In the sixth episode of the fourth season of Steven Universe, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steven Universe.Â
I first started going to shows regularly in high school, and if you asked me how many house shows I’ve been to, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Where I grew up in Southern California, house shows were almost a rite of passage. Ten bands would cram together in a backyard or a garage and share (mostly) the same gear; there’d be maybe five or ten minutes between bands; we’d dive off each other, slam into our friends and other strangers. I remember one house in east Riverside where people would crowd around the hose attached to a spigot and we’d pass it to one another and fill our bellies with the funny-tasting water that rushed out, then get back to the heat of the backyard and dance to the next band. Every once in a while, we might get lucky and some bigger band â€“ Union 13 or Backside or the Voodoo Glow Skulls â€“ would have an off-date on their tours or would be on break from the road, and then we’d have an honest-to-gods headliner.
But they were usually local bands. That’s not a bad thing. I was in those local bands myself for years, and my hardcore band probably played more outdoors gigs than indoor ones. I fondly remember playing a show up in Redding, a place I’d never been to and haven’t been back since, during a long summer tour. There must have been seven or eight bands on that flyer, and once we showed up, we were warned. The neighbors hated backyard shows, so it was only a matter of time before the cops were called. We came up with an ingenious solution: we’d all switch off after two songs with no breaks between bands, and we’d do this until the show got shut down. I don’t recall how many iterations we got through before the noise complaints got lodged, but the whole show was one of the silliest things I ever got to experience. I do remember plugging my guitar in, giving it a quick tune, and then we were off, jumping around, banging out some melodic hardcore for maybe five minutes, and then letting the next band plug in.
Live music makes me feel alive. It’s a part of who I am. (Which is why this week, I’m taking some time off to go follow AFI around and see a bunch of their shows. It’s been too long since I’ve done this.) It’s probably easy to see why “Last One Out of Beach City” appeals to me so much. The culture is depicted lovingly here! The outfits, the make-up, the dedication, the love of music… it’s all here. And sometimes, the journey to these shows is just important. What do you wear? What music do you play in the car on the way to the show? What if you see someone cute who might be going to the same show? HOW DO YOU COPE WITH HOW MANY COOL PEOPLE WILL BE THERE?
Mixed in with these questions is an unbearably adorable story about Pearl dealing with her own anxieties surrounding Rose and human interaction. As “alien” as these characters might be, this is one of the most relatable plots in the whole show. HONESTLY. How many times have I been Pearl, pre-occupied with my appearance or my street cred? How often, when I was a teenager, was I worried that I wasn’t cool enough to go to shows at all? Those first shows I went to â€“ the big punk festival in the parking lot of the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Showcase Theater in Corona, the Barn in downtown Riverside, the Roxy and the Palladium and the Smell and Chain Reaction and ChÃ© Cafe â€“ I felt small. Invisible. Unimportant. But something began to happen. The more I went, the more others recognized me. The more I participated in shows, the more likely it was that some connection would happen. The singer would hand you the microphone. The bass player would sing along with you, scream in your face. You could experience the joy of a perfectly executed stage dive or head walk. And for a poor kid who was in the closet, who had a distinct distaste for authority figures, and who just wanted to feel free, live music â€“ particularly punk rock and hardcore â€“ worked perfectly for me.
While I now feel perfectly at home at a good rock show, it took a lot longer for me to get over my own insecurities when it came to talking to cute dudes. Granted, that’s complicated here because Pearl’s interest/attraction (or both!) towards the Mystery Girl is related to her love for Rose Quartz. So she’s got an extra layer of meaning to her behavior. Still, the basic thrust of this episode is that Pearl is cool when she is herself. Her history IS badass, and when she’s not trying her hardest to impress Mystery Girl, that’s when she’s the most intriguing. Now, I’m sure we’ve all heard that adage: JUST BE YOURSELF. That’s all it takes! It sounds cheesy, and like I’m sure is the case with many of you, our authentic selves are complicated. How can anyone like me for who I actually am? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen this less about what I’m supposed to do and what others are. If someone is attracted to me, then the minimum standard I ask is that they accept me as I am. I don’t have to perform queerness or gayness or being a guy in a specific way; I don’t have to dress a certain way; I don’t have to be anything but my truest self. When Pearl sheds her pants and her jacket and stops trying to put on an air of certainty and bravado, look what happens. She lets go of her expectations and anxieties, and Mystery Girl GIVES HER PHONE NUMBER TO PEARL. Oh my god, can I take a moment just to freak out about that? IT REALLY HAPPENED, BLESS THIS SHOW.
For an episode utterly unconnected to the greater mythology, this was honestly one of my favorites. IT’S SO PURE AND GOOD.
The video for “Last One Out of Beach City” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
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