Teens throwing chairs at B104 Night, Mayfair

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The crowd sang along to Chiddy Bang’s “Mind Your Manners”

B104 night at Mayfair every Memorial Day weekend in Allentown is a great bargain:  $5 entrance fee for nationally known acts.    It’s usually a bit crowded, but where else can you can get $5 seats where you can see the stage? A few years ago we waited a couple of hours and got in the front section to see Jesse McCartney.

This year was Chris Rene from X factor, Chiddy Bang, and Boys like Girls.  My husband and I thought it would be fun to go, and we particularly wanted to see Chris Rene from the X factor. We arrived to a mostly full tent after a rainstorm, and found 3 empty chairs in the middle of a sea of teenagers. As we sat, I saw a ripple of reaction from the teens around us: adults don’t belong here. Girls with long straight hair wearing tiny jeans shorts and crop tanks, smart phones in backpockets visible as they scan the crowd to see who’s here, who is arriving.

President Obama knows the right gestures to use when singing Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe”, despite several dubbed viral videos which make him him look pretty… nerdy.  Start by teaching kids gestures that go with songs from preschool like the Itsy-Bitsy Spider and the Chicken Dance. By about 4th grade sleepovers,  girls learn to lock eyes while singing a key phrase, often accompanied by a gesture. but :      “ you can’t keep singing at the same person, that would be awkward, you only like sing a line or two”. For call me maybe, make your telephone at “call me” and shrug at “maybe”.

I see clues that these kids know each other, that they must be from the same school. Open mouthed smiling girls with braces check their phones, and look at each other and laugh.  Girls sit in rows, a few braiding each other’s hair, wet after being caught in the rain. Boys sit behind in groups,  a brave girl or two sitting with a date in the boundary. Finally, Capcee starts the warm-up music: “Teach Me How to Dougie”.  A couple of  teens stand up and try out a couple of dance moves, scanning faces and gauging reactions to each movement. Everyone knows words of the songs , they know which parts to sing aloud, locking eyes briefly and singing phrases at each other. Girls ignore the  boys, until more dominant boys show up at the last minute, striding right to the  most popular girls.

By the time the DJ Capcee gets to “Low”, by Flo Rida, the kids are all up: lines of carefully set chairs block their forward surge.  My daughter gets up to dance, but I caution her to stay  back, sensing her danger in not belonging. While my daughter is standing,  a girl brazenly comes and sits in her seat next to me – I pull my daughter back down into her seat to re-claim the space, and the girl hops over into a boy’s lap.  There are fleeting touches, and a couple who might be graduating middle school risk a first kiss.   Someone starts throwing  chairs into a pile, helter skelter, to make room for the arriving kids, who snake forward.   They never look at us, but their bodies tell us we are invaders in their territory: they  wall us off with the chair pile.   I freeze when someone taps my shoulder from behind, knowing that we are  blocking the path, and parents eyes don’t belong here . The crowd shouting:  “Sex Sex sex sex” , along with a song that I have never heard before, but that they all know well.

After the concert, I did the research…….my sources tell me that  probably they weren’t actually shouting “Sex” it was probably “Shots”, by LMFAO featuring lil Jon,  a song I hadn’t heard before. It sure sounded like sex.

Girls turn to each other and make eye contact, singing phrases, imitating gestures:  Applebottom jeans, boots with the fur…lowlowlowlowlowlowlow.  One girl is suddenly  spit out from the group, and connects with friends on the edge  explaining  with animated gestures. As the chair barrier piles up, my invisible family is a rock in the stream, as teens file around us to join with the larger group. Kids slip and slide, climbing over the chair pile to get  past , and  suddenly the prettiest, best dressed  girl throws a chair in our direction with barely restrained viciousness.

Concert riots are nothing new. This picture of thrown chairs is from a 1980 riot at a Black Sabbath concert. In 1980, fights and thrown chairs resulted in the cancellation of a free Drake concert at South Street Seaport.

