“Y’all – it was three years ago that we saw Justin Bieber at the exact same place.”
She said it as a point of reference. It seemed like a declaration to all of her friends that they were getting older. Yet, the passing of time in this conversation was coming from a place of excitement, not one of dread. The passer-by and the friends to whom she said this to did not look a day over the age of sixteen. That seemed like a year or two below the average age of those waiting in line at Time Warner Cable Arena to say they experienced the spectacle that was the Miley Cyrus Bangerz Tour. My girlfriend and I were one of dozens of outliers. These outliers also included moms, college kids and other young adults dressed like background performers.
There were droves of people outside of the arena – all of them waiting patiently underneath drizzling skies. As we walked along the scores of fans, we noticed that there was a constant theme in the outfits being worn. It was mostly short shorts and graphic t-shirts – many of which had phrases like “Twerk It Twerk It” and “Keep Calm and Twerk On” adorned on them. Some of the edgier teens were wearing beanies that proclaimed “Ain’t No Wifey” and “Straight Bitch”. There were also young girls who were wearing the infamous VMA outfit, complete with the tiny hair buns to match. You could not escape the persona of Miley. It permeated the crowd and caught the concerned glances of executives who were exiting their offices. It was also quitting time in downtown Charlotte.
A man was holding a sign in one hand. It was a red circle with a line diagonally slashed through it with “TWERKING” written in big, black letters in the middle. He was shouting into the megaphone he held with his other hand about how you could not “twerk your way to salvation.” He had a shirt adorned with words about getting saved and the path to hell that were about as loud as his booming voice. Yet, the man with the bullhorn and his cohort – holding a picket sign that had more or less the same apocalyptic anti-Christ language – could not be heard. They weren’t even acknowledged. The teens lined to enter the arena just laughed and shouted for Miley. The line of traffic next to the arena guffawed at the whole spectacle. Icona Pop and Sky Ferreria were supposed to start the show at 7, but it seemed like the event had already begun.
Among the throngs of kids taking unlimited selfies, you could see the parents that could not helped but be entertained by the whole thing. You could see their wry smiles. Some looked like they were bored to tears and ready to get it over with. The doors were supposed to open at 6, and it was almost 6:20. We asked a sheriff who was there for crowd control if the doors were, indeed, supposed to open at 6.
“Yeah,” he said. “But they are trying to sober her up right now.” My girlfriend turned to me and asked if we wanted to go to a bar and have a drink to pass the time until it got closer to 7. The sheriff looked at us and said, “That’s what I would do.”
“Is she crying?!” A loud teenage girl questioned as she saw one of her younger peers and the peer’s parents turn the corner. There were tears streaming down the young girl’s face as she held a white piece of paper which stated that Miley Cyrus had cancelled her show due to illness. There would be no reschedule date. “It’s ok, girl. I cried too.” The loud teen said, trying to console the younger girl as her parents watched.
Then, it got ugly. “You know what? Fuck her! Fuck Miley Cyrus! Yeah, I don’t give a fuck. Fuck her. I’m fucked up. I don’t care.” The parents of the younger girl winced as the loud teen just revealed that she and her friends were under the influence. Her tirade was heard up and down the block as people passed.
As we walked down from the bar to the arena, we could see dozens more with the cancellation notice in their hand. You could feel the disappointment. The paper claimed that people could get a refund, but money wasn’t important to the crowd. They wanted to feel cool; they wanted to tell all of their friends about the weirdness and awesomeness of the event. Now, they only had to imagine it as they called for rides home, got onto the light rail or just stood on street corners with arms crossed. There was a likely probability that this was some of the crowd goers’ first concert which ended in a lesson of When Your Pop Star Hero Lets You Down. For the two soapbox preachers, I am sure they used the cancellation as the evident power of God when thousands of teenage girls turned away from the arena with their heads down.
One of Miley’s collaborators, Juicy J, had a show at The Fillmore that evening that went according to plan, or so I’m informed. Miley owes a bit of her recent success to the resurgent, former Three Six Mafia member and his smoked out, Molly’d out philosophy. It probably would have been best for her team to redirect the fans from her cancelled circus to Juicy J’s Stay Trippy show. It’s not like the antics would’ve been any different – they would just come from a cultural gatekeeper rather than an appropriator.
My girlfriend and I left the scene for another bar. Afterwards, we passed Time Warner Cable Arena on the way to the parking garage. By this time, the crowd had dispersed, and there was the glowing sign from the jumbotron outside that showed the promotional image of the Bangerz tour. It was a still of Miley Cyrus from the “Wrecking Ball” video with a sledgehammer clutched in her right hand. “CANCELLED” was slashed through the photo in big, red letters. I couldn’t help but think of all those forlorn faces when I stared up at the jumbotron.
When Miley Cyrus twerked her way into the stratosphere with conservative parents looking on in shock, her defenders shrugged their shoulders and noted that it was just Miley being Miley. In recent months it seems that her own personal investment in this meme has resulted in a tour stop cancellation. Many rock and pop acts have canceled high profile shows due to failures to control their vices but have shown resiliency. Hopefully this incident doesn’t manifest itself into the first of several with the tag line of “Miley just being Miley” attached.