I believe this lady thinks I have no legs. No legs. I’m just floating through life, not a care in the world, not a leg on my body. I am convinced this because she has taken up my entire designated area of leg space on this Megabus. I move my leg, that’s shoved into the tiniest of spaces, to touch hers. Most people I know, including myself, would realize what’s up and move their leg away. This is not the case. The lady quickly accepts my leg into her lifestyle. It’s actually her leg now. Soon it will fuse with hers, and I will float away. No legs.
That was my life for the duration of my trip from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago, Illinois. It was my 17th birthday and I was going to The Windy City to see a favorite band of mine, The Frights. Travelling to shows is not a new concept to me. I’ve road tripped to Cleveland, Des Moines, Milwaukee twice, and Chicago twice–soon I’ll be there again for my second Riot Fest. After getting off the Megabus and stretching my legs (yes, both of them, attached to my body) it was time to navigate the CTA, which is the intellectual equivalent of calculating pi or something. In all honesty, I usually feel stressed when going to a show in an unfamiliar place. Even if I’m in my beloved Twin Cities, if I don’t know the venue, I’ll be on edge. Though, my love for Chicago eased the anxiety well enough.
Why would I put in the effort to travel to see bands that tour for a living? My simple answer is just because it’s fun. I’m young, though I’m at the age where I’ll soon be bombarded with responsibility. But right now, I’m a seventeen-year-old music lover from a small town who wants to see the world. If I can combine my passion for music with my passion for travel, I will. A couple summers ago, I was able to see a band I like perform in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. One time, I spent nine hours in Des Moines the day of a show with nowhere to go other than the cute book stores and coffee shops local to the area. Also Zombie Burger. If you’re in Des Moines, go to Zombie Burger. In Chicago on my birthday, after that unreal Megabus journey, I was able to explore the breathtaking Art Institute the same day I rocked out at a packed punk show in a sweaty bar. On top of the touristy stuff, adventuring to a show serves me a taste of the tour life that so many music fans secretly crave.
When journeying to different music hubs in the Midwest, I get connected to other scenes in a more intimate way than just the internet. I’ve made many friends, some temporary and others not. Last December was The Academy Is…’s Almost Here ten-year anniversary tour. If you’re familiar with TAI, you know that they broke up in 2011, when I was twelve. I never got the chance to see them live then, because I didn’t know they existed, so when they reunited temporarily I couldn’t miss it. My love for that band pulled me to Chicago’s Riot Fest last year and then to Milwaukee. TAI has a very dedicated, intimate fanbase. I can remember sitting in line at The Rave in Milwaukee, wrapped in a blanket, sipping an iced coffee despite the cold and being teased for it by my peers in line. I made many temporary friends during the five-or-so-hours I spent waiting for doors and met people from all over who had also traveled to be there. We compared hotels, told stories of past travels, and gushed about the bands we loved. We developed a sense of camaraderie through our love for music and travel even though we were all of varied ages, locations, and backgrounds.
While in Chicago for my birthday I got to meet up with a friend who I had met the first time I traveled for a show. Her and I stayed in touch over the years, and now we have a big group of people from all over the country that we meet up with for Riot Fest each year. People within our group visit each other and our respective scenes often now, knowing we will always have a couch to crash on. These are people who I never would have met if I hadn’t adventured outside of my beloved local scene, and we’ve created a community of music lovers.
Despite the anxiety of being in an area of Chicago that was foreign to me, I had a great experience. After The Frights’ show, I felt nothing but alive stumbling through the streets of Chicago, laughing, my ears ringing, trying to find my way back to my Airbnb at midnight; standing with my friend as she watched the Olympics through the window outside a packed bar, me on the phone with my friend back in Minnesota, gushing about The Frights’ brief Vampire Weekend cover. After going to so many shows in my young life, they all start to blur together. But traveling to shows gives me memories that I will hold on to forever.