An Evening on the Island of Misfit Girls

A seemingly endless stream of girls wearing baggy pants, tank tops and loosely knotted neckties spilled into the lobby of Veterans' Memorial. If one wasn't dressed like her tomboy heroine Avril Lavigne, she compensated for it by making sweet-but-tough faces, whether she was six or sixteen.

But for the twenty-odd minutes that the house lights threatened to dim inside the auditorium, any attitude, real or feigned, gave way to absolute giddiness. Every time a roadie came on stage to tune an instrument, the audience started shrieking, just in case Lavigne might appear behind them. Some even ran to the stage to shake the hands of road crew members, and then bounded back to their seats squealing, "he held my hand!"

My nine-year-old companion, Brittany Johnson, who was nonplussed compared to the rest of the crowd, imparted some pop music wisdom to me while we waited.

"When a girl plays, the audience is mostly girls," she said. "And when boy bands play, who's in the audience? Still girls."

But unlike contemporaries she is constantly contrasted with (Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera), Lavigne seems to appeal to junior high school-aged girls who want to be and look interesting more than they want to be and look popular. She's the patron teen diva of art students, wallflowers and odd girls out, not cheerleaders and prom queens.

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