Your Worst Concert Experience: The Handhold Switcheroo

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Welcome back to “Your Worst Concert Experience,” the new Paste feature where we share our readers’ lowest tales of shame and degradation from the sordid world of live music.

If you’re interested in submitting your own story, and I hope you are, drop us a line at mailbag@pastemagazine.com. We’re running a longer story today, but in the future we might run several shorter entries, so length is flexible. Entries can be about you or someone you know, and if you want it to be anonymous, that’s cool too. Our only rule is: “The more shameful the better.”

Last week I shared my own story about a phantom butt grabber at a Weezer show. This week, we’re turning to Hunter Whitworth for a troubling tale of humiliation he calls:

THE HANDHOLD SWITCHEROO

Confession time: I don’t like live music that much. I’ve seen too many singers who aren’t able to replicate what they do on recordings, and I’ve been punched in the back of the head by too many dreadlocked girls (as a punishment for not dancing with adequate vigor, she told me). At least with a CD, you know exactly what you’re getting and you can’t get hurt.

There is also a chance that my aversion to concerts has something to do with an incident that occurred during my formative years, which in the grand human tradition of naming the things that hurt us so we can have some degree of mastery over them, I shall call “The Handhold Switcheroo.”

While we were in high school, my friends and I had an odd tradition of going to see an ‘80s cover band called “The Breakfast Club” (who bill themselves as the “East Coast’s premier ‘80s cover band,” although I wonder about the stiffness of that competition). My friend evoked my love of the wonderful film of the same name, and I was sold. It would somehow be a personal and visceral betrayal of the great John Hughes for me not to see this band, and by the transitive property, that’s the same as not being true to yourself.

So I went, and for anonymity’s sake we’ll change the names of the friends I went with to Eleanor, DeWitt and Andrew. The band, for their part, was about as good as you could expect. They did a really pretty great cover of the theme from “Ghostbusters,” their lead singer wore a kilt and they kicked off my wholly un-ironic love of the song “Take Me Home Tonight.” (They were also really good at getting people to drink.)

Here’s another thing: I didn’t know what the word “anachronism” meant in high school, but in retrospect, that’s what we were: A ragtag bunch of mid-teens, surrounded by grown people who had actually lived in the ‘80s long enough to do more than mewl and learn one-syllable words. Little anachronisms in cargo pants, stuck in a different emotional state than was strictly normal.

Look, so this was also one of the first concerts I ever went to, and even though I have no stomach for actually getting up in front of people and performing, seeing other people do it gives me some kind of secondhand adrenaline rush. It happens every time I go to a play or see pro wrestling live or anything. So very quickly I got drunk on this Kilted bassist/singer’s power and figured I could do anything, including but not limited to reaching out and grabbing Eleanor’s hand.

She had black hair and was perfect for projecting all of Ally Sheedy’s various traits onto (I was into that movie in what I now recognize as possibly too big of a way. That might be the actual moral of this story). Also, she’s always been pretty mean. Did that deter me? No. “Go for it,” said my stupid, stupid brain.

I tend to run the long con, so there was a staggering amount of maneuvering after the decision had been made. Mostly, I tried to set up a perfect approach angle so that if I was rejected, I could pretend the whole thing had been an accident. It takes me the same amount of time to do something after I set out to do it as it does for a dinosaur to realize it’s in pain.

My lame maneuvering did not go unnoticed, of course, and like generations of hopeful teenagers before me, my hubris was about to be punished. Eleanor set a plan in motion that was diabolical and, honestly, genius. She baited Andrew, so that he reached for her left hand while I reached for her right, and then moved ever so slightly forward at the last minute. Andrew and I were both looking straight ahead, and we didn’t realize for an embarrassingly long time (five seconds? more?) that she’d tricked us into holding hands with each other.

Now, no disrespect to last week’s sordid tale of sexual harassment, but at least having your butt grabbed is sort of complimentary. Someone out there wanted to grab Shane’s butt. And isn’t that what we’re all looking for, if we’re being honest with ourselves? I say my story’s worse. I tried to hold someone’s hand who wanted so badly for that not to happen that she shamed me. When Andrew and I finally realized what had happened, the laughter coming from she and DeWitt was like getting hit in the nose (or the soul?) with a rolled-up newspaper. And that’s why concerts are scary and people are the worst.

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