By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
At many venues, participation is a way out of boredom. "There's nothing to do in the suburbs but drink and do drugs and get into trouble," says Clint Dietz, 18, the skate park supervisor at the Firewall in Stillwater. "And if there's more community areas like this that they can go to, it might help some kids stay out of trouble."
In Rice Lake, Wisconsin, Scott Geiger Sr. has attracted Minnesota punk and emo bands to his "Bubbafest" concerts at various Elks-type venues, funding a proposed skate park in memory of his son, Scott "Bubba" Geiger Jr., who booked all-ages shows before his death in a car accident. "In this town, there isn't really much for them to do, outside of rollerblading," says the dad. "But the kids, they can't wait for the next Bubbafest. I'm doing it to see that my son's hard work wasn't for nothing."
The Vault similarly draws kids from its hometown, Buffalo. "I've been waiting for a place to come around here for ages," says Abby Rausch, 15.
Rausch and her friend Aubrey Norten, 16, had kept to the side of the mosh pit during No Wings to Speak Of's set, as boys karate-kicked the air. Now the slightly more glam and inviting Children 18:3 have taken the stage, urging everyone to the front, and more girls enter the fray.
"We're not hardcore, but we try," says shirtless, muscled drummer Seth Hostetter, 21, before kicking into a righteous pop-punk groove that sends his two siblings, both in Alice Cooper makeup, thrashing their long manes in circles.
Black-haired guitarist and lead singer David Hostetter, 22, and blond bassist Lee Marie Hostetter, 19, look like creatures out of a Tim Burton fantasy. But this is a wholesome family operation from Morris, Minnesota, with Dad parking the van outside, and Mom upstairs on the second floor, minding the merch table. The band, which calls itself "Christian" against any detectable visual or aural evidence, recently signed to the Seattle label Tooth & Nail; its members hadn't been on an airplane until they were recently asked to play Creationfest West in Washington.
After an amp-climbing finish and a Minnesota-style "Thaynx," the trio hauls gear back to the van, Lee Marie's white makeup half-drained by sweat. She says the group, which has played in its current all-family lineup for five years, got signed during a competition at Club 3 Degrees, the downtown Minneapolis all-ages Christian venue. But the band has also played the Ascot Room, Showcase Skatepark, and secular clubs in Iowa and Michigan.
"We all love Jesus and stuff, but it doesn't mean we only play churches," she says. "I don't like the label thing."
Does she dig on Alice Cooper? "I like Gwen Stefani."
Nearby, a bunch of young men with large earrings and tattoos are anticipating the next, much faster band. "It takes a lot more effort than it looks," says Marcus Fiori, 23, explaining the air-punching style of moshing during hardcore sets. "You're pretty much exhausted by halfway through the song."
He remembers the old Fireball Espresso Cafe with fondness, as well as the year-old Toybox in Minneapolis—before the latter banned moshing. "We'll go to some venues and the security guards will stop us from what we're doing because they think we're trying to fight each other, but usually it's our friends we're hitting, anyways," he says.
"Friends don't let friends go home without blood on their face," interjects his buddy, who won't identify himself and soon admits he's been banned from the Toybox. "None of us are allowed there anymore, because we kicked over the speakers and started throwing tables."
"This kid got kicked in the mouth, and got his teeth knocked out," explains Fiori. "They tried to make a no-moshing rule, but that didn't stick, because otherwise shows get really boring. It's like going bike-riding downhill. If you get hurt, it's your fault."
Windmilling fists are just one potential headache when putting on all-ages shows: Curfew laws force concerts to end early (which explains the existence of 18+ events), and without the sales of alcohol, profits are thin. Legally, says Erik Funk, co-owner of the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis, he could sell booze at all-ages events by monitoring patrons with wristbands and doubling up on security, "but it exposes you to so much more risk."
Violence, not alcohol or money problems, has hurt the privately owned Toybox, which opened on Hiawatha Avenue in March of last year. Though the venue's turned a profit since its first couple of months, proprietor Andy Everson now says it will close at the end of August if he doesn't find a new owner. Everson, 21, reports that he's burned out on club running—and the lost-teeth incidents were the last straw.
"It's happened multiple times," he says. "I was against the whole no-moshing thing, but there was just one too many times when people got kicked in the face, and something like that can literally take every business in the building down"—a danger that hits close to home, considering his father and uncle own the adjoining cafe, Hiawatha Joe's. "We're technically going off the building's insurance now. We don't have a whole lot of money over here, so they're going to go after whoever does."