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A Group(ie) Effort: Someone's Gotta Date the Rock Stars...



It’s 2022, and I’m at home, mindlessly thumbing through the countless same-faced suitors N.Y.C. Tinder has to offer. At this point, Tinder had become a hallmark of pandemic hook-up culture—a lawless land filled with hopeful booty-call prospects and ego-stroking conversations. So, there I am, sifting through the day’s cards when the familiar “ping!” goes off; I’ve got a match.


Sigh, another musician…

Wait, he actually looks cool… 

Hold on…..


“Henry” was a guitarist from a local pop-rock group. I’d seen him before on the apps and maybe had exchanged a few words on Hinge or Bumble, but I had never given him a fair shot. After taking the pivotal step of moving from Tinder to Snapchat, we set a date. Since we both happened to be “unemployed” (a working musician in his case), Henry and I met on a random weekday night in Bushwick. Walking from cheap bar to cheap bar, we bonded over our shared music taste; he told me about his band, gloating about their previous and upcoming shows while name-dropping who he’s worked with from the local scene. I was more impressed by his knowledge of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings; regardless, I feigned interest in politeness. The date ended with him walking me back to the subway after sharing a romantic kiss under a streetlight surrounded by bags of curbside garbage and pigeon poop. 


We spoke intermittently for the next few months but talked less as his band grew more popular in the N.Y.C. scene. As happens with most one-time dates, I eventually forgot about him altogether. A month later, his name reappeared on my lock screen. It was a Tuesday, and he asked to see me the following Saturday. I agreed, asking him what he had in mind. He had not responded by Friday night, so I sent him the “we still on?” message…


Silence.


The following day, frustrated that I had wasted my Saturday plans on a ghost, I shot him a stern but polite message about not wanting to have my time wasted and to let me know if this was still happening. “Oh, sorry,” he quickly responded, “my bandmates and I were out of N.Y.C. shooting a music video, and we didn’t have any service. I’d still love to see you if you’re down.”


“Yeah, okay, that’s fine. Have any place in mind?” I replied, a little annoyed.


He answered with a Dice link. Dice (a ticket-purchasing app for local events.) This specific event is a show featuring his band and five others. The ticket is $30. 


“What the hell is this?” I think. 


“So my band is playing here tonight. We start at 9, but the event starts at 7. Buy a ticket, and we could leave after my set.” 


“Are you serious?”


“Yea?” 


Is he lacking in the brain function department? Synapses are clearly misfiring.


“So you ask me on a date but want me to buy a $30 ticket to see a concert-- only show up for your band, then leave before the concert ends?”


“Yea”


“I’m not your fucking groupie.” Insulted and frustrated, I removed him from Snapchat while he was typing and quickly unmatched him from Tinder. At least real groupies get comp tickets! But I, as a broke and unemployed 21-year-old, will not spend $30 to see a guy I barely know and his likely-mids indie rock band.



One year later, I attended an annual charity festival hosted by a friend. Lots of indie rock, pop-rock, and pop-punk groups taking the stage, mingling, networking, and, most of all, recruiting new fans to add to their repertoire of Instagram followers. There I am, languidly swaying to the music, when I spot a familiar bush of uncombed hair walking through the door… It’s Henry. As he and his bandmates lap around the venue, they are closely tailed by a cluster of beautiful girls who look plucked straight from a fashionista’s Pinterest board titled “rockstar gf aesthetic.” Henry and I make eye contact briefly; he wraps his arm around one of the girls and proceeds to make out with her. I quickly look away, snickering to myself, half in disbelief that men like that exist outside of the movies and half grateful that somehow, he found exactly what I could not give him-- a picture-perfect groupie girlfriend.  


Hours later, when Henry and his band took to the stage, not only were the girls front and center screaming all the lyrics, but half of the venue was. All eyes were on them, and toes were tapping right on the beat. After their set, the band, groupies, and devout following vacated the venue. The audience had diminished by 70%. 


Since then, this story has remained a funny tidbit, and I share it when some out-of-towners ask me what dating in N.Y.C. is like. Henry and his band continue to make a name for themselves in the local music scene, and while I only ever think about him when sharing this story, I think about that group of girls often. I wonder if, like me, they were random dating app matches. I wonder if those girls follow other musicians, alone or in a group. I wonder if, in the next few years, they will become the next “It” girls through sheer determination and sex appeal. I wonder if they molded themselves specifically for this “groupie” lifestyle; I wonder if it’s worth it for them.



