Thousands of screaming girls leaning forward and reach their hand out to touch their idol. They wake up unbearably early, stay up painfully late, spend hours in miserable weather, hoping for the chance—the possibility—they might be able to brush a hand against a hero. The idol changes, but the audience is ageless. The haircuts, the makeup, the clothes are different, but it almost seems as if everyone is in uniform. The particulars may change, but it looks as if everyone got the memo about what to wear—and spent time in front of the mirror. You want to look your best when you meet the person you admire most in the world.
It’s easy to forget what it’s like, later on. But this summer, when Jacinta Gibson and Genesis Galva, rising seniors at Holy Trinity High School, interned at Newcity, we got a weekly reminder of the passion of real fans, not jaded, critical viewers who, minus a few nit-picky details, applaud an artists’ latest work. We’d ask the interns what they had been up to lately, and what they wanted to write about. Every week, we’d get a similar response: Jacinta hung out online with her Twilight friends, and Genesis counted down the weeks or days until the Avenged Sevenfold album came out, and then she listened to it, over and over again. Jacinta wanted to write about Twilight. Genesis wanted to write about rock bands—preferably, Avenged Sevenfold.
After a certain age, the glamour of being a groupie fades. Being a fan is a job uniquely suited to youth. The teenage mind, and body, overflows with strong emotions and unbounded passion, and whether the target of all these feelings sits next to you in bio class or on stage with a guitar, it’s a powerful force. In search of their own identity, what better to love than the culture of your own generation—and definitely not your parents’. And while the teens of today have scheduled extracurriculars, not lazy summers spent lying on their beds listening to records, between texting and online forums, they keep up with their idols when they’re supposed to be in rehearsal or in bed.
This summer, Genesis blasted Avenged Sevenfold’s latest album while she wrote why their music got to her, in the best way possible and Jacinta polled her Twitter friends and scrolled through Twilight fan forums in search of the drive behind her obsession. And now, down the rabbit hole of their pop culture obsessions. (Ella Christoph)
Their dedicated fans call them A7X for short, but the rest of the world knows them as Avenged Sevenfold. As a longtime fan—I’m one of those who calls them A7X —I set very high expectations for their latest album, “Nightmare,” from the start. But when The Rev died my world turned gloomy and I worried. When I heard about The Rev’s death, my heart immediately reached out to the band. I feared that the new album wouldn’t be as good as their previous albums or the band would break up. I set those fears aside because I knew they would pull through and blow our minds like they always do, with or without The Rev.
The Rev (short for The Reverend Tholomew Plague), passed away unexpectedly on December 28, 2009 at the age of 28. His life will never be forgotten by the members, family, friends and the millions of fans that Avenged Sevenfold touched. One of the Rev’s favorite drummers, Mike Portnoy of the band Dream Theater, temporarily replaced him. The band finished their new album with Mike and now we can indulge with heavy hearts for an album that The Rev inspired.
The stage names of the band members match their unique personalities, and although you might not take these names seriously at first, once you hear their mad music, which cannot be labeled as part of just one genre, you’ll understand. The group from Huntington Beach, California once consisted of five members, but now only four members make up Avenged Sevenfold: M. Shadows (vocals), ZackyVengeance (rhythm guitar), Synyster Gates (lead guitar) and Johnny Christ (bass). The band had already started working in the studio to make their latest, album, when The Rev passed away.
The band recently released their fifth album, “Nightmare.” Compared to their older albums, “Nightmare” takes a darker turn and plays with the depths of Hell, but the twin guitar solos, fast drum beats and melodic vocals and solos that create their unique sound still. They continue to experiment with unusual approaches, like M. Shadows screaming, the use of piano and a country-style approach. Each song takes a deeper and darker turn with its own little taste of the big nightmare, but a spider web made by a spider called The Rev ties them all together.
The first song, “Nightmare” sets up the scene of the album. It starts out with an eerie melody that only the the Devil’s little sister on the music box can play. Then the drums, bass and guitars break you from the trance and introduce you to your real nightmare. You snap into a dark reality when M. Shadows yells “Nightmare! / Now your nightmare comes to life” and you get dragged “Down to the Devil’s show / To be his guest forever.” The air reeks of burning flesh and you’ve become a slave for eternity when they ink your head with numbers. You can never wake up because your demons have a tight grip on your soul and on your new life— The Rev’s reality. Fear and your condemned fate take the place of all hope that just burned to ashes right before your eyes. As they laugh at your pain, you must fight for your sanity. Sin and misery become your new friends in this horrifying, inferno nightmare with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. It takes a melodic approach in the chorus: “You should have known / The price of evil / And it hurts to know that you belong here, yeah / It’s your fucking nightmare” (dark laughter fills the air and everything fades to black).
