Saturday, April 20, 2024

Bands missed because of age restrictions

April 3, 2001

I don’t think anyone will argue with me when I say alcohol is a key part of college culture. It seems sometimes the entirety of college students’ social world is built on a foundation of alcohol.

I’m not going to condemn that; for the most part, I don’t have a problem with it. Besides, it’s futile to even begin to combat drinking in college.

But, I do have a problem with the drinking social structure – I’m not much of a drinker.

Granted, this is entirely my choice, but my decision to mostly abstain from drinking has severely handicapped my social life. Because of both my refusal to drink much and my inability to do so legally, I am left with few choices for entertainment.

Parties don’t do much for me. They hold my interest for about an hour, two at the most. Personally, the amount of alcohol I can consume in that time, not much compared to many of my fellow college students, is enough to satisfy my needs.

After that, there is little else to do than to attempt to dance among the sweaty masses and observe my fellow partiers. Watching a handful of people I know and a large crowd of people I’ve never seen before stumble around in a drunken stupor is only amusing for so long.

But parties aren’t where I have the biggest problem. The most annoying obstacle on my road to social bliss is a tiny stipulation – “ages 21 and over.”

By virtue of an early start in kindergarten, I am young for my class. I didn’t turn 18 until more than two months had passed in my freshman year. That alone limited my activities. I was basically barred from any place that wasn’t Denny’s or Meijer after 8 p.m.

However, now that I am 19, my options still haven’t expanded to the level I would like.

Early in my high school years, music was my god. I was an alterna-teen-I-discovered-that-band-years-before-you-did-and-you-have-no-right-to-like-them kind of person.

Unfortunately, living in the booming metropolis of Battle Creek provided me with little alternative culture. Most of the radio stations we did get were out of Kalamazoo, and the one that came in best was top 40. I loathed that station with everything in my being and resisted it whenever possible.

I could take solace in knowing, however, that 20 minutes down the highway was a college town brimming with a subculture of budding bands and underground music lovers. And out of that was born Radio X, a weak-signaled station that broadcast out of a tiny studio on the top of a video store in a strip mall.

This station was a dream. I turned my radio’s antenna in all directions, sometimes standing in front of my stereo with it in my hands, just to get the signal in. Every spare moment was spent listening to this station and calling in my requests. It played bands no one else would, played more listener requests than planned playlists and made efforts to promote the local talent.

While I was busy getting to know No Doubt, Our Lady Peace and Semisonic “way before anyone else,” I was also being exposed to Kalamazoo’s, Grand Rapids’ and Lansing’s local bands.

I heard Knee Deep Shag, now defunct Circus McGurkis, Domestic Problems and a delightful collection of musical genius unheard by many outside the Michigan college circuit. As a naive high school student, I dreamed about all the concerts I would be able to see with “all that free time” I would have.

Now, after being a bona fide college student for almost two years now, I see how unrealistic that fantasy was. But it’s not so much my lack of time as my lack of age.

All the bands I couldn’t wait to see all the time frequently play in the area, but only in 21-and-over establishments. I’m even teased with appearances at 18-and-over places, only to hear the night the band will play will be an over 21 night.

As I walk to class, I try to avert my eyes from the outdoor bulletin boards sprinkled along the Red Cedar River. They only provide me with brightly colored advertisements of events I can’t partake in.

I have to settle with the occasional Campus Center appearance of Knee Deep Shag, 19 Wheels or Domestic Problems. The alcohol- and smoke-free environment has made for some pretty good times for me, but their frequency is lacking. I am limited to a concert every two or three months when I could see the same bands at local bars every week.

Is it too much to ask for some musical entertainment for those of us who can’t legally drink? Sure, I realize these places bring in most of their revenue from alcohol and that’s why the age requirement stands, but what are we supposed to do if we can’t get into bars? Sure, I’m not totally devoid of options, but “college night” at the Dollar Night Club is not my idea of fun.

Of course, there’s little I can do about this predicament except be patient and age. As my parents like to say, life isn’t fair.

I just wish it could provide me with a little more entertainment.

Michonne L. Omo, State News opinion writer, can be reached at

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