The First, age 16, just returned from the Ichthus Music Festival in Wilmore, KY.
Over a hundred bands on more than seven stages, four days running. Approximately one bajillion crazy spectators, mostly unwashed (they do have cold showers there, and there was a trailer where you could pay $3 for a hot shower, but the First did not elect to spend his cash this way, preferring instead to tough it out and get hosed down regularly in the mosh pit; more on that later).
Having decided to drive home in the middle of the night in order to beat thunderstorms (which relegated all festival-goers to their vans as a result of concert-wide ruling) and the end-of-Ichthus crush to leave, he and his group of friends arrived back at our church near-zombified, but happy.
He grabbed his gear and slid into the backseat of my car with one of his brothers and sighed happily. “There’s so much room in here,” he commented, stretching out in my little compact. He made the trip up to KY in the back of a 15-passenger van loaded with 15 passengers and their luggage, and rode back in the cab of a small pick-up truck with three passengers (luggage piled in the flatbed).
They all became quite close.
I waited interestedly to see if the urgent need for sleep would win out over the desire to give the first festival report.
“There were some incredible bands,” he summarized, reeling off the names of a dozen or more. “And the mosh action was phenomenal.”
Ahh, the mosh pits.
Two years ago I introduced the First and the Ice to mosh pits at Crüefest, their first major concert festival, telling them well in advance to keep away from the front of the stage, and carefully and repeatedly explaining what they should do if they found themselves caught up in a spontanteous mosh.
I had worried about it so much, and then I was the one who got caught in one up at the Rev Theory stage. Fortunately, only my sunglasses got broken before I could get out.
I was pleased to learn that moshing may have been somewhat institutionalized since then. Apparently at Ichthus, there are not only rules — you have to have pit hair to get in the pit (clever! disgusting!) — there were also clearly designated areas for moshing. There were also people keeping the area and the moshers hosed down. The First said that was because the lots were gravel, and the hoses were to keep down the dust. But it also cooled off the moshers quite nicely. Probably washed off any blood as well, hah.
But most notably, the mosh pits had lifeguards! Burly dudes in orange bandannas, who were the first to snatch up people who fell and who also stood as a living barrier between the crown and the moshers.
This I found truly heartening, no joke.
By the way, I highly recommend the documentary American Hardcore for footage of the early punk rock scene — you can watch the entire film online for free at this link and here’s the trailer, also embedded below, which will give you a good idea of what I mean. The footage that starts about 57 seconds in is forever etched on my brain, and I have always been exceedingly cautious at concerts because of this sort of thing happening during my early concert-going years.
So while my son related his various experiences in the mosh pits at the hardcore stage, I was incredibly grateful to hear him casually mentioning how well-monitored the pits were, and how, err, safe. Even when the bands themselves screamed for a Wall of Death (here’s a link where you can see the Wall of Death) the kids seemed to all take care of each other.
I mean, as much as you can “take care” in a mad rush to slam yourself bodily against an oncoming tide of humanity.
But here’s the interesting thing.
He mentioned something I’d never heard of before: pre-moshing group hugs. Apparently there was a guy who regularly helped initiate the moshing, and the First said that sometimes, when the pits were full but not yet moving, this guy would gesture wildly to get everyone’s attention, and then throw himself madly at his fellow moshers in a ferocious hug.
And as if by some predetermined agreement, an all-out, near violent (but nonetheless well-meant!) mass-moshpit hug would occur. In my mind it looks something like the exuberant dogpile you sometimes see in football and other sports, immediately after the team has pulled off an incredible win.
And after the hug, full-scale moshing.
I have no idea whether this was something unique to Ichthus (which is technically a Christian music festival) and/or this particular dude, or whether it’s a trend in hardcore mosh pits these days.
Either way, I kind of like the idea, don’t you?
Image by Rich Copley, posted on Copius Notes.