lisa Collins. Thank you to every single person we met in a writing workshop and continue to know in some capacity - what a weird, special bond. Thank you to Chex cereal, Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), and Books Are Magic of Cobble Hill. Thank you Gerard Way, Hayley Williams, and Fall Out Boy’s “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More ‘Touch Me.’” Thank you to Tums, Alanis Morissette, and every fountain soda. Thank you to Brené Brown, Stephen Sondheim, and American Idol. Thank you Bruce Springsteen. Thank you Mitski, Wolf Alice, and Stevie Nicks. Thank you One Direction. Thank you Lolita Podcast and Say More Podcast. Thank you to the Panic! At the Disco message board for the content and the love connection. Thank you to Julien, Phoebe, and Lucy - we strive to be the boygenius of music literary magazines. Finally, thank you frailty, thank you consequence, thank you, thank you, silence.
Issue 001: First Times
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See you over at Issue 002: Sophomore Slump! Submissions open until June 05, 2021
We asked the groupies to create on and around the concept of firsts. In this issue, you’ll find everything from a YA dystopian record shop t...
Published on Apr 11, 2021
We asked the groupies to create on and around the concept of firsts. In this issue, you’ll find everything from a YA dystopian record shop t...