By Chantelle Moghadam, 15, Viewpoint School (Calabasas)
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Chantelle’s favorite piece of concert memorabilia is a guitar pick she got from Tyson Ritter.

The All-American Rejects’ single “Gives You Hell” marked the start of my obsession with music one year ago. In the music video, lead singer Tyson Ritter played two people—an arrogant suburban man and his rock star neighbor. The life of the suburban family, including the perfectly mowed lawn, reminded me so much of my boring life. I wanted the rock star life in the first two lines of the song: “I wake up every evening with a big smile on my face/ And it never feels out of place.” This was the only song I listened to for the next week.

After my “Gives You Hell” obsession, I bought every All-American Rejects song on iTunes. Then I spent entire weekends looking up lists of other punk and emo bands on Wikipedia and music websites. I discovered bands like Fall Out Boy, Blink-182 and Jack’s Mannequin. I fell in love with this type of alternative rock, because I could relate to the lyrics. In the song “At Full Speed,” Andrew McMahon of Jack’s Mannequin captured how much I wanted to see the world outside of suburban Calabasas: “And there’s no guarantee/ That leaving town’s gonna set us both free/ But staying here is just not what we need.”

After this, whether I was at school, home, doing homework, or pretty much anything else, I had earphones in. But I needed to see the people who created the music that changed my life. I got tickets for Coachella—one of the biggest music events of 2009. For weeks that’s all I talked about.

Is this concert too wild for me?

My family and I drove three hours to Indio before finally arriving at the festival grounds in the middle of the California desert. It was blazing hot, but I felt like nothing could bring me down. However, as I saw people running and shouting and the smell of marijuana fumes clouded my thoughts, I became uncomfortable. I had never seen anyone smoke pot before and I started to question whether I really belonged there.

Illustration by Angelica Conde, 17, Los Angeles HS

As the sun started to set, my sisters and I found a spot in the middle of the huge crowd. I watched TV on the Radio, Thievery Corporation and M.I.A. in pure wonder, becoming more and more comfortable in the crowd with each song. I took off my shoes and put them on the grass in front of me, and I stopped noticing how close I was to the people smoking and drinking next to me. Standing barefoot in the midst of all those people I had a sense of what the concertgoers at Woodstock must have felt. For those three or four hours, the music connected every single one of us and nothing else mattered. When M.I.A. walked off stage, I could almost see the excitement rising from the crowd. We were all there for one band—The Killers.

The drums to “Neon Tiger” started and everyone in the crowd screamed and cheered simultaneously. I became lightheaded from screaming. I could hear the man just inches from me screaming the lyrics as loud as possible, just like me. There were times when I could hardly hear lead singer Brandon Flowers singing because the thousands of people were singing the lyrics in unison.

Coachella made me realize why I had craved a concert so much. I had been stuck in the suburbs my entire life, where everything is perfect but there is little excitement, especially for a music-addicted teenager. Coachella did not end my craving; it only fed it. Just one week after Coachella, I asked my parents if I could buy tickets to Wango Tango, a huge concert put on by KIIS-FM, because I knew that the All-American Rejects would be performing.

When the All-American Rejects walked on stage, I had to blink back my tears to keep them from rolling down my cheeks. As I watched them perform, I screamed at the top of my lungs. I felt as if it was just a dream and I prayed not to wake up.

As soon as I heard Tyson Ritter say, “This is what you all came here for,” I knew that they were about to perform “Gives You Hell.” At that moment, I must have screamed louder than I had ever screamed in my life. I hardly blinked for the entire performance because I didn’t want to miss a fraction of a second of it. The people near me gave me weird looks, but I didn’t care.

That was the day music became more than an experience and turned into a lifestyle. I spent months searching for the pink sequined Converse that Tyson wore during the show. I eventually found them at a store in Florida. I bought things I never would have worn before I started going to concerts. Now my outfit every day consists of skinny jeans, Converse, rings and a T-shirt. I signed up for e-mails updating me about upcoming shows in L.A. and whenever I get money, I spend it on concert tickets.

I’ve discovered cool parts of Los Angeles

Before I started going to concerts, a fun weekend was going to the movies in Calabasas. I had never been to famous L.A. places like Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Boulevard, and Hollywood and Highland. Concerts have also taken me to areas like Pomona and Irvine. When I go to a concert on a Saturday night, the street is crawling with people looking for excitement, just like me.

Over the past year, music has helped me deal with hard times, like if my parents were fighting I would listen to “Stay Together for the Kids” by Blink-182 or if I was mad at someone I listened to “Gives You Hell,” which is why I like songs I can relate to.

Concerts also help me escape my problems. About a month ago I had a frustrating day at school, and debated whether I should skip a concert I’d been planning to go to that featured a bunch of local bands. I decided to go, and getting lost in the crowd and forgetting about my day made me feel a hundred times better. If there’s one place you are sure to find me, it’s at a concert listening to one of my favorite bands.