B104 night at Mayfair every Memorial Day weekend in Allentown is a great bargain: $5 entrance fee for nationally known acts. It’s usually a bit crowded, but where else can you can get $5 seats where you can see the stage? A few years ago we waited a couple of hours and got in the front section to see Jesse McCartney.
This year was Chris Rene from X factor, Chiddy Bang, and Boys like Girls. My husband and I thought it would be fun to go, and we particularly wanted to see Chris Rene from the X factor. We arrived to a mostly full tent after a rainstorm, and found 3 empty chairs in the middle of a sea of teenagers. As we sat, I saw a ripple of reaction from the teens around us: adults don’t belong here. Girls with long straight hair wearing tiny jeans shorts and crop tanks, smart phones in backpockets visible as they scan the crowd to see who’s here, who is arriving.
I see clues that these kids know each other, that they must be from the same school. Open mouthed smiling girls with braces check their phones, and look at each other and laugh. Girls sit in rows, a few braiding each other’s hair, wet after being caught in the rain. Boys sit behind in groups, a brave girl or two sitting with a date in the boundary. Finally, Capcee starts the warm-up music: “Teach Me How to Dougie”. A couple of teens stand up and try out a couple of dance moves, scanning faces and gauging reactions to each movement. Everyone knows words of the songs , they know which parts to sing aloud, locking eyes briefly and singing phrases at each other. Girls ignore the boys, until more dominant boys show up at the last minute, striding right to the most popular girls.
By the time the DJ Capcee gets to “Low”, by Flo Rida, the kids are all up: lines of carefully set chairs block their forward surge. My daughter gets up to dance, but I caution her to stay back, sensing her danger in not belonging. While my daughter is standing, a girl brazenly comes and sits in her seat next to me – I pull my daughter back down into her seat to re-claim the space, and the girl hops over into a boy’s lap. There are fleeting touches, and a couple who might be graduating middle school risk a first kiss. Someone starts throwing chairs into a pile, helter skelter, to make room for the arriving kids, who snake forward. They never look at us, but their bodies tell us we are invaders in their territory: they wall us off with the chair pile. I freeze when someone taps my shoulder from behind, knowing that we are blocking the path, and parents eyes don’t belong here . The crowd shouting: “Sex Sex sex sex” , along with a song that I have never heard before, but that they all know well.
Girls turn to each other and make eye contact, singing phrases, imitating gestures: Applebottom jeans, boots with the fur…lowlowlowlowlowlowlow. One girl is suddenly spit out from the group, and connects with friends on the edge explaining with animated gestures. As the chair barrier piles up, my invisible family is a rock in the stream, as teens file around us to join with the larger group. Kids slip and slide, climbing over the chair pile to get past , and suddenly the prettiest, best dressed girl throws a chair in our direction with barely restrained viciousness.
We finally give up and head for safety in the periphery. We excuse ourselves to pass through a group of teens dressed in black: we make eye contact and smile. They smile back with gentle understanding, and suddenly we are visible again. After we move, the crowd continues to heat up, bumping each other, standing on chairs, pumping fists, pushing forward. I take a tour around the crowd, and I see piles of chairs all the way across the crowd. It wasn’t personal.
As the last Chiddy Bang song comes to an end, a security guard wades into the vortex of the group of teens, right into the spot we left, and says something to the charged up teens. Suddenly, the group scatters, quickly leaving the concert as if with one mind. A Mayfair official gets up on stage and tells the audience they must follow rules: no climbing on chairs, no pushing forward. But the intensity is already diminished, the danger is over now. The crowd settles listening to calm pop music, and event volunteers come and rearrange the chairs.
Capcee was a master at revving the kids up, but the security guards knew just how much intervention was needed to allow a good time, but prevent a riot. This wasn’t even a newsworthy event: concert review don’t mention any near melee at the concert. This is just everyday group behavior at a concert.
I have so many questions. How can I possibly teach a teenager with autism safe concert behavior? I had been thinking to invite some of the girls from my social skills group to this concert, but I hesitated. Caution…..often a good thing! I was surprised to see so many young teens without any adults checking on them. Where were those helicopter parents? If there were any parents of these kid at Mayfair, they were so far away as to be useless. The security did manage to prevent real harm, but I can’t imagine that the parents of these kids would be okay with this. I chose to bring my daughter so that I could teach her — well, I really thought it might be fun for her– but I couldn’t let her move into such a complex social situation. We remain more connected to our kids with autism, who, like the kids wearing black, are vulnerable and have no protection from the pack.
Here’s a list of popular songs that come up at dances and other occasions. This list is somewhat different than just “what’s in now”- some songs are important in the context of school dances and parties. I’m sure I’ve missed some.
- Lady Gaga, Just Dance, Telephone
- Beyonce, All the Single Ladies
- Mary J. Blige Family Affair
- Sarah Bareilles, I’m Not Gonna Write You a Lovesong
- Chiddy Bang, Ray Charles
- Jennifer Lopez On the floor
- C&C Music Factory, Everybody Dance Now
- OutKast, Hey Ya
- Pink, Let’s get this Party Started
- Nelly, Hot in Heere
- Miley Cyrus, Party in the USA
- Taio Cruz Dynomite
- Bruno Mars, Grenade
- Ciara, 1 2 step
- Right said Fred, I’m too sexy
- Justin Timberlake, Sexyback
- Rihanna, We found love , Birthday, Don’t Stop the Music
- LMFOA Party Rock Anthem, Shots, I’m Sexy and I know it
- Flo rida, Low, Right Round, Club Can’t Handle Me, Good Feeling
- Cali Swag District, Teach me how to Dougie
- Cee-Lo, Forget you (there is another version with F you)
- YMCA/Cotton Eye Joe/Electric Slide/Chacha slide /Macarena
- TikTok, Ke$ha
- Eiffel65 , Blue
- Journey, Midnight Train (aka Don’t stop believing)
- Katy Perry, California Gurls, Firework, Hot ‘n cold
- Green Day, Time of Your Life
- Maroon 5, Moves like Jagger
- Black Eyed Peas, Imma Be, Boom Boom pow, Let’s Get It Started, I Gotta Feeling
- Montell Jordon This is How we do it
- Enrique Iglesias, I like it
- Justin Bieber, Baby
- Reel2reel, I like to move it move it
- Shakira, Hips Don’t Lie