Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Something Different

WARNING: This blog post has nothing to do with mountain biking but it does feature a human powered two-wheel vehicle and it's my blog anyway so there.

Five hours before showtime
My vision blurred momentarily as the low frequency sound wave rippled through the fluid in my eyeball. I saw the hair on Sara's head move with each beat of the bass drum. We were in a decrepit parking lot in a rundown industrial section of Philadelphia, hanging on the front of an outdoor stage. I was with Sara and her friend Kristina watching the second of four bands – Young Guns – who would be followed by Halestorm and … get ready … Bullet for my Valentine. I was there as chaperon but it turned out my eyes would not just be jiggled but would be opened in some unexpected ways.

The performance on the stage was not particularly musical, but it was loud and it was honest and it was stirring in an intensely primal way. I was captivated in spite of my old-school music snobbery. The lead guitar was thrashing his instrument and the front man pouring out his soul. It didn’t take long for the crowd to warm up and soon we had the first crowd surfer riding over the crowd in a sea of hands, totally trusting of the thousands of strangers who were lifting him, carrying him toward the stage.

Gus working the crowd
The crowd roared their approval and before long there were more surfers up, riding the wave in the crowd. When they reached the edge of the stage, the crowd would heave them over the barricade into the arms of the (very large) security guards. The guards would put them on their feet and send them to the side of the stage to rejoin the crowd and do it again. At times there were half a dozen surfers floating toward the stage at once. We saw a guy in a wheelchair surf the crowd. Within seconds he was out of the wheelchair, floating, riding the wave. Once the surfer and his wheelchair were over the barricade, security him back in his chair, and wheeled him back into the crowd. Twenty minutes later he was back up, surfing to the stage to be put back into his wheelchair again.

The crowd was churning pretty good when Gus (Young Guns front man) called for a mosh pit. Immediately the pit formed in the middle of the crowd. People were throwing themselves into the mosh, bouncing off each other, getting knocked around and occasionally knocked down. It was rough and you could definitely get a little banged up in there, but it wasn’t angry and it wasn’t hurtful. It was a tribal expression of total abandon, surrendering to the energy pulsating from the stage and the crowd.

With the steady flow of crowd surfers, the churning mosh pit, and the band nearly self destructing on the stage it was hard to tell where the show actually was because it was was one huge seething mass of humanity and music and vibration, on and off the stage, feeding off each other, emotionally charged and physically bonded. It wasn’t a stage performance, it was a full immersion primordial soup experience.

Now let's get back to my beloved teenage daughter Sara and her friend Kristina, the two sixteen year-olds who got me here. Remember how important music was to you as a teenager? How the sound and the lyrics spoke to you in profound ways? Now put yourself in Sara’s shoes, at this show. This is her band and her music, the music that speaks to her very soul. This music is shaking her to the core and she is immersed in a sea of thousands who also relate intensely to this music. They get it. And they are all out of their minds, the mosh pit is churning, she is in the front row, hanging over the barricade, and Gus (front man and heart throb) is singing. To her. He is looking at her and he is pointing at her and he is singing those words she knows by heart to her! I can only imagine what that felt like for her, but I can tell you that being her father and seeing her in this moment almost brought me to tears it was so beautiful.

After the show, the girls spent way too much money on t-shirts at the "merch" tables, and we tracked down a couple of the performers including Gus. This would be the next surprise. I expected a frazzled raw nerve, a suicidal wild man. What we got instead was a gentleman who was very gracious and attentive to my 16 year old and her friend. He engaged them, listened to them, spend time with them and he gave them the experience of a lifetime.

The girls were pretty clear as the show wound down that their lives had just peaked, right there. This night was the very pinnacle of their young lives. I know there will be more to come for them, but really at that moment they were at the pinnacle and I was too, thanks to them. I think I had forgotten what a breathtaking view it can be from up there. Thank you girls…


  1. I read this and thought about what every girl would wish for if they could hand pick their father. Now, undoubtedly those wishes change at different points of a girl's life. At 5, it's simple, we just want to be taken care because we don't know any better (and maybe a fort and tickle; or two). At 10, we want a little adventure and to be shown what life has to offer. At 15, we just want you to see it from our side and to be "cool" enough to understand us. At 20, we want you to let us "go" and be who we are. At 25, it becomes less about what wish from you and more about what we wish for our (potential) little ones; that they can have a man they respect and share incredible moments with like the one you described. At whatever stage of a girl's life, I'd think we would all agree, you'd be hand chosen every time.


  2. @C those are very wise and kind words, I have been rolling them around in my head all day. I agree we did OK with the 5 and the 10. I am trying hard on 15 although I stub my toe now and then. The thought of 20 is still going down pretty hard, but hopefully I can grow along with her and we'll arrive there in relative unison. 25 sounds pretty damn good.