Please Don’t Hate Me: Kicked in the Head, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Crowd
Posted on January 15, 2015
January 15, 2015
by The Tall Kid
Please Don’t Hate Me is a new series of essays in which people tell their unique stories of being at shows and interacting with others. For more, click here.
I sat on the curb outside of a Long Island concert venue on a hot summer day in 2007 and felt the swelling lump on the back of my head. I was disappointed but not surprised. The group of concerned friends and strangers who had gathered informed me that a beer bottle had been thrown as the headlining band launched into their set. Whether I was the target or not didn’t matter, I wanted to get back inside and see the show! However, a spinning head prevailed and I was driven home by a friend.
This was neither the first nor last time that I sustained show-related trauma that probably should have gotten medical attention. Neck pain from ducking crowd surfers and facial lacerations from their steel-toed boots come with the territory when you’re the tallest guy in the pit.
By the time I started attending punk and ska shows in 1997 at the age of 15, I had already reached my full and current height of six feet, eight inches. When you consider that an overwhelming majority of the hundreds of shows I’ve attended have been in flat-floored general admission venues, it is safe to say that I have always blocked someone’s view of the stage. But I have also tried to look behind me before the next band starts, for anyone I might be directly obstructing. On multiple occasions I have offered to switch spots with people or tried to stand in front of a column or other strategic spot, but sometimes there isn’t anywhere to go.
What readers of average height need to understand is that feeling self conscious at shows is just one of myriad problems faced by the unusually tall. That cherished t-shirt you’re wearing probably wasn’t available in a size that would fit me (2XL tends to be wider, not taller). The environmentally friendlier compact car you covered in band stickers is entirely too small for me to drive on a daily basis. I’ve had to pass on renting apartments that were otherwise desirable and affordable because I couldn’t stand up straight in the shower. It would be a disservice to my fellow tall humans if I didn’t mention that one in three strangers I meet in an elevator ask me if I play basketball (No.)
Being so noticeable in the crowd can have its advantages, beyond the obvious unobstructed view of the stage. My moniker “The Tall Kid” was inspired by the singer of my favorite band, who has always acknowledged my presence at the show with a smile and a nod. A friend whose spiked hair makes him about seven feet three inches tall receives similar recognition from musicians and photographers alike. Last year when the singer of an internationally known band had a conversation over the microphone with a very tall audience member named Steve (my real name) I received multiple text messages from friends who were in attendance inquiring “I thought you weren’t coming to this show?” I was not there, but did manage to find the other Steve on Twitter where we have discussed our #tallkidproblems.
For the skeptics among you, I’ll admit that younger me was perhaps less altruistic, as the ice packs I applied after some shows in tiny venues might confirm. But as the years have passed I don’t try to stand up front anymore, I try to stay to the side or back of where I anticipate the pit circle to form. I suppose I could just stand all the way in the back, but if I arrive early to find a good spot to stand and you happen to end up behind me, please don’t take it personally. If you can’t see the band, you can still hear them, and isn’t watching the crowd itself a highly enjoyable part of the live music experience?
To make a tall story short, don’t hate me for blocking your view; hate the venue for having poor sightlines. I hope to peacefully coexist with my vertically challenged peers for many shows to come.