Author’s note: This piece was due to go to press the day the news broke about the tragic passing of Gustav “Lil Peep” Åhr. Peep was just 21 years old.
His music—a signature blend of emo and rap—managed to bridge hearts across countless scenes. A week prior to his death, I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Peep and the rest of the Goth Boi Clique in support of his first full-length, Come Over When You’re Sober (2017). I am still astounded by the versatility of his talents, and his legacy will not soon be forgotten.
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Like feeding a dog its worms pill in a biscuit, I disguise my emo intake in clever ways. It’s not like hating everything is something we grow out of. If we did, we wouldn’t all be so resentful of how goth has been hijacked by those who told us to quit masturbating with crucifixes freshman year. Appropriation is a reasonable source of frustration, but maybe there’s a different perspective hiding underneath those clout goggles. Lest we forget, it’s 2017, and we all wanna die, too. The resurgence of goth, cleverly laden through the lens of modern trends, is a condonable way for me and my grandma to take our meds of misunderstanding in a very adult world.
And it’s a world that I can’t help but let get the best of me. I almost didn’t go to the Peep show. It was a Wednesday night, and all I wanted to do was crawl into my couch with miso and an 83% match from the LGBTQ Romance section. Soundcloud is a refuge that has to be sought out. But, it’s one that I’ve managed to integrate into my routine as the bookends of the 9-5. Thirty minutes on the bus with smrtdeath, Bex, and Famous Dex. Lil Lotus, Jay Vee, Tracy, and Peep. No matter how far my day strays, I still have those n’s tattooed on my wrist to remind me that the sanctity of past days aren’t too far away.
And so, I pulled together the pieces once more, breaking in my office side door to ditch my blazer in my backpack underneath my desk. Receiving side eyes from co-workers who were settled in to stay past human hours, I happily left with the couple of quarters in my pocket and three dollars in my wallet. I was doing well.
The post-sundown temp drop tore up my denim mini skirt and through the sides of my oversized Manson tee, but my body was hot. I wanted to run around the streets shouting “Peep’s in town,” but I knew no one would know what the fuck I was talking about. At least not this month.
Peep’s House of Blues. It was a breathing contradiction; gothic lettering of Wicca Phase long-sleeves and rose-dotted tube socks splattered against the backdrop of the Quarter – the destination Occult Crimes deems the refuge for murderous teen rebellion. My proposition on self-awareness seemed to have come to a head while I stood somewhere in between in Manson’s American dream.
I longed for the days when seeing a line snaking around the building was the most significant source of stress in my life. Second row – a fate worse than life. But, I still stuttered at will call. Shaking hands shoved an ID under the bulletproof glass. The orientation might have shifted 45 degrees and seven states, but an introvert sees no progress nor regression; just acceptance.
I took my place in line behind 90 pounds of bones and faded lavender hair caught in fishnet, passing the time with Mom Texts™ that still seemed to come at moments most inopportune. Missed payments on statements. Copays from rehab stays. I knew I couldn’t run away. Just like she had once done, I had to take her hand in guidance.
Do you know the name of the doctor you saw???
No, but I’ll check my script when I get home.
I had found an ease-in for the truth.
Script for what, may I ask???
Medication was the source of consternation that had kept us six feet apart since I was 16. That’s when the panic attacks began. I begged for her for anything that would make it stop, but she didn’t want me to end up dependent. Couldn’t see it at the time. I was blind, shouting severe words through severe bangs.
A tap on my shoulder brought me back to present day.
It was three boys in all black – two staring at my feet, and one managing to meet me at my chin.
“Excuse me, what are you in line for?”
“Lil Peep,” I giggled back.
“Okay, we’re in the right place,” chin said.
“Look what he brought,” lefty said, gesturing to the middle.
I squinted to make sense of some additional black swishy fabric draped over his shoulder.
“…are those warm-up pants?” I asked.
“Yoooooo,” lefty and chin shoved each other in laughter while the middle stood in a silent embarrassment I didn’t quite understand.
“Boy brought his turn-up pants,” lefty carried on.
