I stood on the outskirts of the crowd for the entire show knowing I wanted absolutely nothing to do [with] the mass of 15 to 20-year-old boys pushing each other around, but the minute the closing band struck its first chord, I was shoved right into the middle. I immediately tried to look for a way out but was completely surrounded, and no matter how much I pushed, I couldn’t move. I was getting punched, kicked, and pummeled until I eventually fell down, and all I could see was a wave of dust and sneakers kicking and stepping on me. I couldn’t get up, and I couldn’t breathe. I choked on dirt and started sobbing until one man, probably someone’s dad, heard me screaming for help. He reached underneath the crowd and threw me over his shoulder. As he was pulling me away, I heard one voice cut through the music: “That’s why you don’t bring your little girl to shows.” I was 15.
I liked this little essay about being a girl at punk shows. It got me thinking back on my first time in a mosh pit (of not too many). It was at my Temple, at the annual Gefiltefest. Some local punk band was playing and kids got rambunctious. I was just enjoying the music but I got shoved into the vortex. I was around fifteen too. It was kind of fun at first but then I fell down and my glasses fell off. One of those naïve “is this the end?” moments. Almost immediately someone pulled me up, shoved my glasses into my hands, and pushed me out of the circle. There definitely weren’t any girls in there.
Another time, in college, I went to Montreal with some friends to see the band Thrice. This was during their Alchemy Index tour, which is when I first started listening to them. My friend Sung loved them, I think because he was an asian guitarist and Thrice’s lead guitarist is asian, and he’s pretty great. Sung had a friend in college in Montreal whose place we could stay at, and so we left our bags there, went and bought some of those extra-large bottles of canadian beer, wandered around a little, and went to the show. Say Anything was opening for Thrice, and were playing when we got there. The venue was way bigger than I’d anticipated. Less the grubby little rooms I was used to, more of a huge, multi-layered club. You could work your way up close to the stage if you want, and mosh around, or get a drink and watch from the mezzanine. We went right to the floor and got separated right away.
Say Anything didn’t sound so great so I went for a walk, to the bathroom, then the bar. There were a lot of French seeming girls there, not so many up front on the floor. Maybe they didn’t feel safe there. I don’t know. I didn’t, really, but that was kind of the fun of it.
By the time Thrice came on, things were getting to be kind of a blur. I didn’t know where my friends were. The plan was to find them later. I was never a massive Thrice fan, but one thing I really like is how they’ve progressed from a hardcore band in their early outings to a slightly more experimental rock and roll group. So I was a little surprised by how heavy the show was once it started, and how immediately the mosh pit congealed and dwarfed Say Anything’s. I was drawn in, willingly. The energy is hard to resist. I didn’t brave the thrashy center but I got shoved around a little, and shoved people around a little. And then my shoe fell off and disappeared into the crashing waves of converse all stars.
So now I’m kind of drunk and in a faraway land, and I’m hopping on one foot and everyone is shoving everyone and really loud music is playing and I’m not sure where my friends are. The adrenaline I’d been looking for? Found it.
Suddenly I see my shoe. Someone’s holding it above their head like a trophy, less than ten feet away, but a shifting mass of dozens of sweaty canadians between us. I start forcing my way through, on one foot, and reaching out, but the guy tosses it across the floor, like one might with a beach ball at a concert your parents would take you to. The crowd tossed it a couple more times before I managed to intercept it and pull it back on, at which point I receded to the edges where all you’re doing is helping people not fall down and being the one who picks up other people’s glasses and enjoying the music and catching your breath.
While writing this I listened to Ms. Loveland’s band Candy Hearts’ album Ripped Up Jeans and Silly Dreams which you can download for free there. It’s kind of nice. Hits that sweet spot between plaintive got-no-friends-but-my-guitar and us-against-the-world propulsion when the drums kick in. Not sure if that means much of anything, but I’m no music critic.