It isn’t my “first rodeo” as the saying goes, but the anticipation and excitement never gets stale.
The floor is packed. I am shoulder to shoulder with some huge guys. Some of whom I know will be missing their shirts by the end of the show.
They mostly patronize me, quite literally talking over my head about how long such a small, skinny girl would last this close to the front. As if I wasn’t standing there, 6 inches under their big mouths.
And then it happens.
The entire arena goes pitch black.
A roar goes through the crowd and my small place on the floor is instantly gone. I am crushed against the big guys who, although moments before seemed vaguely amused by my presence, are now ignoring it completely and squishing me to the point of nonexistence.
I feel my heart jump.
A single guitar chord pierces the darkness. The contractions of the crowd grow stronger as a thunder roars through my ears.
In that moment the crowd is one and it is surging forward with that chord still hanging in the thick, smoke-filled air.
More guitar teases ring out. Not quite making up a song, but revealing to the audience that yes, that which they came to see is lurking out there in the darkness.
The horde becomes more persistent. Like lemmings to the cliff, they follow those guitar taunts and the throb of a bass warming up wanting to be as close as possible to the magic.
Just then the stage lights up and before my eyes have time to adjust to what I am looking at the first notes of the first song fill the arena and I am deaf to anything but the rhythm of the bass.
I get tunnel vision and do not see the pushing masses around me.
I use the repeated constrictions of the mob to thrust me forward. I wriggle in between massive muscles and damp T-shirts.
I step on feet and elbow sides.
Someone asks if I want to be lifted. I shake my head without uttering a sound and continue forward. If I am lifted, I will go over the front and be forced to walk to the back, where I will have to start my quest over again. There is no time for that.
I am so close. I can feel the heat of the lights. My stomach is thumping with the bass drum. I am almost there.
Just then a huge circle of metal heads forms around four sweaty bare torsos. They push each other. More torsos get involved.
This is not going to stop me.
I push one of the torsos out of my way, my hands sliding on his dripping skin. He turns with rage in his eyes, but doesn’t know what to do to the skinny T-shirt staring back at him, so he steps out of the way.
This is where I stop to take a breath. The first song is done and its follow up has started…just as quickly and heavily as the first. Do I stop now? Do I enjoy the view from here? There are only two rows of sweaty obstacles in my way. Do I respect their position and give in?
Hell no. I am too damn close.
I suck in my breath and squeeze into the extinct space between bodies one arm out in front of me until I feel the rail.
I grab hold and pull myself through the throng.
I have arrived.
The air that was once heavy and damp with sweat and song lifts briefly, giving me a reprieve for a split second.
Most of the looks I get are of confusion mixed with respect. Even the bouncers give me the nod of a job well done. And I notice they keep an eye on me.
I watch their hands as they point to the surfers as they approach the front, and instead of reaching up to help, I bend myself forward to avoid the crippling weight. The bouncers, in turn, reach over me to grab the flailing bodies.
I am safer here than stuck in the masses.
This is where I will stay for the next couple hours. I will raise my arms and scream along to the songs I know well. I will nod my head and high five others around me when the obscure favorites are played that only we know.
Because we are super fans.
And tomorrow? I will have the bruise across my ribs to prove I was there. That I could see their lips move. That the singer made eye contact with me.
I will lovingly add the ticket stub to my growing pile.
And dream of who will come through our city next.