“And in this particular case of crowd surfing, it also would not have been possible if not for the AMAZING strangers in the rows in front of us, willing to throw their bodies into support into allowing a man to cross something that had been on his bucket list, and thought may never come off of it.”
Going to a music festival is basically like being part of a little magical village community that is harmonious (literally) but only exists for a few days. You come with high expectations of great music, great people, (when I go to Firefly I’m excited for great food), and you’re usually going with your friends or family – which makes the idea of being part of a “team” to have this experience that much better.
Even having known all of that before going to Firefly, if you would have told me that I’d end up at an epic rock concert in The Woodlands, crowd-surfing to the music of an epic band known as Matt and Kim, surrounded by thousands of amazing people – I probably would have told you … uh, probably/definitely not. Absolutely not.
But that’s exactly what happened.
Here’s the story.
FYI This blog began composition the day I got back from Firefly (Monday 6/22) and finally wrapped up toDAY (Monday 6/29). Lots of thoughts.
As you all know, I’ve been disconnected from most (not all, but most) social media and technology the past few days. While I was away, since last Thursday, I would check my phone periodically for any emergencies – but luckily those were nonexistent. That’s one of the best parts about camping: embracing nature and not technology so much. This was my second year at Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware and I wanted to be sure to be 100%, completely, fully, present. I really only used my phone for meeting up with my group, and other friends who were also at the festival.
As we approached the infamous Matt & Kim show on Sunday afternoon, my friend Zac R. and I met this random guy. He was heading to the Steve Aoki show later in the day. He approached me, we began chatting, and after a few moments he asks me – have you ever crowd surfed before? No one else had ever asked me that question. Have I considered it? ABSOLUTELY. Being such a big fan of live music and having gone to many concerts where others have crowd surfed right over me, I just never really thought it all that feasible, you know, with the whole wheelchair thing and all. In fact, I was shocked when, one day, I saw that my friend Nick C. crowd surfed at a philanthropy put on by his fraternity in college, at the most popular bar in Blacksburg. That was epic. But I never really thought I’d do it. I admired him pretty hard for doing it, and that was good enough for me.
So now that the background is there, back to Firefly. Shortly after meeting that guy, Zac and I finally make it up to the Matt & Kim show. It was mid-afternoon (aka nap time for me if I’m going to make it through the entire festival day, about 8 am – 3 am), I had never listened DEEPLY to Matt and Kim (I knew 6 or 7 of their songs), and I had never seen them live either.
Some of the friendliest people I’ve met by far.
So we’re standing around, waiting for the show to start. There’s a guy with a few bags of Color Run powder and he hands that out to everyone around him, us included, giving instructions to throw it in the air on his count once the show begins (yes, this kind of spontaneous outgoingness is an average festival occurrence, in case you didn’t know). So, I’m sitting there with a handful of yellow powder, and Matt & Kim come out.
They had SO much energy. By far, their show was one of my favorites from the entire festival. Here’s a short video I took early on in their set.
That’s the best thing about Firefly, though. Is the community. I meant what I said about the village part earlier. Not only do a lot of Hokies go (it’s labeled as the East Coast’s premiere music experience, and most people I meet are from the D.C. metro area, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York City) but even outside of that, everyone is so darn friendly and, truly, down for whatever.
So, when Matt & Kim had an interlude during one of their songs, they issued a challenge.
“If you have never crowd surfed a day in life,
NOW IS THE *expletive* TIME!!!”
Just about everyone in the group and around me turned around, looked down, and they said … “Justin, you’re going up.” My buddy Sean N., a guy who is just damn awesome, so friendly, and (of course) a Hokie, really encouraged me to let it happen. He had this awesome go-pro camera, filming the entire occurrence. The show was live, WILD, everyone was jumping around…and before I knew it, everyone was setting their feet. I was setting my tire’s brakes. I made sure everything was as stable as possible on my chair. And then it happened.
I was up in the air.
And being such a short person…that feeling is WWIIIIIIILD. I WAS CROWD SURFING!!!!!
