Just recently, I attended an outdoor music/extreme sports festival at the Exhibition Place here in Toronto (?SnowJam?, if anyone cares). In addition to the BMX, skateboard and snowboarding demos, there were a variety of fairly popular bands, ranging from hip hop and punk to rock.
After spending the summer in Whistler, BC, I really enjoyed watching the athletes perform, and the majority of the reasonably entertaining musical acts were made even more palatable by consuming unreasonably priced beer. My only mistake of the weekend came during the set of the headlining band ?Filter?, when I decided to go up front into the mosh pit.
Before I go on, let?s back track a little. There was time, a few years ago, when I really enjoyed going to rock concerts. It?s important that I clarify and explain that when I use the term ?rock concert? in this article, I?m not talking about those ?sit-in-your-seat, applaud-when-appropriate? deals. I?m talking about a loud band in a small, standing-room-only venue filled with crazy, moshing teenagers. This is the kind of concert where, if you aren?t looking to be physically assaulted, you either stand waaaay at the back, or wait outside.
Anyways, my friends and I would get liquored up and make our way downtown, usually to some hole like The Warehouse (recently renamed the tragically uncool ?Kool Haus?). Once inside, we would spend approximately 90 minutes bashing our bodies against those of our peers to the musical stylings of such acts as ?Orgy? and ?Slipknot?. Afterwards we?d return home sweaty, dehydrated and considerably harder of hearing. Hey, when you?re 16 or 17, it?s great fun. However, my recent experience at ?SnowJam? reminded me of exactly why I no longer bother.
If you?ve ever seen a rock video, you?ve probably got some sort of idea about what a mosh pit looks like. As I mentioned above, it?s basically a large number of people pressed into a small space, where everyone is trying to move to the exact same spot at once (namely, right in front of the band). It?s hot and sweaty, and--needless to say--there?s a lot of physical contact. I know I?m not making a very attractive case for moshing. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for experiencing a full-blown ?rock out? with an innumerable bunch of your peers, where everyone participates in a sort of organized, self-contained riot. While moshing appears to be violent, there?s an amazing sense of camaraderie in most pits where people really take care of each other by helping up those who fall and making room when someone wants to move out of the crowd.
The feeling of camaraderie becomes severely diminished, at least in my mind, when people start crowd surfing. Crowd surfing basically involves getting boosted on top of the crowd and lying spread eagle, while the people underneath propel you from one place to another. Your ?ride? usually ends when you either, a) get passed over the security gate in front of the stage, or b) fall to the ground.
Personally, I hate crowd surfing. I?ll admit that I tried it a few times when I was younger (and liked it), but it didn?t take me long to realize how dangerous and inconsiderate it is to everyone else trying to enjoy the concert. Keeping your balance and ensuring both feet stay on the ground is difficult enough in a mosh pit without having to worry about contact from above. Surfers aren?t ?passed? across the pit in an organized fashion so much as thrown from one place to another, flailing limbs and all. If you happen to be the poor sucker they land on, well, better hope you can get your arms up in time to brace for the impact.
Of course, most people possess a fairly low tolerance for having heavy objects fall on them. This forces many moshers to either constantly look over their shoulder for the next torso, foot or head that?s about to be unceremoniously dropped on top of them, or (better still) turn their back on the band they paid to see in an attempt to avoid getting injured. And believe me, surfing does cause injuries. I?ve got the gory stories to prove it. Regardless, what kills me is the fact that surfers can?t be oblivious to the fact that it hurts when someone lands on you (as I?m sure they?ve all gotten a few shoes in their faces as well), yet they selfishly and inconsiderately continue to submit the rest of the crowd to their antics.
Back to SnowJam: About ten minutes and five surfer collisions into Filter?s set, I remembered something I?d come to believe when I was younger. It isn?t fair that surfers continually annoy and/or endanger the very people they entrust their safety to (namely, everyone else in the crowd). I keep them in the air, I get hit in the head with their feet, and they have all the fun. Something. Isn?t. Right. Reflecting to myself as I rubbed the bruise forming on my head, I decided it was time to give a little bit back.
For the remainder of the show, every surfer that passed over me received, whenever possible, a personalized ?thank-you? for helping to ruin my concert-going experience. I didn?t do anything overtly malicious, and I left the girls alone entirely, but every able-bodied young dumbass I saw got a punch (don?t worry, it?s hard to ?punch? someone hard when you?re in a mosh pit), pressure-point, or--when it was my only option--a pinch. Hey, as long as it gets the message across.
As I said above, I wasn?t trying to hurt those surfers, just make them uncomfortable. Whatever discomfort I caused them couldn?t have equalled the aches and pains they gave me, but that wasn?t the point. From what I?ve seen and the majority of people I?ve talked to, I?m not the only person who?s fed up with crowd surfing. The thing is, surfers can?t surf if the crowd refuses to keep them up.
Contrary to the title of the article, I?m not saying that people should necessarily start punching and pinching every surfer that comes their way. When someone motions for you to help them get on top of the crowd, don?t do it. When you see a surfer coming your way, ?help? them into a controlled fall to the ground instead of passing them along. Surfers make up a small percentage of the entire crowd; it?s up to you to decide if you want them on the ground or in the air (and your face).
I think that I, on the other hand, will be staying out of the pit entirely.