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Mosh Pit Manners

[Recorded for NPR "All Things Considered," June 21, 1996; never aired]

Thirty years ago, I was sitting in a stadium screaming at the Beatles and throwing jelly beans. We’d heard that was George’s favorite, so we were doing our best to pelt him. I screamed at Herman’s Hermits, too, freaked out with Frank Zappa, and then it was the Stones.

But it had been a long time since I’d been to a rock concert. Recently I piled my teenage kids and a couple of their friends into the station wagon and went to hear one of their favorite bands‑‑a band I’ve overheard enough to enjoy myself.

Folding chairs had been set up in front of the outdoor stage, and I was delighted to find plenty of seats on the front row. But I discovered that sitting wasn’t on the agenda. Shortly before the band began, the space between the stage and the front row was filled in by restless teens. The kids and I looked at each other, then clambered up onto our chairs. I wondered what was coming next.

What came next was moshing. Now, I knew how to scream and throw jellybeans, but not how to mosh, so here’s some helpful points of etiquette, in case you ever wind up in this situation. Take crowd surfing. A parent who sees someone being passed horizontally over the heads of the crowd will feel an urge to dispense advice of the sort that begins, "Young man," and ends, "…poke your eye out." Don’t bother. The music is so loud that words leaving your mouth drown before they reach your own ears. When someone’s coming toward you at eye level the only reasonable thing to do is don’t drop him‑‑pass him on.

As for the kids slam dancing in the center of the circle, know the code. When the scowling security cop shines a flashlight on one of them, he’s supposed to stand still and look sheepish; when the light clicks off, he goes right back to bouncing off his buddies. If you decide to join them, follow these guidelines, but take off your bifocals first.

I had a great time. I stood on that flimsy folding chair and clapped and sang along till I was hoarse, much to my kids’ delight. My only worry was that the colliding moshers might knock over my chair, and I’d wind up with a broken leg. But that didn’t happen, and at the end of the concert I found I was a little disapppointed. I’d collected plenty of wild stories at rock concerts over the years, and was looking forward to one more. I was thinking how much I would have enjoyed saying, "Oh, that? Broke it in a mosh pit."

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