The whole process was quite amazing. I heard many people screaming “heads up, wheelchair coming in hot!” And then I’d look down, and people would turn around…SHOCKED, just like me, that there was a wheelchair above their heads.
When I wrote the word “community” earlier, though, I really meant it. In environments like music festivals, it’s really the music that brings all of these people together, to do something that seems reasonably challenging. Whether it’s making it four days without a shower, trekking through the mud, dust, or both at the Woodlands, you’re down for the challenge. You’re down for whatever. MOST of us at the show had very little in common, across the board, I’m sure: except for the fact that we were down to see an awesome Matt & Kim concert!
In the aftermath, my social media absolutely BLEW. UP. Matt and Kim were awesome enough to retweet a picture that a fellow Fireflier took. Many people came up to me the next at the festival, asking “Did I see you crowd surfing at Matt and Kim!?!?!” And every single time, they would suggest that I was awesome. And I tried as often as possible to remind them, like I often do when it comes to new friends who have seen the “Ultimate Hokie” Cascades video. I told them “You’ve gotta realize, I was just sitting there.” I did hardly anything, besides hold on! It completely, truly, would have been 100% impossible to accomplish that feat of not for the amazing friends immediately around me. And in this particular case of crowd surfing, it also would not have been possible if not for the AMAZING strangers in the rows in front of us, willing to throw their bodies into support into allowing a man to cross something that had been on his bucket list.
Finally, to clear up a few things thing: a friend mentioned to me that there were some grumblings about the lack of safety in doing this; to both myself, and to other people. I’m sure that is a common concern, and it was a concern of mine, too! To be blunt, when I go to festivals, I just kind of accept the fact that stuff is gonna get crazy at many points. If you’re that close to the stage, you have to accept that people will be crowdsurfing over you. It’s almost like an unwritten festival code. Was I excited to get kicked in the head and landed on 3 or 4 times while The Killers headlined Saturday night? Absolutely not. But that’s the risk that I took trying so damn hard to get to the front. I held onto both my head, which was almost always rolled in, and my wheelchair. No, I could not have crowdsurfed without the wheelchair, because what is security gonna do, carry a man that can’t walk back to his wheelchair? HA. No. My super light wheelchair had to come with!
And on the other hand, I met a girl later in the day who helped carry me…and she said I was one of the lighter people she’s ever had to lift across. My chair only weighs 10 pounds – making the overall weight of helping me crowd surf a whopping 140 pounds. :)
OH! And also – THANKS to the people who kept tossing me my backpack and my rain jacket. I did not think about how both of those were draped across the back of my chair before I went up. I had some stuff that I wanted amongst both items and, somehow, they fell back down from the crowdsurfing heavens TWICE and I had them when I got to security at the front. I met a guy later in the day, who saw this whole situation, and mentioned how he lost his keys, his cell phone, his wallet, also while crowdsrufing…I hope he found his stuff and made it home alright. :( PS if you did lose something, try here.
But really, to finally make to the point of this blog. Yes, I wanted to chronicle and document crowd surfing so that I can show my kids the crazy things I did when I was in my 20s (if the internet is even still a thing. Not to mention, I told my dog Charlotte how I spent Father’s Day and she couldn’t have cared less…). But I wanted to use this to reiterate the same point I’ve always made…
Everyone has their own perceived limitations. If you surround yourself with people who are caring and compassionate, and you reflect the same, anything is possible.
You just need a committed and dedicated group of folks around you.
In just about every walk of life, I’m so happy that I have that. Even if they were complete strangers hoisting me up in the air at #Firefly2015
To cheers to 2016, here’s a small gallery of the few pics that I took. Even smaller cause so few turned out well haha
To cheers to 2016, here’s a small gallery of the few pics that I took. Even smaller cause so few turned out well haha. Some are actually screen grabs, and so I’ve blurred out identifying information for those people, since I don’t actually know them…hope that’s okay with you if you’re reading this! :)