Here is a list of places that serve alcohol I can attend, even though I’m under 21: Sports games, restaurants, on-campus concerts at Lehigh, Chipotle and Disneyland.
This past weekend, I ventured into the concrete jungle of New York City to attend the College Media Journal Music Marathon, along with the rest of the WLVR executive board. On the car ride over, my friend and I couldn’t help but buzz about all of the acts we were going to see, conventions we were going to attend and other events that enticed us.
When the morning came, we packed up our bags and prepared for what was destined to be a music-filled day of adventure in the city. However, our excitement was cut short when we discovered a majority of the venues had a 21 and over age restriction.
That meant three of us were unable to attend a majority of the performances — including our station manager. We had to miss out on a surplus of opportunities to discover new bands, all because we weren’t born a year or so earlier.
However, not only did us under 21-year-olds suffer, but our legally aged friends had to skip out on shows so we didn’t get left behind. We would walk up to a venue, let our of-age friends test out the bouncer to see if under 21s were allowed and then usually walk away disappointed. My friend and I almost cut our stay at CMJ a day short because we were so disappointed and, honestly, pissed off.
I tried to understand the logic behind our consistent rejections. Yes, a majority of the venues were bars and clubs that served alcohol, but as I said earlier, I’m still able to go to sports games, restaurants and the on-campus concerts that all offer alcohol.
I had an epiphany as I stood outside the third bar in ten minutes we were rejected at. I was talking to this chick with pink hair who said she was a DJ from the University of Texas’ station. She and I were complaining back and forth about how ridiculous it was that we were having such difficulty finding venues that let us in. I realized what made the entire situation especially peculiar to me is the meaning behind CMJ. CMJ, after all, stands for College Media Journal. I’m not sure if the organizers of the event are aware, but half of college students are under 21. Why host an event that is meant to stimulate college radio stations when half of the students are underage?
Events like CMJ pride themselves on being a gateway and an atmosphere that fosters music discovery, but it’s hard to immerse myself when I’m stuck outside behind the black velvet rope.
I looked on the CMJ website for more answers, and tucked away in their Q&A page, I found what I was looking for. Under the question, “Can I get into clubs if I’m under 21?” The answer is, “We know it can be a buzzkill, but individual club policies remain in full effect during CMJ. In other words, if a club is usually 21 and over, it will remain so during CMJ. The best way to find out is to call the club directly and inquire about their age policy.” So yes, they address the issue, but they don’t begin to explain the ridiculous extent to which their venues exclude the under 21 crowd.
A better tactic to prevent underage drinking would be to do what certain concert venues do already — give legal adults bracelets. If venue owners are so hell-bent about making a distinction between those over and under 21, why can’t they check IDs at the bar before serving someone a drink, like they would in normal circumstances?
The 18-21 age group is not only the future of college radio, but we are also the future of the music industry in general. In the modern age of watered down pop that dilutes the prevalence of all other music genres in mainstream culture, it’s good for my generation to get exposure to new material. Rock, punk, folk and all other genres are not dead — they’re just not being allowed to see the light of day. Giving us more opportunities to discover more music can only be positive because, at the end of the day, it’s not about the alcohol, it’s about the music.