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Touch, feel, stand: My initiation into Fandomland through a sweaty moshpit

It was August 2011 and I was caught between Jared Leto heaven and body-slamming-strangers hell. At Fort Canning Park in Singapore, there’s no such thing as assigned seating. You arrive early, claim your spot on the field, and you don’t budge. But here’s the thing: I budged. I was moved by The Kill (or maybe by the shirtless would-be-Joker an arm’s length away), and I budged. Soon enough, I was caught in a kind of human tornado, damp with stale rain and sweat that was not mine. Moshing is the highest form of worship. Exchanging fluids and epithelials? That’s the sacrifice.

When left to my own devices (i.e., in the absence of a media pass), I always find myself slumming it at rock shows. There’s something alienating about being so comfortably seated on the front row when everyone else is getting rowdy inside the arena. Not being willing to shell out a half-month’s salary for a ticket is beside the point — it’s just more fun where it’s wetter, louder and more dangerous.

That same night, right after Ian Brown, The Vines, and 30 Seconds to Mars, the Smashing Pumpkins played. It was so late that my companion fell asleep in the middle of Bullet with Butterfly Wings — even while I thrashed around and yelled in my best Billy Corgan voice, but 10x more annoying. The Echelon had dispersed from the pit and left us ‘90s kids to our nostalgia trip with the most effective downers in the world. When they played Ava Adore, the crowd came alive, swaying awkwardly and without much rhythm, like a bunch of just-turned vampires learning how to walk. It was a surreal scene, seeing the mosh pit so close to empty, with just a few committed fans dancing to songs that you don’t really dance to, singing along with a frontman who can’t really sing.

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This is what happens when you crossover to Fandomland. You lose the ability to think rationally. The fact that Leto then had a terrible platinum blonde mohawk becomes irrelevant. You think it’s awesome when a trash bag lands on your head (true story) and momentarily robs you of sight and precious oxygen. You substitute sleeping with cyberstalking. You spend the night on the street so you can be first in line because concerts are the closest thing you will get to your idols.

Every concert, no matter how much you expect it to suck, will not, in fact, suck. Each one will be different, and will teach you a thing or two about yourself. It was when I ended up watching a Rihanna concert alone that I learned — the hard way — how no VIP ticket could take the place of a gen-ad seat surrounded by friends. It was when I watched Justin Timberlake and Timbaland that I realized hip-hop has a special place in my grunge-disposed heart. It was when I watched Snow Patrol that I experienced how a concert can turn a lukewarm, casual listener into a fan. It was when I saw Stone Temple Pilots and Aerosmith (the best concert that I’ve ever been to), that I accepted that I was growing old, and that they just don’t make rock stars like they used to.

Truth. They really don’t. But as we have discovered at GIST, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. During the first half of the year, we saw rock stars of all shapes and sizes own Manila, from One Direction to a middle-aged Backstreet Boys. It’s been entertaining to see how the different fandoms react, communicate, and profess their undying love. And these are just the band-aids. We haven’t yet covered the TV fandoms, the sci-fi die-hards, the comic book nerds, the theater geeks, the peeps that go lurk over at YouTube in the night… GIST has become a mosh pit where all these fandoms collide, sustained by the tiny beating hearts of everyone who has ever been irrevocably obsessed with something, ours included.

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If fandoms had existed in the ‘90s, I would probably be among those who worshipped anyone with JTT hair, who is not JTT (there was something about him, — maybe the likeness to Val Kilmer, the worst Batman of all time…so far — that I couldn’t subscribe to). We were a minority. A fan girl through and through, I owned clippings of Edward Furlong and Jonathan Brandis from BOP and Tiger Beat. Sea Quest DSV was my favorite thing on TV. People called it the “underwater equivalent of Star Trek,” which is probably why a light saber doesn’t quite do it for me as much as a visor does.

In those days, fangirling was a solitary activity. It was quite lonely. I mean, how do you bring up Sea Quest in a normal conversation with classmates who were into PJ Harvey? You don’t. Instead you sit there, you learn the words to Down By the Water, and pretend that it’s really about deep-sea adventures. It was also difficult, fangirling. GIFs were yet to be invented. There were no Buzzfeed lists to reassure us that we weren’t insane, that other people liked what we liked. I couldn’t “pin” Taylor Hanson’s face on a secret board in a cellphone that only I could access, so I pinned it on my bedroom wall.

At the risk of sounding like a bitter tita, I’m going to go ahead and tell you that you are #blessed to have the Internet, where it is virtually impossible not to find someone who likes the same things. If people can find their soulmates using an app, then heck, the odds of you finding someone who watches Scandal for no other reason than topless Captain Jake Ballard are pretty good. You’ll find no shame in it, too, because there will always be someone crazier than you (and has the tattoos to prove it).

When The Philippine STAR created Gist.ph, it was for a very specific purpose: to deliver news and trends to an audience that wandered outside of print. But, as someone wise once told me, these days, the market dictates the trends. Since GIST launched, it has evolved — mutated — into a slick and fluid entity that attracts all sorts of people with all kinds of feelings. And they’re not always well behaved and rational. They elbow each other with passive-aggressive tweets, they troll each other on Facebook, and they magically grow fangs and claws when someone mentions “tickets.” A mosh pit, I tell you. And GIST’s tagline, “Be Here Now”? It’s not a request — that’s us daring you to embrace your crazy and be a shameless fan.

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