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Out of Luck: Seeing Shows When You’re Under 21

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by Maddy Siiter

In a small local music scene like Duluth, everyone supports everyone. If someone comes out to see your show on a Friday night, you go out to see theirs the next Friday night. It’s not a hard concept to follow. You hear about the show, meet up with your friends, show the bouncer your ID, maybe order a drink and wait for the music to start. Fun, right? Yeah, if you’re of legal drinking age. It really sucks if you’re only 16.

The majority of the venues that regularly host music here are bars, or serve alcohol, meaning that by law, if you’re under 21 you have to be out of there at a certain time of the night. Or you’re just not allowed in at all.

As a teenage musician, it’s frustrating to have such little access to something I care so much about. I’m supported so fervently around town that it almost feels undeserved because I can rarely return the favor. I can get into venues if I’m playing them, because then I’m technically working. What if I want to reciprocate the support from a band by going out to their show in return? I can’t. I’m not old enough. Sorry, five-year raincheck?

I know these places need to make money to stay open and that that money is usually all made from alcohol sales. I know it’d be dumb to let in people who you legally can’t make a profit from. I know owners are scared of accidentally serving people who are underage. But please, just charge me for water and X the top my hands with permanent marker. I would gladly pay for something you usually give away and rock a sign of my youth if it meant I could support a band who deserves a crowd.

Maybe safety has something to do with it, something I agree with and do appreciate. Unfortunately, some adults can’t responsibly handle themselves with alcohol in public. I know I have people around me that would watch out for me in that setting, but not every small teenage girl and her friends are that lucky.

I get it though, maybe some 25-year-old cool kids don’t want obnoxious teenagers in their usual hang out space. They think all we’re going to do is be loud and text the whole time, but that’s wrong. Just look around at this website. Teenagers like music too.

We deserve to enjoy it like everyone else. If we made the point of coming (spending gas money) and willingly paid the $5 cover (more money), we want to be there. Broke teenagers will not spend money for nothing. Broke teenagers will not spend money to not pay attention to what they paid for. But please though, continue to roll your eyes and mumble under your breath that, “those stupid kids are always on their phones.” I know you just posted that on Facebook from your iPhone.

The next generation of a music scene cannot happen if you don’t allow the bands and musicians who make it up to actively be a part of it. Sure, there are a handful of all-age venues and events, but sometimes you want something different from the acoustic, coffeeshop environment.

It’s almost impossible to meet other bands if you can’t be where they are (and they’re usually not at these coffee places on a Friday night). What makes you think a lot of young bands are going to stay ambitious if they feel alienated, even if they can’t control it? It’s not my fault when I was born.

It’s not just the kids that want to be around. The adults want the kids around too. Local musicians I’ve met in their 20s and 30s feel the same way. These people have not only listened to various forms of this same rant, but have brought it up themselves, because again, they’re worried about keeping something we all love going.

I don’t have all the answers to this and I don’t know everything, but something has to change if you want to keep this alive and draw in a bigger, more diverse crowd. It’s not fair to be on the outside of everything, because having to deal with that in high-school is bad enough. Music is supposed to be a creative, safe outlet, regardless of age.

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