When I was a freshman in high school, I went to see My Chemical Romance.
It was my first concert, and my friends and I arrived at the venue hours early to get a choice spot in line. We doodled MCR lyrics on our arms in Sharpie and painted each other’s faces in heavy eyeliner while chattering excitedly about the emo band that set our angsty little 14-year-old hearts on fire.
I was a new fan, only converted to the “MCRmy” just in time for the band’s stop in Seattle for its Danger Days tour. Only months before, I’d batted away my friend’s repeated attempts to introduce me to the moody growls of Gerard Way, telling her I was no “emo.” At the time, I was an avid reader of Seventeen Magazine and listened almost exclusively to soundtracks from my beloved favorite TV show, “Glee.” I was a far cry from the black-clad sulky-teen demographic that My Chemical Romance attracted.
But there was something in the rebellious, loud image of the band that appealed to me. It was everything I wasn’t. I had always been the girl in class who never talked — the quiet goody-two-shoes who kept to herself. In kindergarten, I was too shy to even ask my teacher if I could use the restroom. Since middle school, I’d loved singing along to my favorite pop songs — but secretly, in the privacy of my own bedroom, of course. There was no way in hell I’d ever sing in front of anyone.
For years, there was a voice trapped inside of me just dying to break out.
And so I bit the bullet. Before I had time to kiss the show tune croons of the “Glee” cast goodbye, I found myself yelling My Chemical Romance lyrics in public with my friends and printing out pictures of Gerard Way’s face to plaster on my bedroom walls. “Teenagers scare the living shit out of me!” my friends and I roared, barely teenagers ourselves, along with raucous electric guitars. I was hungrily reading every interview, watching every music video and soaking up every melodramatic word these greasy-haired emos had to offer.
For the first time, I was in love.
With a band, that is. And maybe a little bit with the band’s eyeliner-wearing lead singer in particular. So when the gods of my new emo adolescence stepped on stage at my very first concert, I couldn’t believe my eyes. By the end of the night, I’d been pushed around repeatedly, eyeliner running down my face and sweat soaking through my Hot Topic hoodie. The heat of a thousand other bodies slamming against me had been no easy physical feat to endure, but I was so exhilarated by the thrill of the crowd and the proximity to my idols I was sure it’d been the best night of my life.
Next came other loves: Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy. Posters filled up the blank space on my purple-painted walls as each new band crowded my ears with addicting new melodies. I saved concert ticket stubs and nabbed setlists; I pushed my way all the way up to stage barriers and sang along to every word. I collected band T-shirts, begged my parents to drive me to concerts on school nights and incurred the wrath of my brother as I blasted pop punk jams out of my bedroom directly adjacent to his.
Maybe I should be more embarrassed of my musical beginnings. It’s not something I’ll usually divulge to just anyone. To be fair, my teenage love affair with My Chemical Romance doesn’t exactly seat me with the cool kids who started listening to indie rock in eighth grade. Maybe spending hours reblogging photos of Brendon Urie on Tumblr or buying a copy of “Alternative Press” just to rip out the giant posters of Gerard Way and Frank Iero weren’t my most impressive moments. And yes, I definitely cried when the members of MCR announced they were breaking up.
But being a fangirl led to more than just stalking band members on the Internet. For the first time, I had a voice. From the moment I first shouted along at a concert, spewing lyrics until my voice grew hoarse, I stopped being so afraid. Seeing Gerard Way strut around stage without a hint of fear struck something inside of me. I threw myself into music, learning the chords to my favorite songs on the piano and singing with as much rockstar energy as I could muster. I started voice lessons, and I started writing my own songs. I started performing at open mics, and I even started a band with my friend who played the drums.
Falling hard for a silly emo band sparked the beginning of my love for music. For in music, I found a platform to be heard when my words would have faltered.
So what’s there to be embarrassed about? Being an earnest fangirl made me fall for music in a way so powerful it’s become the most important thing in my life. Even if I don’t join the ranks of famous rock stars myself as I’d once imagined, I still get a thrill out of singing in front of people. I still fall in love with new bands and feel hints of that pure, unadulterated joy from my first concert every once in a while at a really good show. I’ve discovered a love for writing about music, too, and I expect to incorporate it into my future career.
While I’ve moved on from pop punk and stripped a Fall Out Boy poster or two from my walls, my love for music will last a lifetime. And whether I like it or not, so will the lyrics of “Welcome to the Black Parade,” forever ingrained in my brain. Once a fangirl, always a fangirl.
“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion columnists have been selected.