All Time Low & the power of young music fans

It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen All Time Low in concert. The last time I saw the Baltimore pop-rockers, I spent my time casually avoiding looking at colleges and stressing about junior prom. Almost three years later, I dragged my increasingly burnt out body to Starland Ballroom on the first Sunday of my Thanksgiving break to watch my old favorite band play their breakout (breakout!) EP, Put Up or Shut Up, in its entirety.

The first time I saw ATL, I had just attended my freshman formal and was bursting with excitement to see the energetic Baltimore blink-182-remodels perform. I camped out in front of the middle-of-nowhere Electric Factory in Philadelphia for over six hours with my best friend and nothing but two lawn chairs, a pair of blankets, and a laptop with the band’s live DVD. We even crafted a hand-drawn sign directed at guitarist Jack Barakat asking if he ever fucked that burrito.

There is *literally* no universe now where I can imagine bringing a poster into a concert, let alone camping out in front of a venue for an entire day. That 2011 show highlighted my peak of what generally misogynistic punk bros call my “fan girl” stage. I spent hours watching every YouTube video the band posted, hanging on their every word and looking for their quotes when I felt down. In that same time, All Time Low showed me the power of community both online and at live shows.

This past Sunday, I rediscovered the fans that have built the ATL community into one of the most powerful, and, frankly, most rabid in the alternative music world. More commonly referred to as the Hustlers, the fans occupying Starland appeared to have an average age between 12 and 17. I stood arm in arm with more parents that night than I’ve seen at any of the concerts I’ve been to in the last year and every single one of them were in attendance for the sole reason of allowing their children’s passions to flourish and manifest for a few short school night hours.

That energy could be felt throughout the entire room that night. The fresh-faced crowd was zealous no matter if ATL’s recent radio single “Something’s Gotta Give” poured over speakers or the deepest cut of PUOSP pounded our ears. Mild-mannered moshers allowed fans of all ages a chance to experience the unique offerings of a punk show without the hyper-masculine violence of most pits and provided the space for wild expression. Having spent more than enough shows trying to dodge the elbows and fists of large, adult men, I greatly appreciated the lively yet caring atmosphere the Hustlers created.

And I have to be honest, I had been curious to see if the big ticket seller of the night, PUOSP in full, would create a mixture of youth and nostalgia like oil and water. But the middle set of the night did just the opposite — the father taking photos of his young daughter and her friend every 30 seconds, the group of male twenty-somethings singing along to every word, and every pre-teen all danced with insatiable energy.

While the fan in me was a bit frustrated with the absence of “Lullabies” in the setlist, the empathetic part of me understood. I cannot imagine how difficult it would’ve been to perform the already emotionally charged song just days after the loss of one of their best friends, Jason Gaviati.

As Alex Gaskarth cried that we should stay seventeen, he vocalized exactly what All Time Low and their fans encapsulate. That sometimes you just fall in love with a band because they make you feel alive and like every opportunity is yours for the taking. That there’s not always a need for music to be literary or complex. And with them, there’s little questioning if someone is “punk enough.” Everyone just seems to have a good goddamn time. In its live performance, All Time Low presents the wide-open possibilities of youth and the frenzied passion of the first time you truly love a band. When it’s their faces and their words on the walls of your bedroom and their songs being what you turn to in times of elation and heartbreak. It’s about the band who gives it their all for kids just starting to explore punk and who still wear band tees and necklaces adorned with hard-won guitar picks everyday.

Yes, All Time Low have some great songs and more than a handful of bad ones (how this band wrote both “Six Feet Under The Stars” and “I Feel Like Dancing” I will never know.) In my early high school days, my taste was fairly one-lane, saccharine pop-rock along the vein of Mayday Parade, early The Maine, and Go Radio. And while I don’t consider myself a consistent follower of such acts now, it is still wildly important not to diminish or dismiss the taste of young fans as they’re the ones who have the power and the passion to give rise to the next generation of musicians.

I might not listen to All Time Low on a daily or even weekly basis anymore, but without them, I would not be sitting here today writing this. On that first frigid March day in 2011 and on Sunday night, this band made me fall in love with live music and showed me the passion

And remember — these are the fast times, the times we felt alive.

Setlist:
Kicking & Screaming
A Love Like War
Lost In Stereo
Backseat Serenade
Weightless
Cinderblock Garden (acoustic)
Missing You (acoustic)
Don’t You Go
Damned If I Do Ya
Old Scars/Future Hearts
(break)
Put Up or Shut Up
Coffee Shop Soundtrack
Break Out! Break Out!
The Girl’s a Straight Up Hustler
Jasey Rae
The Party Scene
Running From Lions
(break)
Kids in the Dark
Something’s Gotta Give
Dear Maria, Count Me In