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Article: Can I dance.
Writer: Brinepacer
Date Posted: 02/01/00

I don't remember the first time I moshed. It could've been at the 'Lark By The Lee' in Cork, a free concert with several now defunct Irish pop bands - The Pale, A House, and the sadly still functioning Mary Black. What I do know is that it was the first time I went crowd surfing, or crowd crawling as it was called then. I'd never seen it done before, but I can tell you it was fun. I was (I think) 12 or thirteen. For a year after I looked forward to the following 'Lark' so I could do the same again. I told all my friends in school (which wasn't many, but that's another column) about how much fun it was, and any chance we got, we tried it out, be it on a crowd for a fight, a queue for a bus, or any other opportunity that presented itself.

Forward about two years, the great 'Feile' comes to Cork. My cousin Richard and I started the 'mosh pit' on Friday morning, a pit that grew as Ash played. Throughout the day and into the next we went crowd surfing on average about once every ten minutes. It would've been more frequent, but the bouncers stage side take you WAY off to the side to deposit you back into the crowd. Saturday evening, things got a bit crowded up front (it was a football stadium with no barriers save one in front of the stage) so I surfed out. The crowd was swelling, we were in danger (two years later still a girl was killed at a Smashing Pumpkins concert in swells, more about that later), and I decided to get the fuck out of there. As I landed out the front, I was recognised by a bouncer, and ejected (sans wristband) from the whole stadium. Ah well, occupational hazard.

Two years later, Smashing Pumpkins gig in Dublin - 7000 or so people, no crowd barriers. Crowd swells, people fall, girl gets crushed to death. I think that's really fucked up, but what's worse is they blame it on people moshing and crowd surfing.... What the fuck, how does me jumping up and down affect too many uncontrolled, drunk bodies pushing to the front and falling down. If they had barriers, there would have been a lot less of a problem, and the situation would have been more manageable (notice: not that it wouldn't happen, that takes education, just more manageable). The band, to their credit, tried to tell people to step back and get things under control. To the detriment of Anne Marie (the girl who died) they followed their plea with 'Bullet With Butterfly Wings', their single at the time. Now, that was plain stupid, of course the crowd surged again and people went down. How so is this my fault for jumping up and down?

The reason I'm bring all this up? On my way home from college about a month ago I heard that At The Drive In were playing in Ireland that weekend. I immediately decided to travel to Dublin to see them. Unfortunately it transpired the gig was Sunday night, and i had exams Monday that I couldn't afford to miss. I later learned, however, that band members came out before the performance and asked the crowd not to mosh or crowd crawl. The band called it "sexist and sizeist". They think that my jumping up and down is me discriminating against women and small people. I'm sorry, but that's bullshit. I've been in mosh pits with women; I've passed women over my head at gigs, never a problem. Similarly, I've been in mosh pits with small kids of 12 or thirteen, much as I did years earlier. If they feel threatened and don't participate, that's their loss (and their choice), they are in no danger if they do so. However, disallowing me the choice so as to not make them feel bad is ridiculous. Added to that, the fact that ATDI are accepted as the most energetic live band since Nirvana makes it hypocrisy. How do they expect people to react to such an energetic display? Nod our heads vigorously? Tap our feet into the ground? Bang our pints against the table and shout 'Yeah' at random intervals? Sit politely and clap extra hard when the song finishes?

I have a video a friend of mine lent me (which I really should give back, sorry Ian) of Fugazi in Dublin circa 13 Songs. Fugazi are known for their stance on crowd behaviour. However, they accepted people wanted to dance, they paid their money in, they have the right (the same went when I went to see them the year before last in Cork). They did protest to stage diving for the reason that the punks were pissed up and continually bounced off them and their instruments and put them out of tune. A row broke out between band and audience, but the show went on. Never was their any suggestion that the crowd were discriminating against others by dancing. Presumably ATDI's opinions on crowd behaviour stem from the same school of thought, mutual respect. But what respect am I shown?

As I said to my friend Seamie when I heard about the incident, if I was there when ATDI put forward their terms, I would have protested. It seems ridiculous to me that I cannot jump up and down with a group of people on the basis that some may feel left out. I can understand to a point where they are coming from, I went to see Sick Of It All a few years ago and the dancing was way too violent for me. However, I chose to remove myself from the mosh pit, and did not blame the people dancing for my exclusion. I did not feel discriminated against because I was smaller than them, in height and stature. I just accepted that they were dancing, and it was too violent for me, so I stood back. And that's the crux of my argument, it is the individuals right to choose to dance or not. It is not the bands right to tell people they are being sexist, or sizeist. If they think dancing like this is stupid, say so. But you do not have the right to take away the audiences right to decide for themselves.