“Hey, give it five more years and you’ll be proud as hell of any sensible show wear,” I retorted in defense of lil dude. But before I could carry on with my lecture, a HOB lanyard made his rounds to us.
“You guys want free tickets to a burlesque show this Saturday?”
“HELL yeah. I can take a girl here!” one of them hollered.
Making my way past some bored bartenders lying in wait to take their all-ages L, I made it safely to the second row. My expertise had taught me that regardless of whether you’re the head of the snake or the rattle, the result is always the same – vomited up somewhere stage-right. Hoop earrings and high-waisted shorts housed the stress of the lesser-wise. The surrounding dad hats and Wicca Phases weren’t doing it for them; they needed the man, the Peep, himself, and were prepared to fight for prime real estate. Ground was held while so-and-so went to go get water and Cheetos, pioneering manspreading for the female form.
But eventually, stress gave way to solidarity as the beat dropped on the eavesdropped. Full hearts pointed to the stage, professing disbelief that Peep would be right there and how Sober was a daily before-school soundtrack. For these kids, this was the pill, the biscuit, and the whole goddamned dish. They may not have gotten to know emo in its uncut form, but at least they got to taste a piece. Even if emo did continue to get crossfaded–maybe even out of existence—as long as they were engaging with an earnest heart, I was content.
As Bexey took stage, I let out the life I had tried to suppress since 16 – the age when self-worth began getting defined by the number of prog bands you could name drop. Dancing shamelessly (albeit at arm’s length from the under-aged), I was worlds away from dirty hair and polished enamel pins. Goth Boi Clique – one after one, they tore up the stage, blazing trails for melted marshmallow and crystallized glitter. But, I was snapped out as Horse Head paused.
“I’m sorry…I’m sorry…,” he chuckled on and on, a smile peeking through his hood. “I just stepped on a Cheeto.”
Suddenly, my heart started palpitating uncontrollably, the shear vibrations making my arms twitch independently. I took a sip of the water bottle Bex had thrown into the audience, but immediately regretted it as my visions grew paranoid with passing views from the stretcher, passed. I stood still and tried to breathe deep, but still, my chest shook.
Shit, maybe I was getting too old for this.
I kneeled down, burying my temples in between my knees, begging for minutes on end for it to stop. Fortunately, my cheese turned back to sugar. I snapped back up as the dad hats on either side looked on with mild concern. I guess I had already hit my quota for nightmares for the year. I mostly shook it off, but my tone had turned somber. Just in time for the Peep show.
Hell Boy. Schemer boy. Dreamer Boy. Beamer Boy. Wrapped up in a coordinating jacket and pants—the colors of Sober’s art—with a mismatched ski hat, Peep payed homage to his ride-or-die Russian fanbase. Words scribbled on his jeans like he just got off the school bus, he came through on the Benz Truck – the Mercedes logo spinning hypnotically on the projector. Diamonds on his wrist and studs around his lanky frame, his DJ cut the music as he stepped underneath a washed out spotlight. A Capella, he belted – pushing the words up from the depths presumed to be numbed by Hennessey and the heaviness worn in his eyes.
She said I’m a crybaby, I can’t be up lately
Girl, you drive me crazy, AMG Mercedes
Speedin’ down the highway, lookin’ at the street lights
Geekin’ on a Friday, I can never sleep right
Knowin’ I hurt you, I don’t deserve you
I shouldn’t curve you, I know I’m the worst, boo
But, I could be cool too, and you got them dance moves
And I got this vibe, I swear it’s perfect to ride to
I wanna die too, we all wanna die too
I got this vibe, I swear she love gettin’ high too
I love gettin’ high too, I wanna hide you
How did I find you? I’ll be inside
I’m makin’ music to cry to
“Thank you!” he called towards the audience with an air kiss before grabbing his towel and his bottle.
The lights came on and the kiddos dispersed, but still, I stood. Eventually, I snapped out once more, tapped out and ready to pass out. I loitered briefly around the bus, but it didn’t last long. Sometimes it’s better to savor what’s meant to be remembered, and mourn all that’s meant to be lost. Hell, I guess this is growing up.
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