We finally give up and head for safety in the periphery.  We excuse ourselves to pass through a group of teens dressed in black: we make eye contact and smile. They smile back with gentle understanding, and suddenly  we are visible again. After we move, the crowd continues to heat up, bumping each other, standing on chairs, pumping fists, pushing forward. I take a tour around the crowd, and I see piles of chairs all the way across the crowd.  It wasn’t personal.

Rob Harvey and Vose. I took my daughter to see my favorite local band, Vose, at Crocodile Rock in Allentown. We had to listen to a heavy metal band before Vose went on. I hadn’t seen live moshing before, and I wasn’t quite sure of the etiquette. It wasn’t that hard for me to figure out to move back away from the circle pit, but  a teenager  with autism might need a cue to figure out where to stand. My older daughter is in college — she’s a much better teacher for this kind of situation.

As the last Chiddy Bang song comes to an end, a security guard wades into the vortex of the group of teens, right into the spot we left, and says something to the charged up teens.   Suddenly, the group scatters, quickly leaving the concert as if with one mind. A Mayfair official gets up on stage and tells the audience they must follow rules: no climbing on chairs, no pushing forward.  But the intensity is already diminished, the danger is over now. The crowd settles listening to calm pop music, and  event volunteers come and rearrange the chairs.

Capcee was a master at revving the kids up, but the security guards knew just how much intervention was needed to allow a good time, but prevent a riot.  This wasn’t even a newsworthy  event:  concert review don’t mention any near melee at the concert.   This is just everyday group behavior at a concert.

I have so many questions. How can I possibly teach a  teenager with autism safe concert behavior?  I had been thinking to invite some of the girls from my social skills group to this concert, but I hesitated. Caution…..often a good thing!   I was surprised to see so many young teens without any adults checking on them. Where were those helicopter parents?  If there were any parents of these kid at Mayfair, they were so far away as to be useless.   The security did manage to prevent real harm, but I can’t imagine that the parents of these kids would be okay with this.    I chose to bring my daughter  so that I could teach her — well, I really thought it might be fun for her– but I couldn’t let her move  into such a complex social situation.   We remain more connected to our kids with autism, who, like the kids wearing black,  are vulnerable and have no protection from the pack.

Here’s a list of popular songs that come up at dances and other occasions.  This list is somewhat different than just “what’s in now”- some songs are important in the context of school dances and parties.   I’m sure I’ve missed some.

  • Lady Gaga, Just Dance, Telephone
  •  Beyonce,  All the Single Ladies
  •  Mary J. Blige Family Affair
  • Sarah Bareilles, I’m Not Gonna Write You a Lovesong
  •  Chiddy Bang, Ray Charles
  • Jennifer Lopez   On the floor
  • C&C Music Factory,  Everybody Dance Now
  • OutKast, Hey Ya
  • Pink, Let’s get this Party Started
  • Nelly, Hot in Heere
  • Miley Cyrus, Party in the USA
  •  Taio Cruz Dynomite
  • Bruno Mars, Grenade
  • Ciara, 1 2 step
  • Right said Fred, I’m too sexy
  • Justin Timberlake, Sexyback
  • Rihanna, We found love ,  Birthday, Don’t Stop the Music
  • LMFOA Party Rock Anthem, Shots, I’m Sexy and I know it
  • Flo rida, Low,  Right Round, Club Can’t Handle Me, Good Feeling
  • Cali Swag District, Teach me how to Dougie
  • Cee-Lo,  Forget you (there is another version with F you)
  • YMCA/Cotton Eye Joe/Electric Slide/Chacha slide /Macarena
  • TikTok,  Ke$ha
  • Eiffel65 , Blue
  • Journey, Midnight Train (aka Don’t stop believing)
  • Katy Perry, California Gurls, Firework, Hot ‘n cold
  • Green Day, Time of Your Life
  • Maroon 5, Moves like Jagger
  • Black Eyed Peas, Imma Be, Boom Boom pow, Let’s Get It Started, I  Gotta Feeling
  • Montell Jordon This is How we do it
  • Enrique Iglesias, I like it
  • Justin Bieber, Baby
  • Reel2reel, I like to move it move it
  • Shakira,  Hips Don’t Lie
  • Chris Rene’s Young Homie has grown on me, and I like his peaceful message:     “Hey, young homie what you trippin’ on
    Looking at life, like how did I get it wrong,
    Life’s too short, gotta live it long,
    To my brothers and sisters when will we get along”

