Last night, with ten years since I last saw their show, I stood before the Mighty Mighty Bosstones performing live.
I made the two-hour drive from Michigan to the Metro in Chicago solo. Kristin is always willing to keep me company to watch a show, but she had no interest in spending time in the crowd and in the mosh pit as I desired, so she gave me leave to head to the city on my own.
The band I hadn't seen in ten years, the Chicago concert drive by myself (the way I had so many times during my college years), and a crowd of fellow thirty-somethings seeing a band that first crossed their paths during high school; these things all served to transport me back to my late teens and early twenties.
I'll say this: I can mosh and skank as well as any time in my life. In fact, I might say that breaking thirty has taught me a thing or two.
The Bosstones were in full form. I don't know if ever a time existed that I could move and sing with such energy in an enclosed space while wearing a full polyester suit, but that's exactly what they did.
I looked around the room many times, taking in the crowd around me. It wasn't a crowd of high school punk/ska fans, not entirely. Most of the crowd were like myself, folks in their thirties with careers. Responsibilities. Some with kids. I don't mean kids at home. No, they brought their kids along.
There's something magical about seeing a little girl on her dad's shoulders in the back wearing a tiny Bosstones t-shirt. And an eight-year old kid in a mohawk and polyester suit being pulled on stage to dance and sing with the band.
I don't have children of my own, but I started to think about the day I may. I imagined a scenario where my child wants to go to a concert and my questioning and investigation leads me to find it's a punk/ska band. And I'd be proud.
Of course, there would be rules. I imagined the conversation would involve me saying something like "I'm not going to pretend that telling you not to go into the crowd or to stay out of the mosh pit would do any good, so let's go over the rules". And then I started to come up with the rules:
OK, child, dear spawn of mine. Remember, at a punk/ska show, there's really only one rule. The rest are just more detailed examples of this one, so we'll call this our Golden Rule:
Take care of yourself and those around you. (Not a bad rule for life, really)
Wait, I'm not finished yet. Now, the following are just more detailed depictions of the Golden Rule, but they are important to consider:
1. If you willingly enter the crowd or the mosh pit area, don't complain about being pushed or hit. Just watch your teeth.
2. Never stand with your back to the mosh pit. The reasoning here should be obvious.
3. There's no wrong or right way to do things when it comes to fashion or dancing. It's a punk show. That's kind of the point. Look how you want. Do what you want. Just as long as you're not hurting anyone. Pointy piercings in a mosh pit are a reasonable exception to this rule. That guy's a jerk. 4. For the love of music, please wear ear plugs. (Hopefully, by the time I have to pass these rules to a child of my own, ear plugs at concerts will have gone the same route as bike helmets and lost their stigma. It should. I mean, they have those cool "plug without muffle" concert plugs now. I didn't find out about those until I had hundreds of shows under my belt.)
5. If someone falls down in the mosh pit, pick them up. If someone loses their hat, try to find it. This is a punk/ska show, not some metal jerk-fest. (no offense to the metal fans out there)
6. Have a spare t-shirt in the car. See below if you have to ask why.
7. That is not your sweat. I guess this isn't really a rule, but it's important nonetheless.