Tales from (just outside) the moshpit

As the summer music festival scene gets underway around Australia, guest blogger Louise Griffiths recalls her Big Day Out as a teenager.

In January 2001, I had just turned 17 and was going to the Big Day Out – the first time I had been to an outdoor music concert. I had my favourite yellow singlet on, with navy 3/4 pants, and a cute pair of blue sneakers. I was excited and nervous at the same time. One thing was for sure, I was not going anywhere near the moshpit! I was happy staying well away from the crowded area, preferring to sit back and watch as my friends planned to come and go from the moshpit throughout the day.

As we approached the entry, little naive me felt so nervous as I saw police officers wandering through the crowds – heaps of them! There were sniffer dogs, and even though I knew I had nothing to worry about, I was still a little freaked out. It was pretty confronting for a kid who had never seen anything like it before. I had grown up with family friends who were cops so I was never intimidated by police, but this was different.

We had our tickets scanned, our bags checked and our bodies patted down. Everyone was scanned from head to toe with those portable metal detectors, and I began feeling overwhelmed. Even as an adult festival-goer, the entry is still something that can be pretty confronting. It’s not unusual to see police escorting the ‘bad eggs’ away from the venue, or to see someone whose had a few too many ‘pre-drinks’ not even make it through the gates. To me that’s just stupid. You spend all that money on your ticket, waiting to see bands that have come to Australia purely for this tour, and you blow it by doing something so careless. Nope, I am there for the music, the atmosphere, and the people.

Big Day Out

Photo by Scott Sandars

But back to 2001. You could say I was a chicken; too worried about consequences for my own good. I spent the day with a group of friends, some of whom were over 18 and allowed to drink. Throughout the day, some of them offered to buy me drinks, but I didn’t take them up on the offer. I wasn’t interested in maybe ruining my day. I’d saved my Maccas’ wages for over a month to buy my ticket! I didn’t want to get caught and get kicked out.

As the day went on, I recall watching the moshpit at the main stage; watching them all packed in, watching security carry people out of the mess that it was. It was definitely not for me. I had heard stories of the year before when my friend (who was 15 at the time) was waiting at the main stage for an hour for a band she wanted to see. As they came on stage everyone pushed forward and she was stuck up against the barricade. She loved it, and still tells the story! But no thanks. At 27, I’m still quite content with standing back, finding a little space where I can see the stage, have a dance, and talk to my friends without screaming at them. Oh, and I don’t have the sweat of some random all over me!

The next Big Day Out I went to was nine years later in 2010, and it was completely different. The Big Day Out organisers had implemented crowd limits, where once the area for a stage is full, no one else can get in there. And they don’t just pack it full till literally no one else can fit.  There may appear to be plenty of space, but they’ve introduced the limitations to avoid crowd crushing injuries. Everyone at the Big Day Out has the same ticket, and if you want to see your favourite band, you have to get to the stage early to make sure you get in.  The safety precautions are in place, and security for the moshpit at the main stage is so tight, you can’t even take your drinks in there and you are immediately ejected from the venue if you play up.  I can tell you, I wouldn’t be getting on the wrong side of some of those bouncers!

So, I am planning on going to the Big Day Out in 2012 at the ripe old age of 28.  And I have no doubt whatsoever that I’ll probably still be freaked out by the excessive police presence, excited as I wait while my bag is searched and my ID is checked (only because I always worry that they think it’s fake because I do NOT look 28!), and overwhelmed as I watch the ‘safer-and-tamer-but-still-not-my-cup-of-tea’ moshpit.

Louise Griffiths is a Journalism graduate from the University of Western Sydney and was an intern at The Kids Are All Right in November 2011. Louise also helped research our Parent’s Guide to Outdoor Music Festivals.






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