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, 2006 Static and Feedback
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Is this the end of the
all ages show?


Allow me to set the scene: it’s Providence and the first
band has already played. As far as the eye can see,
teenagers are sweating from dancing in the crowded
club. Supposedly this is a smoke-free show, but there
they are, hundreds of them, passing a single cigarette
around the crowd. Someone must have gotten lucky
enough to find a bum to buy a pack – the shop on the
corner stopped accepting fake IDs a month ago. The
kids are almost screaming, hard of hearing from the
bass of the last set, and liquored up enough not to
care who hears.

“He came over to my house the other night and he
was being such an asshole!” screamed a child-like
voice. “So I did him!” Her words are greeted by peels of giggles from her scantily clad friends, and the daring
admission is followed by a chorus of predictable questions. A cloud of marijuana smoke billows from behind the
story teller, and a cluster of acne-afflicted faces bow down to hide the tell-tale glow of a lit bowl. So it is with the
all ages show.

Despite the negative aspects of these shows, however, many believe them to be positive social experiences for
developing kids. While there is clearly underage alcohol and drug use at shows, some speculate that kids are
less driven to do hard drugs when they have alternative sources of entertainment. Since activity options are
limited for the pre-pubescent set, concerts play a valuable role in the life of the average teen.
“The value in all ages shows is spreading that amazing feeling you get inside when you see your favorite band
walk on onstage,” said Lucie Park, a freshman at Lexington High School. “Just because someone’s under 18
doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate good, live music.”

Despite such accolades, however, the sun may be setting on the day of the all ages show. Although national
trends show that under age drinking and drug use is on the decline, many promoters are still concerned that
concerts will encourage such illegal behavior. The majority of teenagers, however, say that shows have no effect
on their drug use.
“I think the people who would be doing the underage drinking and drugs would be the people who would be
doing them somewhere else anyways,” said Park.

Recently the Brookline Community Center for the Arts, a major area all-ages venue, was faced with an
ultimatum: raise $50,000 before the new year, or face eviction. Although the Center reached its goal and raised
the money, officials still have to hold their breath and wait for the landlord to come through with his answer.
According to a letter sent out by the BCCA on January 4, 2005, the landlord currently has at least two serious
buyers lined up for the space, and in order to keep the area, the BCCA needs a buyer of their own to back them.

However, this buyer (or group of buyers) would need to have a total income of over $350,000 with less than 50
percent liability. Unfortunately, that’s not all. The BCCA is still operating with an average loss of $5,000 a month,
and any buyer would need to be able to pay that off – in addition to the first mortgage payment of $1.35 million.
They also need $39,000 to cover the cost of installing state-mandated handicap access for their lower level.
Although the BCCA has at least 7 prospective buyers lined up, their ultimate fate is still tenuous. And with such
high risks for minors to be caught participating in illegal activities at all-ages shows, it is unlikely another venue
will step in quickly to take the BCCA’s place.

In a press release issued in December, 2004, the United States Department of Health and Human Services
stated that the most recent survey conducted by the Monitoring the Future organization showed underage drug
use to be on the decline.

“There are now 600,000 fewer teens using drugs than there were in 2001,” said John Walters in the press
release. Walters, the Director of National Drug Control Policy, also said that if kids avoid drugs and alcohol
during their teenage years, their risk level for later related problems is greatly reduced. “The results released
today are good news for American parents and teens, and great news for our country,” said Walters.

But despite recent positive trends, bands seem to believe that promoters refuse all ages shows based on a fear
of underage misconduct.

“Venues run the risk of a minor getting served at all ages shows, and if the cops show up then the place gets
fined and shut down,” said Peter Meriot, guitarist of the band Grey United. “They can make more money serving
alcohol, and if they do that at all ages shows they run the risk of underage drinking and huge fines.”

Still, Meriot said venues underestimate the amount of revenue to be made by hosting all ages shows for local

“Right there you have six more years of people who can come,” said Meriot. Since so many local bands playing
in small clubs are younger themselves, it helps to allow them to invite their younger friends. This same concept,
as well as the belief that all ages shows are good for the music scene, has led local punks Five Across the Eyes
to refuse to play shows that are not all ages.

“It’s just really for the kids,” said Five Across the Eyes guitarist Justin Morin. “I think the only shows that should be
21 and over are in bars, but we still won’t play them.”

Morin said that while minors definitely drink in bars and clubs, there is minimal use of drugs other than
marijuana. Morin also said that being in a public place probably helps kids avoid harder drugs and worse habits.

According to MTF, however, 77% of students have consumed a substantial quantity of alcohol by twelfth grade,
and 46% of kids have drunk substantially by the end of eighth grade. While underage drinking has decreased in
the last few years, those still aren’t numbers to make law enforcement officials smile. And with officials cracking
down, venues are still hesitant to embrace shows for those unfortunately under 21.