In its nearly 60-year lifetime, the “groupie” label has gone demode to vogue and back and forth, with the fluctuating mores of feminine sexuality. The original “Groupie” was a bright-eyed, oft scantily clad young girl, freshly plucked from the front row, waiting in the wings for their rock-god dreamboat. A crucial figure in rock and roll history, groupies not only embodied the essence of ’60s free-love and unprecedented self-expression, but eventually, they became the first-person historians of some of rock and roll’s most pivotal moments. Now, their best-selling tell-all memoirs and invaluable collection of never-before-seen photos are the only window to the intimacies of Rock royalty, many of whom passed before they could share their own stories. The original groupies, Pamela Des Barres, “Sweet” Connie Hamzy, Sable Starr, Cherry Vanilla, Lori Maddox, and many (many!) more, paved the way for what ultimately became a seismic shift in the liberation of female sexuality.


To get closer to their virtually untouchable rock gods, the girls had to use everything at their disposal– sex, drugs, an ear ready to listen, and a heart eager to please. Groupies and their rock star beaus became entangled in a symbiotic relationship– one gets sex from a Madonna figure, and the other receives validation and acceptance from a world never thought to be attainable by the likes of a suburban runaway. These passion-filled flings established groupies as the muses of rock ‘n’ roll. “We’re An American Band” by the Grand Funk Railroad, “Plaster Caster” by K.I.S.S., “Star, Star (Starfucker)” by The Rolling Stones, and “She Goes Down” by Mötley Crüe are among the most infamous groupie-influenced tracks in rock’s illustrious history.



The rise of groupie culture frustrated men who had less chance to meet their heroes than an attractive girl did. The girls' ease of access and celebrity by association gave them unprecedented glamour and attention—just for being beautiful. In retaliation, the groupie became subject to demeaning labels like “whore” and “gold digger.” Girls who had used their sexual escapades as a claim to fame found themselves defending the same stories that the tabloids initially begged them for. It was a classic Catch-22: women can wear the mask of a sexually liberated doll, but once they start engaging, or worse, profiting off their sex lives, the allure is gone, the facade is shattered, and the woman is left sexed and soiled. The label became a condescending slight for every backstage dreamer. 


It wasn’t until the unbridled angst and grit of the 90s that the groupie began to morph into the waify, heroin-chic character we associate with a “modern groupie.” Still reeling from the misogyny of being a “groupie,” the label found a new life with a new muse, Kate Moss. With her killer style and infamous cocaine habit (plus bad-boy boyfriend, Johnny Depp (gag)), Moss was the poster child of eyeliner-drenched, disheveled party diva.


The new millennium ushered in a new groupie essence, the Video Vixen. Gorgeous girls who made a name for themselves, partying and dancing behind famous hip-hop rappers in their music videos and events. Later, we saw a more passive rock-girl resurgence in 2014 Tumblr’s indie sleaze. The sloppy, grunge aesthetic was drenched in youth and futility. It was a promise that what once was will ultimately come again only. Except, the groupie never did return, at least not in how we’ve come to know.



Current groupiedom finds itself in TikTok’s “Rockstar Girlfriend” aesthetic, which is moreso a parody of indie sleaze than trad groupie. The fact that it isn’t called something akin to “groupie-core” just exemplifies the negative connotation that has followed the label for decades. But, this latest TikTok trend is less about actually DATING a drug-fueled rockstar and more about LOOKING like you would. You don’t have to know a band’s entire catalog; just post a snippet of “In Bloom” by Nirvana while wearing Steve Madden Brocks Buckle Boots on your Instagram story, and you’ll have a D-List influencer in your DMs by midnight. It’s like being in a club that’s playing great music, but everyone is more concerned with how they look and who is looking rather than dancing.


Technically, we are experiencing another shift in the expression of female sexuality with our blasé attitude for thirst traps and Facetune. Plus, with pop music coming around to the “older” sounds of classic, psych, and funk-rock, maybe we will see a new version of the greasy, cherub groupie waiting in the wings for her Tinder date to get off stage and sweep her off to a drug-induced, happily ever after in Rock ‘n’ Roll paradise.


Written by Daniella Fishman

Photography by Mark Bluemle

Creative Director: Sophia Querrazzi

Talent: Tori Olegario, Oli Davis , Johnathan Mingo










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