Their Generation

Not trying to cause a big sensation--just stoked on Mountain Dew and Parliaments

Remember the song "My Generation?" Can you pinpoint the exact moment when you went from the "we" who got around to the "you" who should just fade away?

It's a school night, and the Quest has opened its doors at 5:00 p.m. to present pop-punk newcomers Kid With Man Head, Wisconsin emo superstars the Promise Ring, and aging thesaurus rockers Bad Religion. Notwithstanding the performers' D.I.Y. ethic, the Quest is sucking 20 bucks out of the chain wallets of a crowd that's barely old enough to qualify for work at KFC.

Still, the spacious, ballroom-style venue is filling up as Kid With Man Head humiliate themselves onstage. "Stop!" screams a tenth-grader in dirty cords and Skechers, sitting on the floor in back. "You guys suck!" Many of his peers share his sentiments, but they're too busy buying rounds of Red Bull Energy Drink from the sullen bartender and sucking on illicit Parliaments to notice the band. Gradually, the pigtailed girls in hoodies and the boys in Salvation Army T-shirts are seating themselves in large circles on the floor--the trademark of the all-ages show. Singer Mike Pimco picks up the vibe. "Are you guys bored?" he whines, leaning into the sparse flock. "You are, you're fucking bored, aren't you?" No response. After aiming a few vulgarities at our fair cities, Pimco and Co. commence a teeth-clenchingly bad version of "Hotel California."

The Promise Ring fares better. The likable Milwaukee quartet's choirboy haircuts bob up and down in polite, charming unison. A soccer-mom type leading her two elementary-school-age sons seeks a spot near the back of the room, where her bespectacled towheads will be safe from any stampeding fans. She graciously purchases a copy of the band's 1997 album Nothing Feels Good--on vinyl, no less--which the older boy hugs to his chest, smiling blissfully. "When I see the Promise Ring, I seriously freak out," 20-year-old self-proclaimed emo fanatic Jessica confides, adding, "I don't think I've ever actually heard Bad Religion, though."

Plenty of those on hand have. Before the main attraction takes the stage, a five-minute Monsters of Rock-style light show paired with a soundtrack of construction-site noises sends the young punks into a tizzy of screams, applause, and the universal "rock" hand sign. Despite a self-conscious predilection for repeatedly running his hand over his receding hairline, lead singer Greg Graffin quickly takes charge of the youthful audience. A young woman in a tight T-shirt and jeans pauses only to tear the scrunchie from her hair before flinging herself into the sea of sweaty adolescents. Only the Quest box-office staff and one girl on crutches are left at the rear of the club, wistfully eyeing those who have begun crowd-surfing 30 seconds into the first song. "We just wanted to instill some patience in those of you who wanted to hear some good music tonight!" shouts Graffin before ripping into the band's 1994 hit "Stranger Than Fiction."

Bouncers hose down the mosh pit. A bartender paces his work station, waving a fist to the beat. Shouting the lyrics in unison, the crowd pogos like mad. The boys tear off their shirts and wave them above their heads, and all of us teeter on the edge of a neo-teenage riot.

 

PART OF THE wild success of shareware, MP3s, and burning your own CDs no doubt derives from the fact that your average grownup hasn't got a clue about any of it. Still, although most of the crowd at Earth Dance: The Global Dance Party for Peace has arrived at Apple Valley cyber-mecca the Outernet via Mom's minivan, a number of adults are schooling themselves in the ways of the digital revolution and enjoying the thumping techno beat.

Before turning me loose, Jacqui, the Outernet's petite events coordinator, extols the benefits of platinum membership ("Invitations to personal appearances by artists such as Edwin McCain and Da Brat") and teaches me how to work the computers ("It's all touch screen, so just go and put a big, fat fingerprint right here!").

Eight generic-looking teens are practicing their best Ananda Lewis moves on the dance floor, pausing to adjust upside-down visors or reapply glitter lip gloss. Trios of young men sporting timeless geek accessories--glasses, fedoras, store-brand sneakers--cluster around flight simulators, dance with glow sticks, and talk serious network gaming over Mountain Dews. A blond raver slumps beneath a CD-burning station, overstimulated.

On the sidewalk out front, a couple of goth kids share a smoke, hiding it behind their backs as I pass, as though anyone over 20 must be a narc. An Eminem look-alike in orange nylon pants shoves past, eager to show off his mad skills. And why not? It's their Twin Cities. The rest of us just live in it.

 
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