You’ve gotta fight for your right…to stay at the front of the pit

I am mildly claustrophobic/agoraphobic, and am therefore NOT a big fan of tightly packed crowds. In fact, despite being an inveterate shopaholic, I refuse to set foot in a mall during the month of December for that reason. (Side note: I think it’s a sign of the impending apocalypse that Microsoft Word recognized “shopaholic” as a legitimate, accurately-spelled word. Maybe the Mayans were right. The end is near. Repent now.)

But I love concerts more than I hate crowds, so I brave them pretty frequently to see some of my favorite bands. At Bruce shows, that’s not much of a problem. If I’m in the pit (which I usually am, because once you’ve been in the pit, you never want to be in seats again, even if they’re REALLY good seats), and it gets too crowded, I’ll retreat to the back of the pit, where I’m still super close to the stage, but have room to breathe.

Taken from the pit in DC, 5/18/09

Although to be honest, that’s not much of a problem at Bruce shows, because it’s an older crowd. They may be desperate to get closer to Bruce, but at least they’re not moshing or crowd surfing. Bruce is the only one who crowd surfs at a Bruce show, and I’m not going to object to HIS butt passing over my head.

Taken from the pit during Bruce’s final show at the Spectrum, 10/20/09

At other shows, however, the pit can be scarier than Lindsay Lohan driving after hitting the crack pipe.

I love being in the pit though, so over the years I’ve developed some tricks to try to protect some of my personal space when I’m at the front of the crowd.

First of all, it’s better to be off to the side on the rail than dead center but a few people in. The reason for this is simple: at the rail, you have a certain amount of inviolable personal space that no non-rail position can provide. For a claustrophobe in a crowded situation, that’s worth its weight in gold.

So how do you guarantee a spot on the rail? At a Bruce show, you can’t. He uses a lottery system for the pit, which is great sometimes because it means you don’t have to camp out for a week to be in the front.  I lucked out at the show below (second person back in front of Bruce, right in front of my uncle, who’s wearing the white baseball cap).

Of course, it sucks like a Dyson when someone three numbers after you gets called and you wind up way far in the back.

For other shows, it means getting there early. Now I’m chronically late for everything I do, but I plan to arrive insanely early for concerts when I want to be in the front. Therefore when I’m fifteen minutes late, I’m still earlier than most of the other fans who DIDN’T plan so far in advance.

You also can’t skip the opening acts when you want to be in the front. For me, that’s a bonus though because I love opening bands. Sometimes they’re awful, but I’ve found a lot of new music that I’ve really liked from checking out the opening bands. (Most recently notable: Frank Turner and Fake Problems, both from Gaslight Anthem shows… Check them out, they were awesome!)

Once you have your spot on the rail, TAKE UP AS MUCH ROOM AS YOU CAN. Seriously. Pretend you’re really fat and hoard as much space as you would need if you were six times your own body weight. Pay special attention to hoarding the space behind you. People will fill that space in once the show starts, but the more room you can take up before the show, the better your chances of being able to breathe when it starts.

There are two words I can’t stress enough when you’re in the pit: DEFENSIVE ELBOWS. I learned this trick at crowded bars, and it’s NECESSARY at a concert. If someone is invading your space, keep your elbows out. If you make it uncomfortable enough for them to crowd you, they’ll eventually stop and try to squeeze in somewhere else.

Most people aren’t comfortable in high heels for a whole concert, but I am, and this works to my advantage. Because if someone behind you is crushing you up against the railing (like Saturday night’s Gaslight Anthem show in Charlottesville—true story: I have a massive bruise along my rib cage from getting slammed into the stage. But it was an AWESOME show, so it was well worth the bruised ribs and possible internal bleeding), a stiletto heel to the foot is your only available weapon. And it REALLY works well.

My last trick comes courtesy of my great grandfather, who gave this advice to my grandmother for riding the bus: keep a hatpin handy. Now I don’t know where to get a hatpin in this day and age, but safety pins are super cheap and easy to conceal. If the situation behind you starts to feel like a proctology exam, stick an open safety pin in your back pocket pointing out. No one is going to keep grabbing your ass if they’re getting stabbed every time they do.

So if you’re ever behind me at a concert and decide to rush the stage, be warned. I’m never going to be rude or start moshing, but I’ll fight for my spot in the pit if you make me. And that has nothing to do with being claustrophobic or afraid of crowds.

It’s because guys with guitars are REALLY hot.