“Danger Line,” the third song, continues the dark turn through the tunnel, but it gives you a taste of hope and sadness in the end. The drums play a militaristic rhythm, the guitar plays a little solo and a new nightmare flashes before your eyes— the nightmare of a soldier. “My 16 locked and loaded / All fear has been avoided / You say the words and my weapon is drawn.” A soldier you don’t know says to you: “I do this for my family / My daughter loves her daddy.” You must leave your fear behind and not think about what could happen to you or those thoughts will grab you around the neck and choke you to death. You must fight to stay alive in this nightmare full of adrenaline produced by the fast tempo of the drums. You hear the words coming from M. Shadows and not you— the only thing keeping you sane. The sight you see becomes soldiers dying all around you. The soldier who spoke with you gets shot right in front of you and a pool of his own blood becomes his deathbed. He tells you: “I never meant to leave this world alone / I never meant to hurt the ones who care / Tell my baby girl that it’s alright, I’ve sung my last song today / Remind the Lord to leave his light on, for me…I’m free.” He fades away right before your eyes and drumsticks take the place of where his body used to be. A trumpet plays in the background and the guitar sings a sad solo. Someone whistles the sweet melody of the song and the drums play the same rhythm one last time but softer and slower.
The battle scene fades away and now a new nightmare puts you back in your place. The bass guitar greets you with a dark riff to start the beginning of the last song, “Save Me.” The whole band comes in to add their sound to the dark mood and a church bell rings in the distance. “Sorry did I wake your dream, some questions run too deep / We only (only) wake up when we sleep.”
You back up into a dark corner. Suddenly everything goes black and you hear M. Shadows’ voice singing with a soft guitar in the background: “He may be out of his mind, but some day you will find / That sanity left us all blind, and dragged us all behind /They say that all beauty must die, I say it just moves on….” You can’t stand it anymore; you want to find a way out. You shut your eyes and try very hard to wake up. You need a savior. You can still hear M. Shadows singing: “I can see the pictures clear as yesterday, pictures all my own / I can hear the voices begging you to stay, but know you’re not alone.” The guitar plays one last solo and then you see an image of The Rev. “Tonight we all die young.”
You wake up. Your heart continues to beat rapidly and your forehead drips sweat. You pinch yourself but nothing happens. You reach out blindly in the darkness to get something to cool you down. You grab a piece of paper and start fanning yourself with it. You realize that there are actual words on it and you read it. It says: “Their dedicated fans call them A7X for short but the rest of the world knows them as Avenged Sevenfold….” You scream. (Genesis Galva)
Go Twihard or Go Home: A lonely fan finds friends who don’t bite
From the moment I picked up the first Twilight book, I was a fan. My fear of vampires more than disappeared. I read the books; I saw the movies; I followed the gossip about the actors. The couple Jasper Cullen (Jackson Rathbone) and Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) were my favorite. They seemed more romantic and passionate then the main couple, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison) and Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart).
You might think among the millions of Twilight fans, a high-school student like me would have an easy time finding friends as eager as me to talk about the series. But I didn’t have any friends at school, and nobody was into Twilight. I didn’t socialize outside of my high school. It was a challenge to find fellow Twilight fans.
But I was armed with a laptop, an addiction for fan fictions, a passion for Twilight and a wild imagination. My wild imagination made up theories about them with no one but my mom to listen—until I met my first Twilight friend online.
Debbie Rankin was a 12-year-old fan fiction writer. Fan fiction is a story written by a fan of any type of media—a TV show, a book, a movie, or a person—about characters from that piece or series. Debbie wrote crossover fiction—fan fiction that intertwines different stories. She wrote stories about the Cullens from Twilight going to Hogwarts and meeting the characters from the Harry Potter series. I asked her if the Cullens in this story were vampires or humans and when she responded that they were human, we struck up a friendship. Over the Internet, she introduced me to her real-life friends. Even though they were younger than me and lived in South Dakota, now I had friends who I could talk to about Twilight.
At first, I spoke with all of them—Debbie and her friends Alex, Lizzie and Taylor. Now, I just talk with Taylor, even though I didn’t like her initially (she’s a Cubs fan, while I’m a Sox fan). Taylor likes Twilight, but she also likes sports, especially volleyball and basketball. Now, Taylor and I actually talk more about sports than Twilight (but we don’t talk about baseball, to avoid fighting).
I was settled with my group of friends from South Dakota when I discovered this website for people, who, like me, were fans of Jackson Rathbone and Ashley Greene. When I joined, they welcomed me with open arms and I knew I was going to make lots of friends. On the site, we gossip about the actors. Ashley likes to go out and have fun so there are many pictures of her with various men that we grow to hate—we’d rather they dated Twilight actors! Recently, she’s been with Joe Jonas of the band the Jonas Brothers. I decided to tell my friends on the site about my theory that Jackson and Ashley had a child together. I knew I had to be careful so that they wouldn’t make fun of me, so I told them to send their email addresses to me in a message. That’s how I met my next three friends: Cristi Dawson, Patricia Flores, and Liahn Mayo.
