It’s nearing the beginning and you must decide where to spend your evening, or where to start, as you may well move on to some better position. The lights are dimmed, the atmosphere is apprehensive, and you’re pining, lusting to see what you feel like you’ve waited an age for. You can barely contain your excitement, your smile is broad, and your heart is ready. Here we go.
The context here, of course, is a packed venue, your favorite act is performing and the dilemma of where to witness their performance is upon you.
Do you go for the body-crushing, sweat-soaked, chaos of the barrier at the front? Perhaps it’s the more tranquil, toilet accessible view of the back that is more your cup of tea? There’s always the middle ground, where you can reap the benefits of both worlds, but are left without a sense of identity that those at the front and back earn through their dichotomous celebration of music. At the front yo’ll be subject to physical and emotional trauma whereas the back can lack a certain connection with your favorite artist. After shelling out for a gig or festival, setting up home base for upwards of an hour and a half for a set is important (though loosen up enough with pre-music drinks and these problems pale into insignificance, as do most things). However, through want for an ideal experience – which will be different for everybody – we have a dilemma.
At the forefront of the crowd, anarchy ensues as your favorite act belts out their hit songs and you are there, caught up in the whirlwind. There is an air of electricity, you feel connected with the band and you’re certain you just made eye contact with the singer, making it seem all of this is for you. You are with like minded folk that want nothing more then to give it their all and show devout support. Nothing is said but unbreakable bonds are forged as you help up a comrade from the depths of a mosh pit or shepherd the overwhelmed to safety. A riot of euphoria.
Then you are hit with a cup that wasn’t empty. Stopping in your tracks to check if it felt cold or warm, you painfully come to realize it was the latter. Your friends are nowhere to be seen. Elbows, fists and heads pummel you into submission. The fabled barrier is no longer the ultimate platform to view your favorite music but an immovable object on to which you are relentlessly squashed. Temperatures and humidity skyrocket as you are forced into a position where your body becomes contorted and your only view is a touring bassist, some technicians in the wings and security. Not what you came to see. Grabbing a drink, popping to the loo and momentary respite are out of the question.
Peaceful breathing space awaits you at the back, a place where you can enjoy the music and not lose your entourage. Grabbing a drink, equally nipping to the loo, is no issue; the crowd is sparse allowing easy coming and going. Finding your company is equally a breeze. The view of the act is uninterrupted and also compounded by numerous big screens. There is no physical trauma at this distance, no sweaty humidity to make you feel faint. At a festival the back is ideal for catching your favorite band then nipping off to see another – there’s no hold up. At the back you have freedom to do as you please. Then you realize that the average age back there; are you letting go of your youth? You cannot help but feel a tinge of desire when you see the mania unfold in front of you, a feeling that you are missing out on something special. You feel disconnected from those you came here to see – why pay this money to watch a big screen when you could have the same experience at home? Are you depriving yourself of adrenaline-fuelled ecstasy?
Where do your allegiances stand when in the middle? Do you go brash or muted? You’re view is less obstructed, you have a relative amount of personal space, but you aren’t close enough for barrier hysteria. Stuck in limbo, there’s unease on what is the appropriate behavior.
There’s the rub, front back or middle. Where do you go?