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The Kindness of Metalheadsfrom: kind over matter
I found kindness in a mosh pit.
While watching System of a Down, I got caught up in a circle of death and ended up sprawled across the ground while people unwittingly stomped on me. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I tried to stand up but the tide of bodies pushed me back down again. At any moment I expected to feel my head being crushed under a steel-capped boot.
But a guy – a stranger – saw me flailing, pulled me up, dusted me off, and pushed me up on his shoulders so the security could get me out. I watched the rest of the set from the safety of the stands, all the while smiling at the kindness of that stranger.
It was only when the band's set ended that I discovered I'd lost my cellphone. I was gutted, assuming it was gone forever – crushed beneath the churning crowd, or picked up by some opportunistic mosher.
Turns out, someone had picked it up, and he found my parents' number in my contacts list, rang them, got the number of the friend I was with, rang him, and arranged to meet us at the gate to give me the phone, missing 20 minutes of a band he'd wanted to see. I waited, my stomach in knots, till a shaved dude with various metal spikes poking out of his face shyly handed my phone over and accepted my hug of thanks with grace.
I've attended over 100 metal shows and festivals. I've seen people give up their spaces on the front row for someone they don't know, just because that person is a huge fan of the band and they'd love to see them front row centre. I've seen an entire mosh pit squeeze out of the way so my friend could retrieve his lost hat. I've made more friends squeezed up against strangers in front of stages than I have attending networking events and college socials.
When the heat gets too much, people pull out water bottles and share their meager rations with those around them. When the pushing gets too much, your mosh-pit buddies will join forces to shield the weak from the fray. At the end of the night, you hug your new friends goodbye and vow to see them at the next show.
These are the people that society maligns as angry, aggressive, delinquent or satanic. These are the people who, shunned by the world at large, have formed their own community, one based on a code of acceptance, courage and kindness. These are the people who don't care whether you're blind, or gay, or black or brown or green or orange. These are the people who live by the motto "If you like metal, you're my friend."
As artists, we learn to look past the façade, into the hearts and souls of our subjects. Like the metalheads, we strive to swim against the crowd, to push back at our assumptions and prejudices. As artists, we lift up the downtrodden, we seek solace in strangeness, and we bring hope where there is only darkness.
As artists, we are the kindness in the mosh pit.