About ten days ago, my parents and brother came into Houston for Sunday dinner, and I noticed my brother - whom we'll call "John," because that's his name - was limping something awful. It turns out John decided to take a spin in the mosh pit at the end of the Bad Religion show I assigned him to review (because he asked), and got knocked on his ass. Or knee, to be exact, but he'll tell you all about it in a bit.
Earlier this week, John proposed the idea of polling the other Rocks Off writers for their own concert first-aid experiences. I thought it was a great idea, because I don't have a similar tale to tell. Over the years, I have been to literally thousands of shows, and have been either lucky or smart enough to avoid getting seriously hurt at any of them. Between you and me, it's probably luck.
There have been a few close calls, mostly due to environmental conditions. At both the 2005 and 2008 Austin City Limits Music Festivals, the severe drought conditions and considerable winds blew enough dust into my lungs (and everyone else not dressed like Jesse James) that I got light-headed and nearly fainted more than once. Other than that, my biggest problem is claustrophobia, the prospect of what might happen in a room filled well over capacity - Smashing Pumpkins at Liberty Lunch in Austin in 1993; Jay-Z at House of Blues' grand opening party here a couple of years ago - more than anything that actually has.
Myself and the rest of team Rocks Off hope their tales of in-concert woe bring you a little late-afternoon amusement. Maybe they'll even keep you out of a similar situation at some future show. Each story is different, of course, but the bottom line seems to be the same: Stay out of the damn mosh pit. - Chris Gray
John S. Gray: Having been a Bad Religion fan since I was 14 years old, watching them up on the stage 17 years later and singing along to my favorite tunes may have induced a sort of concert euphoria. That's the only reason I can come up with for why I moved up to the front for the encore, directly into the area where I knew full well a mosh pit would break out.
Sure enough, the band came out and ripped into "Generator" and the pit immediately exploded. I figured "Hey, I'm only 31, I can hang with these kids" and allowed myself to be pulled along in the swirl, slam-dancing with the others. It wasn't long before I was cast to the ground, all of my considerable weight coming down - at an angle no less - onto my right kneecap.
It hurt. A lot. Some kind soul helped me to my feet and I hobbled right back to the front of the stage where I watched BR finish their encore, painfully aware of the throbbing in my knee and something warm and sticky running down my leg. Sure enough, I went to the bathroom after the show to discover that I was bleeding all over my jeans, which now had a giant hole in the knee. $200 Lucky Brand jeans! I mean, I got them for $15 at Sand Dollar, but still.
The scab was raw and sore while it was still fresh, and my knee swelled up alarmingly due to all the bruising. I had it checked out and found out it wasn't fractured, I'm just a gigantic pussy. It's almost totally healed now.
Neph Basedow: In December 2000, my 17-year-old self traveled to Chicago to see what I thought would be the Smashing Pumpkins' final show. It was frigid in Chicago that time of year; I'd say it was in teen temperatures. I was an admitted fanatic of the band. I even arrived at the Metro the night before the show and camped out in line with all the other crazy diehards, having "borrowed" our hotel-room blankets to keep warm. The 1,000-capacity venue was only half-full with fans; the other half was friends and family of the band. And critics.
The energy inside was high, to say the very least. We committed fans knew this would be the final time seeing our favorite band, as they were, their original(ish) lineup. Over half-way through the set, nearing its third hour, the band played an even rowdier version of "Fuck You (An Ode To No One)."
And so commenced the '90s mosh pit we'd hoped would retire with the turn of the millennium. One of the few girls so close to the stage, I found myself amidst a huge, rambunctious, sweaty mass of moshing dudes. One of them crowd-surfed, and his combat boot nailed me in right in the forehead. I had a nasty, colorful bruise - or, as I referred to it, a proud "battle scar" - for nearly a week.
Pumpkins fans were competitive; during one of the band's countless encores, some girl even younger than I was violently tried to inch her way past me and the other surrounding fans; we'd stood in the same spot near the stage for nearly four hours (the set ultimately spanned five hours total). She was pressing into me - hard - trying to make her way in front of me.
This time around, I was the one to blame (take credit?) for this random act of violence. I shoved her. With all my might. While I don't think I caused any injury, per se, it was enough for her to retreat toward the back, where she belonged, and I was satisfied.
Craig Hlavaty: I have been now going to shows for over half my life, and I have a multitudie of injuries and scars to chalk up to live rock and roll.
