Monday, October 13, 2008

Me and the mosh pit

Oct 10, 2008

I’ve been to a lot of venues over the years to watch basketball, softball, track and field hockey games. I have never seen anything like what I saw the other night.
My wife and I had perfect seats for the event. We were perched in the 2nd level seating area with a great view of the seatless floor, which was just packed with participants, eagerly waiting for the start.
I know from attending many competitive events over the years with my 2 oldest daughters, that everyone prepares for their particular event in different ways. Some people need to be alone, preparing mentally. Others stalk the grounds like a caged tiger, nervous energy just boiling over. Others gather in groups chatting nervously. I wondered how Keely was doing. I was scanning the faces in the crowd, searching, but I couldn’t see her.
I knew things were about to begin because everything seemed to be set up. Where in the world was Keely? Suddenly, my wife nudged my arm and pointing to the left she said, “There’s Keely.”
I watched as she, accompanied by a friend, strode through the crowded floor, boldly, on a mission. She knew where she wanted to be when this event kicked off and she squeezed and elbowed her way until she was at a spot where she wanted to be. Watching her, you could tell she’s done this before, she had a plan, she knew what she was doing. She looked as confident in her element as Michael Phelps did near an Olympic size pool.
I noticed Keely sipping on a bottle of water while she casually looked around checking out the competition, dismissing the ones that posed no threat, taking note of the guys that will test her. She looked ready, relaxed but eager. Her friend held her water bottle as she fidgeted with her cloths. She pinned her hair up, out of the way, she wanted no distractions.
Suddenly, the lights dimmed. The clapping started slowly at first, in unison, and then swelled, the noise deafening.
Suddenly an explosion of light from the stage, and out of nowhere the members of Flogging Molly started playing their opening song. Instantly hundreds of people on the floor erupt, clapping, yelling and jumping all around. Let the games begin. The first mosh pit of the night was forming below me, just a bit to my right. And I was about to see things happen at a concert that I had never seen before.
It only takes one person to start a “pit”, as it’s known to people who participate in this on a regular basis. It always occurs when the music is real fast, upbeat. One person will just start dancing and running in a tight circle. As people back up a step or so to give him room, another person will join him, running and jumping, flailing arms and legs. As they start to bump into people, the people just shove them back into the circle they created. Now 3, 4 or 5 people have joined the dancing crazies as they just run around shoving each other. A good “pit” might have 15 or 20 people running wildly in a circle, banging into each other and the people lining the fringes of the pit. When one of the contestants gets shoved outside of the pit, it is the duty of those fringe people to shove his butt right back into the twirling current of human flesh.
Imagine your sink is full of water. If you put your finger in the water and twirl it around fast in a tight little circle, you create a circle of water just twirling around on its own. If a piece of dirt were to come in contact with the current, it gets sucked right in. Sometimes, if the dirt is twirling around, and drifts out close to the edge, it gets spit out of the current. That is what a mosh pit is, except with human beings.
The more shoving and slamming there is in the pit, the more mayhem there is, the better the “pit. Another interesting event that takes place every now and again, a body will come shooting up in the air, landing on the heads of all the people close by. And then, that person will be held up and shoved toward the stage riding the many hands holding him up in the air twirling this way and that like a rag doll.. He will travel, suspended in the air toward the stage, where a security guy will calmly grab him and set him down. The body surfer will then run around to the back of the floor and fight his way back into the pit.
I watched all these pits form spontaneously through the night. And I was amazed at what I saw. I noticed there is a bit of “pit etiquette”. I was focusing on one pit and noticed this one particular guy was getting abused quite a bit. He was being shoved around at a particularly crazy rate of speed, totally out of control. At one point he got pounded so hard he was knocked off his feet. I thought for sure a fight would start. Instead, the chaos stops abruptly and 2 or 3 sweating fellow moshers bend over and pick the person up. After checking on his well being, they toss him back into the fray and like throwing a switch, the fury of the pit resumes. It is crazy.
Looking at a “pit” in action is like looking at a cross between a tribal rain dance and a rugby match. Its nuts.
My daughter held her own. I saw her being pounded about a few times then she’d get her shot in, once catching a sweating 200 lb male mosher off guard and sending him flying outside the pit, crashing into 3 or 4 fringe players, who abruptly sent him careening back into the circle of disorder.
The concert goers of today act a bit different from the sedate rock and roll fans of the 70’s, but hey, who am I to judge? Maybe the pandemonium of the pit serves a purpose. Everyone left in good spirits.
The concert was great. The report from my daughter was the “pits were awesome.” When I hugged her on the way out, she was soaked with sweat. The next day she was sore.
It was a good night.

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