Two years without seeing a Joan Jett concert does funny things to my brain. I’ve gone to great lengths to see her live before, but buying a membership to a museum six hours away from me just to get first crack at the good seats is the craziest thing I’ve done! But when I found out about the August 21st Blackhearts/ZZ Top show at the Calvert Marine Museum, I couldn’t stay away. I made my arrangements, picked up my sister in the middle of Pennsylvania, and took off for beautiful Solomons, Maryland, on the Chesapeake Bay.
The museum itself looked interesting, and I wish we’d had time to see it. (We will definitely go back and explore it more.) The small stage was outside on the grounds, with folding chairs set up in sections on the grass in front of it. Our seats were in the first section on the left, about six rows back. The rain and hail from earlier in the day had dissipated, leaving clear skies to smile on us as The Blackhearts took the stage. The same thrill my fifteen-year-old self felt at my first Joan Jett show (nearly twenty years ago) ignited inside me. We got up to dance. Nobody in front of us was standing, which gave Joan a clear view of us, and I had a nice little Jett Eye Lock moment through what felt like most of “Bad Reputation.”
I had about two songs worth of pure, white-hot joy before things started to get tense. A girl in her teens or twenties tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to sit down because no one behind us could see. As I looked at her, my eyes swept the crowd of 5,000 and I realized that no one but us was standing, except for some way in the back. It made me a little self-conscious, but I was there for Joan and not for the audience. I told her we were at a rock and roll concert and I would do no such thing. Quite a few others joined her protest and heckled us throughout Joan’s entire set, but we refused to sit. They complained to event security, but mercifully, security was on our side and no one made us leave or sit down officially.
I did my best to ignore them and tried to calm down my sister, who wasn’t so forgiving. I focused on Joan as much as I could, and I was excited to hear older hits that I hadn’t heard live in years: “Go Home,” “Fake Friends,” “Backlash,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and “The French Song.” The crowd did get up for “Do You Wanna Touch Me?” and a great celebratory cheer rose up when Joan first mentioned The Runaways before playing “You Drive Me Wild.” Since The Blackhearts were the opener, I thought the set would run about 45 minutes, but I was delighted to see them do a full headline-length set. The show was one of the best I’ve ever seen, but part of my mind remained focused on the people behind me in case they decided to get violent, which, thankfully, they never did.
As I expected, everybody was on their feet for most of ZZ Top, and no one was overtly concerned with whether anybody behind THEM could see. They were dancing and having fun, as they should have, because ZZ Top kicks major ass on stage. Completely hypocritical behavior. When they were heckling us, they reasoned that we should sit because everybody else was sitting. But they were only sitting because they didn’t care about Joan. (Which makes me wonder why they needed to “see” her at all. She wasn’t doing magic tricks.) Apparently, you’re only allowed to enjoy yourself if the cool kids are already doing so and give their approval in advance.
Truthfully, we wanted to sit down. Our backs, feet, and legs were aching after six hours trapped in the car, but we would not give them the satisfaction. We would not be bullied.
As long as the venue does not expressly prohibit dancing, I will dance. I will make sure that I don’t flail around too much and bump into people unnecessarily, and I will not yell or sing too obnoxiously, but that’s the limit of my consideration for other people at concerts. I will not let some committee decide when I can or cannot express my joy or the approved methods of doing so. I have never been ashamed of being a Jetthead, and I will not start now.
I wonder how many other Joan fans stayed seated when they really didn’t want to, out of fear of retaliation. Maybe if they had all stood up despite their fear, we would not have been in the minority. We’ll never know.
There’s a metaphor in here somewhere, I’m sure of it.