One more time won’t hurt, I thought. And it didn’t. At least for a little while.

Honestly, if there had been seats at the venue, like there are in an arena or theater, buying the concert tickets would have been an easy choice. There are only a few things more pleasing to me than sitting and watching a good band perform live, and most of those things involve being naked.

Remove seats from the equation, and you’re talking about a lot of standing around … at best. At worst, you’re talking about a mosh pit.

For a longtime metalhead such as myself, it’s amusing to note how many non-metal fans aren’t sure what a mosh pit is, exactly. They vaguely associate mosh pits with the music they warned their children not to listen to, so they assume it’s something evil — a goat-sacrificing ritual, perhaps, or some kind of stadium-wide satanic pact made in blood. They’re nothing of the sort, although admittedly it would be kinda cool to see a goat at a concert. Not to harm it in any way — I’m not into that stuff — but because goats are cute. In fact, they should be mandatory for <SET ITALICS>all</SET ITALICS> concerts. Wouldn’t you love to see a random goat at the Kenny Chesney show? Of course you would.

No goats in the mosh pit, though. Too brutal, as I rediscovered only recently.

Mosh pits typically begin during the speediest, heaviest songs in a band’s set, the ones with breakneck rhythms and fretwork that could blow the quills off a porcupine. In the standing-room-only section, on the floor in front of the stage, a churning begins to happen, a brewing cyclone of young drunkards and over-pierced malcontents. After a while the cyclone becomes a full-blown tornado and a circle opens up amidst the standing masses, a rapidly rotating maelstrom of bodies and pumping limbs. It’s like the heavy metal version of a country line dance, only way more chaotic, and someone usually ends up eating concrete.

Sounds violent, and it can be … but not maliciously so, if that makes sense. There’s a certain mosh pit etiquette: You can shove and jostle and ram into people, but it’s a faux pas to outright hit anyone. If someone hits the ground, the action halts and someone helps the fallen regain their feet. And if someone doesn’t want to participate, they don’t have to — although the more passive concert goers in the crowd may be intermittently pinballed around by the pit’s rhythmic undulations. It’s like a raucous rally for a rabble-rousing dictator, only instead of Mussolini on the stage it’s four long-haired musicians who look like the cast of “Designing Women.”

Pits were sort of fun when I was 21, 22. They were a way to channel the band’s energy, to blow off steam. Now that I’m older, calmer and more prone to lower back pain, I prefer the seats. I sip a beer, I enjoy the music, I watch the tattooed freaks stomp around and froth at the mouth. Fun stuff.

Only, when I went to see Megadeth in New Hampshire a couple weekends ago, there were no seats at all. Standing room only. Gulp.

Which I knew going in, of course. When considering whether to go, the lack of seating arrangements was a consideration. Ultimately my love of the band won out. After 30-plus years of recording and touring, Megadeth is in the mid-to-late autumn of its career, so when they come to within shouting distance I’m usually right there with my faded tour shirt and a fist raised high in the air. I have to seize every opportunity to see them before they drink themselves out of the music business and into retail jobs putting price stickers on juice blenders.

Strategically, I knew I had to come up with some sort of plan to avoid unwanted physical entanglements. Standing in one place for 2 1/2 hours is bad enough, but it’s worse when you’ve got a sweaty, drunken lout pinwheeling his arms in the general vicinity of your face.

It’s my luck, I guess, that my favorite musicians tend to be old farts. Older bands typically draw older crowds, and while there are still a good amount of under-30 animals who show up to these shows looking for a cathartic bruising, many are people like me, nearing middle age and in no damn mood to be swatting away half-crazed hellhounds. Rock and metal fans in my age range want a simple concert experience. They want to play air guitar to their favorite solos, swing their arms to all the good drum fills, shout along to whatever cheesy lyrics are on offer, and go home happy. That’s it. We’ll save the bruises for when we fall down the cellar stairs with a load of laundry.

Looking around the venue, it was clear there were plenty of greybeards like myself. This made the strategy simple: Find the point in the crowd where the silver whiskers and receding hairlines began, and plant myself there. So I did. And it was great. Another show under my belt, and I escaped it without some rum-swilling idiot taking me out at the kneecaps.

Regardless, the excessive standing did a number on my beleaguered glutes, which made me ask myself the question: How long can I keep doing this? The floor in front of the stage belongs to the animals, and I left that group forever the minute I started playing Scrabble on the computer. But one day soon my geezer bands will fade into the night; part of me feels obligated to see them whenever I can, seats or no seats. It’s part of an unspoken pact between band and fan: They give me joy, and I give them my body.

A quote from Michael Corleone in “The Godfather Part III” sums it up nicely:

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

— Jeff Lagasse is an editor at a Portland media company, except in an alternate universe where he had the patience to learn guitar. That other Jeff is currently shredding it up in front of a bunch of bonkers buffoons. Contact non-rocker Jeff at [email protected]


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