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Confessions of an Airbagger

In the trenches of Vegas’ rough-and-tumble, semi-hidden, yet surprisingly relevant music forum

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Photo: Ryan Olbrysh

I’m a junkie. Every morning, before I take my shower or munch down on some oat-laden cereal, I need my fix. I can’t even think about getting on with my day without hitting the Airbag, my personal epicenter for finding out what’s going on in Las Vegas’ cultural underground.

Now, it might sound like I’m over-emphasizing the importance of an obscure, tricky-to-locate local music forum (you won’t find us revealing its exact location, by the way, though you might try Googling the terms “Airbag” and “Vegas” and sifting through the results on Page 15), and surely the other members of the ’bag—approximately 170—think I’m a total dork (I am). But the Airbag is far more than a hangout where friends talk shit about bands, people and the world in general. It represents a scene within the scene nearly completely disconnected, by choice, from the Vegas music mainstream.

Originally conceived in 1998 by creator Dave Gorum as a message board for a buddy’s band—then-active and now-legendary hardcore outfit Curl Up and Die—the Airbag simply served as a place for fans to interact long before the age of MySpace or YouTube. “It was just a huge group of friends having a good time,” says Gorum, a 28-year-old professional web designer now living in Chicago.

A decade later, it’s basically the same thing, but for discussions on Vegas music as a whole, rather than any one band specifically. Sure, your typical political, pop-culture and wildly random fodder shows up on the ’bag’s unelaborate, plain-white front page. And at one time, the Airbag was the place to learn about out-of-the-way concerts and events. (It still is for me, to a large extent; where else you gonna hear about cave shows?) But as the forum has aged, it’s been its critical, and sometimes hilarious, attitude toward local music that continues to set it apart. Gorum terms it a “garbage disposal,” chewing up and spitting out bands, songs and viewpoints others hold dear. Airbaggers won’t think twice about denigrating your favorite group right before your eyes.

It can seem entertaining—both to members and to the many lurkers who surely drop by regularly—but it can also feel brutal, admits local promoter Patrick “Pulsar” Trout. “For the first years people were busting my chops … and I’d take stuff personally and get really pissed off,” he says of his early days establishing his shows on the forum. In particular, Pulsar’s passion for female-fronted groups has scored him plenty of grief. But these days, he shakes off the criticism as friendly banter. “We’re all friends in real life. That’s what the Internet is like.”

More

From the Archives
Escape the Fate’s Ronnie Radke finds new fate behind bars (8/5/08)
'We were our own worst enemies' (1/26/06)
Beyond the Weekly
Dave Gorum
Note: The author doesn't want to give you the Airbag link. But you're welcome to search.

Sometimes, personal lives become intertwined on the Airbag with less positive results. Scene beefs have intensified there, and a marriage between two members dissolved rather publicly on the site. I, myself, posted a few horrible photos and leveled a couple of abusive rants against forum members back in the day.

But mostly, the scorn and derision are lighthearted at their core, like the time the topic of ex-Escape the Fate frontman Ronnie Radke’s probation violation came up. This comment, from user Evil Jon, lives in infamy: “A couple years back, I was over at my friend’s house and Ronnie came over with drugs. He cut himself up a few lines on the table, did them, and then left. It’s customary to share with the host, jackass.”

“There’s no rules,” Gorum says, “[apart from], if you’re going to be a guy who shows up and acts like an idiot, you’ll be told that you’re an idiot.”

Mostly, though, the Airbag, and what transpires there, is a lot like life: laugh, cry, fight, make up. And sometimes, feel like the kid you were 10 years ago again. “We’re all getting older, and the Airbag kind of takes us back to that time, like we’re reliving our youth,” Gorum says. “I like that.”

Me, too. Wonder how hard the Airbaggers will rip up this piece when they see it.

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Aaron Thompson

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