Mosh Pit Memories: My First (and Only) Stage Dive
Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth
Mosh pits, stage diving, and crowd surfing are all “business as usual” at rock shows nowadays. Coming of age as I did during the Golden Age of Thrash Metal in the U.S. (the late 80s/early 90s), I took part in my share of mosh pits at concerts in small clubs in and around the New York/New Jersey area. Back then, a concert wasn’t considered a “good show” till you saw at least one person leaving the “pit” with a bloody nose.
The Gold Medal event of the Mosh Pit Olympics, of course, was the Stage Dive – when an audience member would actually climb up onto the stage while the musicians were playing and then jump back into the audience. It was a move that few were brave enough to try, and even fewer were lucky enough to pull off successfully. Most of the rock clubs that I frequented didn’t allow stage diving due to the risk of injuries to both performers and audience members, and those who tried it were usually hauled off and thrown out by club security as soon as they set foot on the stage. If a would-be “diver” happened to interfere with a band member, knock over a mic stand or damage any equipment, he (or she) might even get a bonus parking lot ass-kicking to remember the night by.
In short: stage diving was stupid. But everyone in my crowd of college-boy rock nerds was dyin' to try it, at least once. My chance finally came in early 1992 at a now-defunct New York City rock club called the Marquee (a short lived sister club to the legendary London rock venue of the same name) at a gig by a band called Scatterbrain. Don’t feel bad if you don’t remember them – I doubt many do – but at the time Scatterbrain were fairly hot shit due to a catchy, minor hit single called “Don’t Call Me Dude.” They played a funky amalgam of thrash metal with a touch of alternative rock that was kinda like a less artsy, more juvenile Faith No More. Their debut album, Here Comes Trouble (1990) is a great listen to this day and still ranks as a minor classic around my house.
"Don't Call Me Dude"
My favorite Scatterbrain track was “Don’t Call Me Dude,” and as my friends and I entered the Marquee on that fateful evening, I boastfully proclaimed that I was “officially calling stage dive rights” during that song. My friends had heard me make this claim at other shows by other bands and I'd never had the balls to pull it off, so naturally they rolled their eyes at me and said, "Yeah, OK, Keith. Suuuuuuurrre you are." They knew me well enough by now to know that I talked a good game, but the possibility of me actually doing a dive were somewhere between slim to none. I’d never been to the Marquee before but I’d been to enough shows in New York by this point to know that in all likelihood, stage diving would be banned anyway, just like it was in most other clubs I’d attended.
...Imagine my surprise, then, when the opening band came on (a then-unknown combo called Ugly Kid Joe, who would crash the top 10 only a few weeks after this gig thanks to their catchy hit single "Everything About You") and I saw people climbing up onto the stage and diving back off again every two seconds throughout their set, with no interference whatsoever from club security. "Crap," I thought, "I might actually have to go through with it this time." My fate was officially sealed when my friend Chris jumped up onto the stage during Ugly Kid Joe's set, stole a beer off one of their amps, and jumped back into the crowd with it. I had to give him points for style, but at the same time I remember thinking, "Well, that makes it official, dammit. I'm gonna have to do it now. I'm not gonna let him show me up!"
Ugly Kid Joe - "Everything About You"
Dive! Dive! Dive!
When Scatterbrain finally hit the stage a short time later, all was mayhem. I positioned myself at the front of the stage and dodged slam dancers, ducked stage divers and passed crowd surfers over my head as I grooved to Scatterbrain's hilarious heaviness. I could've hopped on stage during any of my other favorite Scatterbrain songs, of course, but since I'd told my friends that I wanted to do it during "Dude," I waited. "Don't Call Me Dude" finally came, serving as the “grand finale” at the end of Scatterbrain’s set, since it was their most well known song. All my friends' eyes were upon me as the song started, so I sucked in a deep breath, said a silent prayer, and hoisted myself up onto the lip of the stage.
I should point out at this juncture that I'm a pretty big guy... 6 foot 6 and a half, to be exact. Add on a heavy black leather jacket and a mop of long hair topped with a baseball cap (my traditional concert-going uniform in those days), and I must've looked like Godzilla rising from the ocean. Once I was onstage, I turned to face the audience, struck an appropriately triumphant fists-in-the-air pose and leapt headfirst back into the crowd... who, naturally, parted like the Red Sea.
Even though my descent into the audience only took a fraction of a second, I can still remember it all quite vividly, as if I fell in slow motion. As I headed down towards the floor, the only people who were still in my "landing zone" were my three friends, Chris, Sean and Dave... all of whom were looking up at me with arms spread to catch me and "OH SH*T" expressions plastered across their faces. I crash landed directly into the middle of them, and we all tumbled across the club floor like bowling pins. Somehow I managed to bash my wrist and thumb against the floor during the melee, which had already begun to swell up by the time Scatterbrain said their thank-you-and-good-nights and we headed out to the subway. I ended up with a badly sprained thumb that hurt like hell for a week or so, but I didn't care. I had officially earned my Gold Medal in Mosh Pitting and I had the battle scar to prove it.
I repeat: Stage Diving is stupid. But it's stupid in a totally awesome way that everyone should do at least once. Just don't tell my kids I said that. :)
© 2015 Keith Abt