     

8 responses »

  1. You bring up something I hadn’t thought about…. I wonder how much of the “rules” have changed since I was a teen?

    The sexual gyration of girl against girl to attract guys? How close is too close? How risqué is too risqué? Which songs are the ones to sing along to? If mosh pits are the same as they were 20 years ago than it is a predominantly male activity – easy to explain to a girl – too rough stay away! But for an Autistic boy entering a mosh pit it could easily become very dangerous. Sighhh…. It’s all so complicated!

  2. I published this accidentally before I was all finished proof-reading! I tried to fix everything IN A HURRY, so refresh if you get the messy version.
    I saw some girls in the mosh pit, and a naive girl might certainly stand in a dangerous spot in the circle (I’m older than you, and there were no mosh pits in my youth!). I’m not sure that the general rules are that different – nothing that I saw – and certainly teens are more supervised now than in my day — but the music was clearly manipulated to work them up just to a fever pitch of sexuality and aggression – and the aggression was generally a bit less of a factor in the 70s.
    I’ll keep working on the rules, though Jen — I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s tricky to learn, though, as the fly on the wall occasions are rare.

  3. Concerts are certainly dangerous territory. As many mosh pits as I’ve seen, I somehow have never seen someone seriously hurt in one. It’s the press of the crowd that’s really dangerous. I went to see Bush several years ago, and the standing area was full of young girls. When they band came on the crowd lurched forward repeatedly, and many of these girls started to get crushed. I lifted several of them over the front row to the security guards so they could head to the back – walking back through the crowd was an impossibility. A couple fainted, and my girlfriend at the time had a bloody nose from being kicked in the nose by a crowd surfer.

    This story makes me cringe, because as a social skills teacher getting kids to go to events like this is, to me, a great accomplishment. But then they are thrown headlong in to danger! I know that you will give your child another chance to experience things like this, but how many parents would see this activity and never let them anywhere near a concert again, and probably forbid them to even listen to the music? No matter how much the child enjoyed it. Risks are so important to growing up – I almost killed myself a hundred times as a teenager, and I was a good kid! It takes a tough skin to try and try again – but isn’t that how we develop and become independent and who we are? Where’s the happy medium between keeping your child safe and immersing them in the culture that you so want them to be a part of?

    Much appreciation for mentioning my band!

  4. Oh, I’ll take her again, don’t you worry. I agree that risk is part of life. I’ve heard the same from other sources, it’s the press of the crowd that’s dangerous with mosh pits as well as concerts in general. That was also a concern at the B104 night, and why the kids were told to stop pressing forward.When I was a kid I was climbing on roof-tops, sneaking out of the house at night, and basically put my life in danger constantly. Most kids are better supervised these days.

    But the general issue remains – allowing SOME risk is a huge challenge for parents of kids with special needs.

    • More than once I was caught up an pushed down by an over-excited crowd. It is a horrifying experience – and honestly – I’m not sure how to warn ANY child on these dangers! What is the protocol?

      But I believe that is less the point of the story – the smaller nuances of being amongst a large group of kids is an even scarier idea!

      • It was fascinating to watch, and try to figure out some concrete social rules.
        Even breaking down a tiny piece, making eye contact and singing a key phrase of the song — my older daughter also said, “you have to spread it out among your friends” and “you do it more often with your closer friends”. I remember dancing one night at a behavior analyst conference, and feeling super super awkward: I didn’t know the correct lines of the current songs that were playing to sing and make eye contact, and these weren’t “close enough” friends for me to be comfortable to engage in that behavior, anyway. Actually my own awkwardness on that occasion spurred me to keep current with music. We’re going to a wedding next weekend, we’ll see if I can manage to have fun!

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