The Cocoon: "Firsts"
The first thing I noticed was how goddamn loud it was. Cymbals and snares rattled inside my head, while each thich bass note shook me in a deep, digestive place. And the guitars — oh the guitars! Screeching metal banshees, set on destroying my ability to distinguish and interpret audio frequencies.
The next thing that confronts your senses is the audience. A writhing, seething, undulous mob of teeth, spiked hair, and tattooed flesh. It was a sea of liquid denim and there was a storm brewing.
It was exhilarating and a little frightening, all at once.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this was a punk rock concert.
And no, ladies and gentlemen, this was not my first punk show. That’s not this story. This story… is about the first time I crowd surfed.
I first encountered punk in my teenage years, through my friends — the same way I’m sure a lot of you did too. It’s just the perfect sound of youthful rebellion. It’s nihilistic, loud, and cocky.
And as much as I dressed that way and pretended to act the part, one thing I could never get used to was the mosh pit. Do you remember the Tazmanian Devil cartoon character from Looney Tunes? It’s like a crowd full of that. But teenage. And not getting laid. It’s just elbows, skulls, knees, everything sharp and pointy thrown about.
But, us being teenagers, nobody wanted to be the one that valued health and wellbeing. So whenever a friend would charge forward saying “let’s go in the pit!” I would always follow. But as soon as I’d lose my friends in the crowd, I’d slowly creep backwards out of the pit. When they came out, always sweaty, often bruised, sometimes bloody, they’d find me relaxed and daisy fresh.
“Whoa, crazy circle pit, right??”
Fast forward about 10 years. I hadn’t been to a punk show in quite some time. I pretty quickly grew out of it once I got to college. But a couple of my old high school friends were in town for a NOFX concert and invited me to come along. Sure, why not?
I don’t know what I was expecting, or even what I remembered — but NOFX is really bad. I’m not sure how I ever listened to their music, let alone purchased their CDs. Sorry for any fans out there… but Fat Mike is just not a good musician.
After a few songs holding my distance, a thought occurred to me: I’m not particularly enjoying myself. Hell, this might be the last punk show I’ll ever go to. That’s the beauty of growing old. You gain the courage, confidence, and wherewithal to say “no” to things you just don’t want to do.
As that decision settled in, another thought surfaced in my head. If this will be my last punk show… this might be my last chance to crowd surf!
As a part of general mosh pit culture, it was something I had avoided my whole teenage life. But it was always something I sort of envied.
Crowd surfing, by its nature, is ludicrously selfish. You are hoisting your entire body weight onto the heads, necks, and unwilling arms of a bunch of strangers and expecting them to carry you like some goddamn Khaleesi. I had to try it.
Before rushing in, I prepared myself. I removed my glasses, put them in their microfiber pouch, then zipped them into my jacket. I took out my wallet and phone and keys. Zipped them into the jacket. I tied a double knot on each shoe. I’d seen too much orphaned footwear in the aftermath of these things. I stretched out my back and took a few deep breaths. Time to rock the fuck out.
I approached the largest guy I could find. He looked like the comic book guy from The Simpsons. He would have to do. I tapped him lightly on the shoulder.
“Excuse me, sir? Can you —” I pointed upward.
He looked at me like you might look at an elderly woman who asked you to help her across the street: slightly annoyed, but socially obligated to offer your help. So with the slightest of eye rolls, he cups his hands at the knee. I step into his sweaty stirrup and he launches me onto a group of unsuspecting teenage girls.
They scream as I crash down on them, but their spinal columns hold — and I’m up on top of the world! I feel them squirming in terror and disgust but they are simply crowd people now, and their concerns are literally and figuratively beneath me.
LIFT ME HIGHER, I AM YOUR GOD!
The crowd starts passing me forward, but I all is not well — I spot a pothole in the road. Unable to steer my underlings, I crash onto my tailbone in the middle of the pit. I get back up, undeterred and drunk with power.
I run up to a thicker clump of people, grab hold of shoulders, and launch myself onto the crowd! Mounting is never easy, and the people protest, but protesting simply fuels my locomotion. Soon, I’m making a beeline straight for the stage.
This time, I take the chance to savor the experience. I feel hands on my butt, my back, my back, and my butt. It’s like an uncooperative massage, and I’m loving every second of it. Pretty soon, the stage is in sight. It’s the end-goal… the stage. Getting catapulted up into the spotlight, then leaping back down to my eager minions once more.
But just as I’m about to reach Valhalla, the crowd senses my imminent victory, and pulls me back away from the stage… towards another empty spot, where I get unceremoniously dumped. Onto my coccyx this time.
Like an unwanted despot, I sunk away into the shadows. Though this was my first time crowd surfing, I can’t say for sure it’ll be my last.
Hopefully next time, it’ll be to better music.