Stop Crowd Surfing! Only You Can Prevent this Awful Habit

We’ve all seen it. Some young sap gets dropped on his head from seven feet up. A girl rocking out gets pelted with a Dr. Marten-to-the-head from behind. Or a giant sweaty butt is in your face for 5 whole seconds because the guy not-so-gracefully soaring over you is too heavy to lift. All of these tragedies could be prevented by stopping the terrible habit we call “crowd surfing”.

This is what usually happens: A guy takes his 15 seconds of fame and scrambles to the stage, gives the thumbs up to his buddies, then dives into the crowd. People lift their hands to prevent their faces from being crushed by the weight of this a-hole, and when more people try to prevent the crushing and push the jerk away, he gets the sensation of effortlessly “surfing” as well as a better view of the band than everyone else. With a very dense crowd in a small narrow venue, such as the Cat’s Cradle, this concept actually can work beautifully without all of the crushing. But more often than not, this does not end well.

See the Vans Tour 2002 Compilation album cover for an example. This beach boy is having the time of his life, getting his ego massaged by cruising atop the crowd. But lets look closer. Does the guy smashed underneath his left hand look like he is having a good time? What about the three or four people under his hip bone and thighs? Those guys on the bottom are just there to see the show but now all they get to see is this surfer’s belly button. This is an appropriate example, because the Vans Warped Tour spawns the worst offenses of crowd surfing in existence- so much so that I rarely attend the tour anymore. In 2003 I was trying to watch a band and was constantly barraged in the back of the neck with other necks, heads, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and feet- which are always the worst. I stuck it out, but I couldn’t even enjoy the show. I tried to resist the urge to punch these disrespectful folks in their heads as they were crushing the top of my spine and my ears. My friend Marcus exercised his crowd surfing policy: he took the shoe off every foot that kicked him and threw it far away from its owner. He figured this might dissuade them from surfing next time.

It’s obvious that Marcus's policy hasn’t worked yet and surfers are still being obnoxious. If this whole punk rock thing is supposed to be about music, community, and fun, then I can’t thing of anything less punk rock than kicking massive numbers of people (who are trying to enjoy the music) in the head.

I can hear some of you saying: “This is blasphemy! Crowd surfing is an institution. Why are you stomping on my fun Sarah Terry? That’s not very punk rock Sarah Terry!” I agree, crowd surfing is an institution, but it’s one that we need to bring down. When your fun infringes on my right to enjoy a show that I have paid to see, then I oppose it. Now I am not saying I don’t mind a little rough-housing in the pit. I like to mix it up with the best of them. But that is a choice. When a person is launched into my personal space from above while I am just standing there, it is not a choice, and THAT is stomping on MY fun. When charges are brought up about “not being punk rock” I am reminded of a joke my friend Eric told me- at Warped Tour no-less! Eric said,“When was punk rock dead?” “When?” I say. “When the first young punk said it wasn’t,” he answers. Punk rock’s status is a dissertation for another day, but we can agree that we are all part of a community here, and most of us just want to hear the music.

If the North Carolina rock community were my own private utopia, I would make crowd surfing a crime except for those wielding instruments and microphones at the time. Since this is not my utopia and we are each responsible for actions that affect others, it is up to YOU to respect your fellow concert goers and stop crowd surfing! It is a hard habit to kick, much like smoking or cursing, but with some practice, you can be a gracious member of the rock community. Those who agree with me can help to discourage this behavior by refusing to put hands up to support this habit, removing shoes, or by pulling people down and gently bringing them back to earth.

I realize that there are some of you who don’t agree with anything I have said and still feel that you still must experience crowd surfing. If you must, I beg you, please prepare for this event. Ladies- don’t wear Doc Martens, and fellas- pull that sweaty hair back. Keep your feet up at all times. Keep your limbs locked straight to minimize sharp jabbing elbows. Don’t crowd walk, and be sure those around are prepared to hold you. Don’t just get your buddy to boost you onto the backs of unsuspecting fans. We are talking about respect here. If you must do it, do it ONCE, and do it when you are young…and lightweight.