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Molly McGreevy

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Why Can't Younger Fans See Their Favourite Bands?

Posted: 14/03/2013 11:27

Aged 13, armed with a photocopy of a passport that belonged to a family friend, I gained entry to my first of many underage gigs.

The music itself was forgettable, Scouting for Girls simply played through their debut album and everyone only really knew their most famous song, but the feeling of jumping along with 2000 other fans, the bass shaking your frame and your hair soaked in what you hoped was beer being thrown from the crowd led to a lifetime addiction to live music.

But being 13, and searching for your next live music fix, is not easy.

All too many times the latest upcoming band would do a tour of the UK's toilet circuit but an age limit of 14, 16 or 18 would put a stop to many young fans' fun before they even had chance to buy tickets. Bands were missing out on fans, and fans, more importantly a young teenage version of myself, were missing out on experiencing their favourite records played live.

Sam Killcoyne has been famously, or not so famously if you're old enough to drink, been championing his Underage Club since 2006. A rare triumph for young music fans the club put on the latest bands for a music loving generation and has now grown into an annual festival held in Victoria Park, London, for the past six years. Despite a brief hiatus in 2012 whilst Olympic fever took over the capital Underage has seen acts ranging from rock band Pulled Apart By Horses to comedy group The Midnight Beast, and can brag a huge following from the most music savvy 13-17 year olds the UK has to offer.

At 16 I decided to head down to the big, scary capital myself. Well less decided, more finally permitted by my parents to take on a two hour train journey and the London Underground with no one but my best friend in tow. Underage was a close second in terms of live music experiences to my introduction three years previous. Stood in the sunshine, with other cool, like-minded fans under 18, for a whole day of music was a musical freedom I'd never experienced before.

Yes there were those who tried to sneak in alcohol in any way possible but the bouncers were on the ball and safety was at the forefront of the organisers' minds: maybe through fear of licensing laws, more likely through fear of the wrath of 7,000 sets of angry parents. Those who had booze hidden on them had it confiscated. Those who had drunk too much were denied entry.

Sam Killcoyne's brainchild has been a huge success since its creation, with Underage festival and club nights never having had any bad publicity, and neither have any of the under 18 music events held in my hometown. Instead these events champion young fans, who more than anything are often the most enthusiastic and dedicated followers a band can have.

Of course not every live music event can be fenced off and available exclusively to those under 18. And licensing is an issue for most venues, but could a simple wristband system and vigilant bouncers not conquer that problem? And as for deeming when a teenager is old enough to go to see their favourite bands, is that not a decision that is with no one but that child's parents?

Now I'm 18 and able to access as much live music as my student budget can afford the opinion of many my age is not to let younger fans in. They think they're cool, they're annoying, they cause issues for venues. But having been one of those irritating little fans just a few years ago, the feeling of injustice at people being denied the chance to experience their favourite artist live lives strong inside me.

Artists, promoters and venues should embrace their younger fan base, and let them experience the unforgettable feeling of a live gig which will undoubtedly lead them down a road of years of shows in their towns and around the country.

When there is no age limit on buying music magazines, or downloading songs, it seems ridiculous that young teens are missing out on being true music fans and seeing their favourite bands at their local venue.

 

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