Imagine the most packed rush-hour train you've ever been on; then multiply the crowd by three, and add the deafening pulses and surges of two live punk bands, plus the swelling energy of a sold-out stadium show. People were standing on top of seats and hanging from the handrails to catch the action, some thrashing around mosh-pit style as best they could without knocking over band members. One person even briefly crowd-surfed.
"I was genuinely shocked to see how many people showed up and were interested in supporting what we're doing. I didn't expect that many people to be there to see this. And I was really inspired to see everyone smiling, singing along and just having a good time," Cody said. [...]
The train kept quaking, and the music raged on. By now, any fears I'd had of the event turning into a dangerous situation had dissipated. Despite the crowd's rowdiness, there seemed to be a shared understanding of care.
"Creating a safe space is one of the reasons I really like the hardcore scene that's happening right now in the bay. The people there are very careful about making sure everyone there feels good," said Bayden, the drummer for False Flag. "People really are there to enjoy the music and have a good time without hurting others."
"We really look out for each other," Pretty said. "We like to get in the pit and do stuff like that, but we still know what's right and what's wrong. We still know how to pick each other up."
What also stood out was the crowd's age; instead of a surly group of white dudes in their late 20s, as might be expected at a show like this, the train's passengers were mostly teenagers, of different races and genders. I later learned that this is also true of the bands themselves. The members of Surprise Privilege are all in their very early 20s, and two-thirds of False Flag are still in high school. Their shows, then, tend to act as safe spaces for young punks who might not have access to other events.
"The Bay Area is pretty small regarding venues, and there's especially not that many that are all-ages. Spaces like this provide an opportunity for everyone, no matter who you are, to come and watch. And it's just an opportunity to create a thriving arts community in the bay and show young people that, hey, this stuff exists and it's pretty cool," Cody said. [...]
The music and chaos went on for five more stops -- about six songs per band, to the surprise of the band members, who thought they'd be handcuffed before the first set started. BART police entered the train at Fruitvale Station and ordered everybody off but didn't detain or fine either band. According to the band members, the only reason the train stopped was because "someone's vape got stuck in a BART door." "If that hadn't happened, the show would've kept going," Bayden said.