OAKLAND, California For a few hours, everything seemed normal again. Kids danced and sang, bands plugged in and sweaty fans were pulled out of mosh pits.
There was a sense of relief in the air Wednesday night as shell-shocked teens pulled themselves away from their televisions and focused their attention on one of the first major rock concerts in the country following Tuesday's deadly terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
"I'm scared, but I'm here for the music. People needed to get out of their houses, and it helped to go to this show," fan Eric Spinney said. The 15-year-old wiped the sweat from his chest as he took a break from the pit during Weezer's set at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. The group canceled the first date of its U.S. tour, which was scheduled to launch in San Jose on Tuesday.
While Weezer made no mention of the tragedy during their 70-minute set, singer Rivers Cuomo was quoted on the band's Web site as saying, "I want to do something about all this, but the only thing I can do is play music."
Fans seemed to appreciate Cuomo's sentiment, but even the comfort of loud music and the warmth of human contact weren't enough to allay the fears, anger and confusion of the mostly teenage crowd.
"When you see it on TV, it's hard to picture it being real," said Rose Griffith, 15, who sat in a circle on the floor with her friends. "It's like something from a movie."
Like her friend Griffith, 15-year-old Elise Hough had spent most of the previous 36 hours glued to her television and was feeling overwhelmed and numb. "Nothing like this has ever happened to our generation," she said, her eyes blank. "This is one of the ways we can all relax, but I hope the people who did this reveal themselves. Otherwise, there's just no one to argue with."
Although Hough said the tragedies were far enough away that she felt safe, many at the show said their sense of security had been shattered and they felt a dread they could never have imagined before Tuesday morning.
"My friend was paranoid that a plane would crash into the building tonight," said 18-year-old Megan Hewitson of Pleasanton. Hewitson said her proximity to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory made her feel unsafe and vulnerable for the first time since the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. "It was like something out of a 'Die Hard' movie," she said of the footage of two passenger jets crashing into the World Trade Center towers. She had seen the footage of the impact too many times, she said, and it still just didn't seem real.
Maybe it was heightened sensitivity, but parents attending the show with their children seemed to be holding them a bit closer than usual Wednesday night. Suddenly, the awkwardness of having your mom or dad sitting next to you at a rock concert vanished, for the moment, anyway.
Against her better judgement, Gloria Ramos brought her 12-year-old daughter, Annalisa, to the show. "It seems like people are closer together," she said, giving her shy daughter a loving look. "The country is a bit smaller than it was before."
Roofer Neil Brothers is old enough to remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but he said Tuesday's horrific acts were much more tragic and scary for him. "I have a lot of anger and I don't know where to put it," said Brothers, 48.
He walked through the lobby of the venue with his arm around his heavily pierced 19-year-old daughter, Nicole Herb. As the surprising strains of the UC Berkeley marching band performing instrumental covers of Weezer songs leaked out of the auditorium, Herb seemed concerned by her dad's words, but also distracted by her desire not to miss one of her favorite bands.
"I'm afraid it's not over yet, and it's scary because ... we live near the railroad tracks in Sacramento, near a military outpost," she said, craning her neck to see if Weezer were about to take the stage.
Some attendees were just plain defiant or mad and, in the case of one 10-year-old, a bit paranoid and confused.
"I think they're really going to emphasize searching everyone from now on at airports. Doing strip searches and stuff," said Brian, who would not give his full name. "It's scary that we spend so much money on missiles when they're using our own planes against us."
In the end, though, most at the show just wanted to take their minds off of things and escape from reality, even if just for one night. "It's important that democracy continues," said Alethea Brown, 35. "And democracy is going to the bowling alley or a concert. It's about doing some community-specific events, so Weezer is the place to be tonight."