First I started talking to Cristi, a 23-year-old college student from San Diego, California. She listened to my theory, but made me see the realistic side to it as well. Now she’s 24, working to get her Ph.D. in psychology, and married to a man named Dan Garrard who likes cheating when we play Twilight Scene it? When I asked Cristi if Dan likes Twilight, her response was, “Not really, he just goes along and watches it.” I don’t know many guys who care a lot about Twilight.
Patricia, whose screen name is 3sha, was the next one to respond to me. She was 26, a “Twilight” fan fiction writer, and came with an open mind. To my surprise, Patricia told me she lives in the Philippines, farther away than any of my other Twilight friends. Patricia started writing about a year ago because, she says, “I wanted to share through writing what I thought was happening or what I wanted to happen among the characters/actors.” Then there was Liahn Mayo, who was 23 and friends with Patricia. After Liahn realized Patricia was in touch with me, she asked to be included as well.
Liahn quickly became my best friend in the whole world, because I can talk to her about anything—not just Twilight. Liahn is also from the Philippines and writes fan fiction. Liahn worries that her writing is bad because sometimes a chapter of her writing she posts online won’t get many comments. I tell her it’s because people are too lazy to comment. Liahn wants to come to the US and become a famous artist, but right now she’s stuck in Olongapo as a graphic designer.
For the next year I would also forge friendships among my own age group. Some ended up as acquaintances and some just ended. Most were with girls from California that were part Filipino—I’ve found that Filipino people are very friendly online. One friend I made claimed to be the younger sister of Jackson Rathbone. She backed up her claim with gossip we didn’t hear anywhere else until months later, but it’s impossible to know the truth—our friendship ended abruptly because her account got deleted.
I went through last year, my junior year, growing closer to the group of friends I had made, not really making any new ones. I joined a few more threads on the same web site that had the Jackson and Ashley thread. By the school year’s end I had a new friend, Melissa “Missy” Zelasko, a 21-year-old from New Jersey. I met her on the Emmett Cullen (Kellan Lutz) and Rosalie Cullen (Nikki Reed) thread. There’s not much news on those two, so the thread often ends up being very off-topic. We complain a lot about how we wish there were more paparazzi photos of them. In low periods we talk about fan fictions members have written along with pictures or videos they’ve made.
As Missy and I discussed all sorts of things on the thread, waiting for more news about Kellan and Nikki, I realized we had a lot in common. I wanted to get to know her a bit more and tell her a theory I had about Kellan and Nikki, that they knew each other as teenagers and had a daughter then. When we started talking I realized we really did have a lot in common—our TV schedules were twins with CBS comedy shows on Mondays and “Vampire Diaries” and “Grey‘s Anatomy” on Thursdays.
My most recent friend is the first male Internet friend I’ve made—like I said, there aren’t many guys who are fans of the series. I found him while scrolling through another friend’s Twitter posts. Damien Castro is 17 years old, from Kennewick, Washington, and he is taking Twitter by storm—right now, he has 1,489 followers. He is an aspiring actor who wants the part of Nahuel in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn.” He’s also the Jacob Black lookalike of his town and the lead in an upcoming web series, “Forever Underhill,” which stars, and is produced by, his hometown friends. Even though he is Jacob Black’s lookalike, he hates the character and the actor who plays him, Taylor Lautner. He instead likes the other side of the love triangle: “TEAM EDWARD ALL THE WAY!”
I’ve told you of my friends, and what drives them to be fans of Twilight, but I have not explained my own motivations. Unlike Damien, I’m a huge fan of Taylor Lautner, and I have been for five years. But what really caught me was the story, of a human girl who falls in love with a vampire with morals. I may not be as fanatical a fan as some, but the books helped me get over my fear of vampires.
Although I do adore Taylor, like most of my friends, I love talking about Jasper and Alice. When I asked them the classic Twilight question, “Team Edward or Team Jacob?”, most answered, “Neither, I’m Team Jasper.” They liked the “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” thanks to the focus on Jasper and his cute relationship with Alice.
Being a “Twilight” fan isn’t just about the relationships in “Twilight,” though. It’s about the relationships we build with each other, through “Twilight.” Now I’m more sociable not only online, but offline. I’ve made friends with most of the people in my grade at school. I go to real-life Twilight parties whenever I can find one, to make real life friends with Twilight fans. I’ve made real life friends this summer during my frequent trips to bookstores and libraries. I’m no longer the friendless girl I was before Twilight. Now have numerous friends from all around the world—friends I never would have been able to make without Twilight, and the technology of our era. (Jacinta Gibson)