By Johnette Figueroa
X’s have never been an easy thing to deal with. Ex-lovers, ex-best friends – and Indie rockers who are seen as “too young to rock,” find themselves the bearer of semi-permanent “X’s” on their hands that show an entire venue that they barely made it through the door.
Being 21-years-old is almost crucial nowadays when it comes to being an indie-rock fan. Bars are the top venues that play host to up-and-coming bands and most bands feel they aren’t in a position to turn down the opportunity to play for a crowd.
“21+ shows exist (because) bars are usually the only place who will let bands play,” explained Adam Bird, frontman for the New Jersey indie-rock band, Those Mockingbirds.
It is illegal for underage fans to enter a bar in general, but some establishments use the “black X’s” as a way of avoiding getting fined or even worse, shut down. These “X’s” cannot be washed off in the bathroom and show the bartenders that they are not to serve alcoholic beverages to these young patrons.
Although they are seen as a liability, there are underage fans that are willing to don “X’s” on their hands because they genuinely want to see their favorite bands play and aren’t trying to sneak drinks from the bar every now and then.
Jeff Munguia, a 20-year-old indie-rock fan describes his first experience at an indie show at a bar in Jersey City, NJ.
“At my first 21+ show, I almost got kicked out for being underage. I wasn’t there to drink, I was there for the show,” he recalls. “I’m glad they let me stay.”
Munguia was one of the lucky few that weren’t ejected that night.
“Another underage guy got kicked out for being drunk,” said Munguia. “I don’t think the bar served him anything that night, in fact, I think he pre-gramed.”
“Pre-gaming” refers to the consumption of alcohol before arriving at your anticipated destination. In an informal, anonymous survey, 6 out of 10 music fans under the age of 21 admitted to pre-gaming before attending their favorite concert.
One young male, who chose to be referred to as Alex, expressed his apathy towards bar rules.
“I don’t understand why people have a problem with underage drinking. Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘If you can go to war at 18, you should be allowed to drink at 18? Well I’m a firm believer in that,” said Alex. “I’m not an alcoholic. I just think it’s cool to be able to drink with your friends and favorite bands.”
Skylar Adler, drummer for the Wayne, New Jersey band, The Nico Blues, has been denied his fair share of shows, even shows he was actually on the bill for. Adler began drumming in bands in middle school, but specifically remembers an incident where he was treated unfairly for being underage at a CMJ showcase about a year ago.
“When I went to load in my drums, the bouncer at the door refused to let me in. We even checked with the promoter before the show to make sure there wouldn’t be a problem, but the bouncer wouldn’t listen,” recalls Adler. “We finally settled it as, I had to wait outside until our set at midnight.”
At the time of the event, Adler was less than a month shy of being 21-years-old.
“That incident was funny because I had played in bars about 100 times before then and I was just about 21. I was angry at the time,” said Adler.
But now, 21-year-old Adler laughs off the incident and agrees with the practice of using “X’s.”
“It’s definitely fair for kids who aren’t in the band to go support their friend’s bands as well. As much as I hated getting “X’d” (at) every bar show, it is the simplest way to keep kids away from the bar.”