I am not straight edge. I don’t want to be straight edge and I don’t understand why anyone else would want to be straight edge. Regardless of what I think about it, the straight edge movement has been an undeniable force in punk music for almost as long as punk has been around. Many straight edge bands, most notably Minor Threat, have made a lasting impact on punk music, regardless of politics. D.C. straight edge act Teen Idles, however, contributed more than just music to the punk world; they gave us the “X”.
The “X”, which eventually would become the symbol of straight edge culture, started out merely as a means for under-age kids to attend shows in venues that were 21+. It was an agreement between concert-goers and bar owners in which minors would be allowed into shows if they wore an “X” on the backs of their hands, meaning that they wouldn’t drink.
- I don't want to drink! I just want to go to the Mel!
Having gone to school in St. Louis for four years, I was spoiled rotten by being able to go to just about any bar show I wanted well before I turned 21. All I had to do was have an “X” marked on the back of my hands. By the time I moved back to Indianapolis, I was already 22, so the all-ages issue shouldn’t have affected me. But it did. Why weren’t 17, 18, 19 and 20 year-olds allowed to go to shows at The Melody Inn, Locals Only or The Vollrath?
For a while, The Music Mill hosted 18+ shows. Sadly, the shows were nothing to get excited about, especially not for fans of indie, punk or hardcore. Bigger venues, such as Conseco Field House and The Murat serve alcohol at all-ages shows, so why can’t smaller venues do the same? The Bishop, a relatively new bar in Bloomington, hosts shows that are 18+. Every time I’ve been there, there has been a huge turn out. Those who were 21 could have a few beers while they enjoyed the music while those who were under 21 could simply enjoy the music. And while they’re not exactly marking “X”s on the backs of kids’ hands, it’s the same basic idea that Teen Idles had in D.C. 30 years ago. While alcohol isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the end-all-be-all of a music scene, there’s no denying that it helps bring people out to shows.
St. Louis gets it, Chicago gets it, Cincinnati gets it, Bloomington gets it, so what is wrong with Indianapolis? I’m sure that there are bigger legal issues at hand here but I definitely think that a smaller, all-ages venue that served alcohol would be a boon to the music scene. So while I think it may be a little ironic to use straight edge methods to help kids get into bars, I think it’s definitely something worth thinking about.