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May 26, 2011

ARTICLE: ASHLEY FISCHER: No one loves a band like a teen loves a band

"They don't even know what it is to be a fan. Y'know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it ... hurts."
-- Sapphire, played by Fairuza Balk in "Almost Famous," Cameron Crowe's sentimental ode to fandom

One of the many (mercifully less awkward and traumatic) teenage rites of passage is finding a band.
Not just a favorite band, but the band. One that you can channel all of your massive, teenage-sized feelings into, and turn into the center of your universe.

 A band like My Chemical Romance, which played the Fox Theater Wednesday night to the adoration of thousands of their earnest, singing-along-to-every anthem Bakersfield fans. But even more impressive than the concert itself was the simple fact that a band so huge and so meaningful to so many teens would play in Bakersfield at all.

Trust me, as someone who has had more than a few teenage obsessions of my own, it hasn't always been so easy to see the latest Best Band Ever.

The primary object of my feverish teenage adoration was ... well ... they had tight pants, big belts, leather jackets, were from New York and, for a brief while, were the music industry's "It boys." They were big (not just in Japan), and they graced the covers of all the right magazines, which made it easy to fuel my obsession. However, the downside of their being so big was that by the time they decided to tour the West Coast, they never once decided to stop and play Bakersfield, my hometown.

Those anywhere-but-the-Central Valley tour stops prompted many foolhardy trips across the treacherous Grapevine to Los Angeles (and even one disastrous journey to Las Vegas), so my friends and I could see the bands we so adored perform in all their real-life, carefully disheveled rock star glory.
Very rarely did my mom (a Cheap Trick devotee herself back in the day) actually know the truth of my whereabouts. Too many times we used the notoriously unreliable, "I'm staying at so-and-so's house" switcheroo, or the slightly more innovative, "seeing the late showing of 'Return of the King'" excuse. (The movie is about a million years long, so it wasn't entirely far-fetched.)

Now that I'm older and (slightly) wiser, I'm acutely aware of just how stupid these musical misadventures of mine were. I doubt I need to point out how fortunate we were that the worst things my friends and I ever had to deal with were a few missed curfews, surviving on little more than a shared bean and cheese burrito from Del Taco for the day, more than a few stressful hours spent trying to navigate the labyrinthine streets of Los Angeles and West Hollywood, and my first-ever speeding ticket, awarded to me by a Nevada state trooper.
Oh, and we got lost in Compton once.

That isn't to say these trips didn't have some good points -- I have a sizable collection of signed ticket stubs and guitar picks to prove it -- and there was also that one time the lead singer totally looked right at me.
But while my loyalty to "my band" remains, I've grown up, along with the countless other fans who were shoved up against those painful metal barricades in front of the stage alongside me. A new generation of teens has stepped up, along with a whole slew of new bands.

Enter My Chemical Romance.

Given my less-than-glamorous history traipsing back and forth across the Grapevine, I was pleased to learn the band decided to play a show in Bakersfield -- especially since they tend to play much larger festivals and stadium-size venues. No one was more excited about this than the band's many local fans (including my little-sister figure), who of course purchased their tickets months before I had any idea the show was even happening.

I spoke with a few of them before the big day to see how they were handling all the excitement. Most of them were spending the evening "geeking out" -- making shirts, hanging out, eating pizza and watching the band's road diary documentary included with their first live album, "Life on the Murder Scene."

Many of these fans' stories are similar to mine, including a less than ideal trip to Las Vegas (let's just say food poisoning was involved), but of course, they have a set of personal joys, excitement and irreplaceable moments that are entirely their own.

Though Ryan Hessberger, 19, is slightly disappointed that he won't get to add another road story to the roster of times he's had to travel to see My Chemical Romance, he was happy to have the chance to see his favorite band perform in Bakersfield for the first time. But, like any good fan, he was mostly thankful to have had the opportunity to spend six years of his life loving their music.

"Their music has gone with me from when I was 13 and all the way til now. There's certain songs I'll listen to depending on the mood that I'm in -- there's ones I'll listen to when I feel happy, or when I'm upset. Overall, they've always been 'there' for me. Not physically, but I've always had their music."

So, "three cheers" to you, My Chemical Romance, for giving your Bakersfield fans a chance to do what fans do best -- love their band.
I hope this won't be the last.


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