- Broken Nose: I booked this hardcore band, Burning Inside, to play Pearland High School's fall festival, Oilerfest. I'm pretty sure Black Congress singer Bryan Jackson played bass in that band. Anyway, I jumped in the pit and got my nose smashed a preppie guy who didn't know how to dance. I then bled all over the concrete next to a pop-punk bands merch table, and reportedly, on some of their shirts. I lost so much blood.
- Crushed Nuts: At Fallcore in 2001 at Fitzgerald's, I was dancing in the pit while Will to Live played and got kicked square in the nuts. Afterward, I was surprised to find the blood covering my khaki Dickies was not my own, but someone else's.
- Sunburn: I received an awful sunburn on my skull in Summer 2003 at the Warped Tour, so bad I had a headache for three days and ended up growing my hair out for months after to hide the scars. Good call, bro.
- Broken Elbow: I was driving a bicycle down a hill at SXSW in 2009 and hit a curb dead on to avoid a car about to hit me. I was on the way to see Houston's own Balaclavas play the Music Gym. My right elbow turned to soup under the skin and I was in a brace for a month and change. I did learn to type with one hand, even more so. Wink wink.
Matthew Keever: Never been a big fan of moshing, but I'm not judgmental of those who are, either. I've been pulled into a few pits in my time; whenever it happens, I try to play nice, and I usually make it out with only a few bruises (if that). But I have seen a few crazy mosh pits, in which people have fallen and others have failed to help them up.
Maybe it's because I'm not familiar with the culture of moshing, but aren't you supposed to help one another out? Unfortunately, from time to time, friendly pits turn into an unhealthy way for people to vent their anger. And inevitably, there's always that one drunk guy whose girlfriend just broke up with him, and he's flailing his arms and elbows around, ruining the fun for everyone else.
Shea Serrano: When I was in high school, some girl told me that Cowboy Mouth was coming to town and she "totally would do anything to go see them." She really liked that song about something that Jenny was saying because she was so smart.
I immediately interpreted that to mean that if I were to buy her tickets and take her, she'd let me see her boobs afterwards; live shots of boobs were high currency when I was 17. I bought them later that night.
At the show, a mosh pit broke out - this was the first white-people concert I had ever been to, so this was a completely foreign concept to me - and I stumbled into it by accident. While there, someone (guy, girl, monster, I'm not certain) fell from the sky right onto my face.
I got a black eye and nice little gash on my cheekbone. It was not very excellent. Alas, I saw nary a nipple that night. Also, I think someone dinged the shit out of my dad's car. Cowboy Mouth sucks.
Pete Vonder Haar: If we're not counting the time my then-girlfriend (now wife) slapped me for yelling "I love you!" at Tanya Donnelly during a Belly concert, or the thumb I don't remember dislocating at a Reverend Horton Heat show, it would probably be Jane's Addiction.
My roommate and I drove up to Dallas from Austin to catch Perry and the gang at the Bronco Bowl: Oak Cliff's famed entertainment complex, where in order to reach the auditorium you had to walk past the more family friendly bowling lanes, batting cages, and archery range.
It was a small venue, but during the opening act (24-7 Spyz), I remember how surprisingly uncrowded it seemed. We were up against the stage but still had ample room to move around and even dance.
The second the lights went down and the band kicked into "Up the Beach," it felt like the entire audience was shoving forward, because they were. I got slammed into a girl in front of me, pinning her to the barricade, and I consider it one of my greater feats of physical prowess that I was able to push back against the crowd long enough to allow her to escape over the wall. My story would be slightly different.
They went into an ungodly nasty version "Mountain Song" and the entire crowd rolled like an ocean swell. Not being "ocean size," I lost my feet and ended up face down on the floor, countless Doc Martens stomping on by back, arms, and head.
I fought to my hands and knees two or three times only to get knocked back down again. Reaching out blindly, I finally felt somebody's belt and yanked down, leveraging myself back into a standing position. Unfortunately for my mystery savior, he/she had just taken my place on the floor.
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I fought my way back to the rear, where oxygen was easier to come by. My side was hurting badly, and by the halfway point of the show I was thinking of taking off when a girl I didn't know asked if she could get on my shoulders for a better vantage point (she was about 5'3").
My adrenaline rush was fading and I could tell I had sustained some serious blows, but...what would you have done?
To this day, I don't know the extent of my injuries (no insurance). Looking back, I probably had at least one cracked rib (it hurt like a bitch to breathe for almost a week) and my arms and legs were black and blue for some time.
The worst part is, I never asked for that girl's number.