Have you seen an adolescent smile lately?
When the Launchpad's lights are dim and the crowd is thick with sweaty kids from all ages, I see the teens smile. Their eyes light up. They grin, all teeth, an endless throng of pearly incisors and cuspids. On stage, the band pacifies this restless mass with music imitating the raw passion of youth. Discontented misfits transform into human beings devoid of teenage angst, purified by noise.
In venues like the Launchpad, the kids are able to forget for hours at a time the differences between them. They fuse into a single organism of optimistic energy, a force of change. They have in common the struggle of youth, the union that the trials of growing up entail. The words of the songs give them a voice in a world that otherwise silences them. For almost a decade, local venues like the Launchpad have been the retreat of young and old alike in Albuquerque. Here, the kids positively release the pent-up energy of daily frustration. They shelve any delinquent intentions, amassing together to enjoy the music they love.
So why are these venues being punished?
The mayor is proposing to end all ages shows in venues that serve alcohol to those over 21. (Should we bind their eyes too when they walk outside so that they do not see a person over 21 leaving a bar?) What is unspoken is that these venues must keep their patrons of legal drinking age and underagers in order to pay the bands and staff for the shows. The Launchpad and the Sunshine Theater are excellent places for kids and adults to come together and unwind. Teens are always kept separate from the bars and alcohol; I can vouch whole-heartedly that these kids do not come in contact with either at any time. The owner of the Launchpad and the Sunshine Theater is exceptionally strict in this manner. Underagers even have separate entrance/exits in the Launchpad and are prevented from entering over 21 areas by doors and mean-looking bouncers. It is impossible to either sneak in alcohol or get into the bar. The bouncers, who vigilantly guard the bars as well as moderate any disorderly behavior, are not to be trifled with. If these kids are managing to drink, I can guarantee that they do this of their own accord outside of these venues. The drinking has nothing to do with the shows.
It has to do with boredom.
Which, we must realize, is likely to increase if the Launchpad and the Sunshine are not allowed to continue serving patrons of all ages in a prudent manner. While this may make some people happy, the majority of us will be bored to death after the Launchpad and the Sunshine are forced to close because they can no longer pay bands.
The argument against the establishment of all age venues in association with a bar seems to be that these places are dangerous. How so? The unsupervised streets are far more dangerous and more tempting conduits of crime. And if the “proper curfew” for kids is an issue, we should all be happy to know that their underage shows generally begin at 7 p.m. and end long before midnight. So much for the argument of curfew as justification for eliminating all ages shows. If juveniles are truly the troublemakers we make them out to be, I would rather have them mollified by fun than wandering about looking for stuff to destroy.
I can say all of these things not only because I have seen the kids (and adults) behave remarkably well at all ages shows, but because I, like everyone else, was one too. I went to shows at the Launchpad. I stood in the all ages areas melting into the essence of youth all around me. I never once managed to slip into the bar, nor was I ever a victim of violence. In fact, to a jaded 15-year-old, the Launchpad was the precious eye of a chaotic hurricane.
At least, it sure beat running from the cops.
I would be willing to wager that I was far safer in these venues than in a lot of places I could have been. What must it seem like to be a teen forced to witness the extinction of your favorite venue in the name of your safety? Clearly, this is the work of individuals who have no concept of these shows. Even now, I am greatly affected to think some, who have never been inside when the kids are smiling and the band is playing, can persecute them in this way.
Where else can they go? Where else can they meet, contentment written all over their grinning faces? Where can they live and play without menace to society? And worse, what mischief will they devise in their newfound boredom? It is reprehensible to pilfer the right to enjoyment from a guiltless minor; to take away these safe sanctuaries is to take away their freedom, their laughter, and our pleasure at their sated smiles. Don't let this happen. Write the mayor. Protest. Start a petition.
For, where else, if ever, can we see adolescents truly smile?