I got crushed in the mosh pit but survived the ‘death wall’: My first concert experience

It was my first concert, a milestone many people never forget. It also turned out to be my first brush with separation, near-death experiences, and the police.

At 16, I developed a deep passion for heavy metal – or “post-hardcore” as I’d vehemently correct the ignorant. As is often the case for soul-searching teenagers, the music became a means through which I built an identity, my avenue to stand out.

Nell Geraets (left) with her friends at the concert.

Convincing my parents to let their youngest daughter attend a concert held across Swiss canton borders – I was living in Basel at the time – was not an easy feat. After several hair-pulling debates and countless chores, I was able to buy my first ticket.

It was for Bring Me the Horizon, a British metalcore band known for such “feel-good” albums as Suicide Season. They were playing in an abandoned warehouse in Solothurn, a town about an hour-and-a-half away. My three friends were joining me, along with my friend’s mum, Pia, who was acting as chaperone.

My friends and I were buzzing as we packed into Pia’s car – it was a school night, about as scandalous as it got. On the way, we listened to the band and ate McDonald’s. We were riding high.

The line to get in was ridiculously long, so the five of us – all shorter than 160 centimetres – joined the queue. Practically, everyone was wearing black, ripped clothing and was at least 30 centimetres taller than us. They were also predominantly men – big men with beards as thick as a Viking’s.

Oli Sykes, frontman of British band Bring Me the Horizon.Credit:AP

Nerves skyrocketed as we stepped into the venue. The doors opened to a massive warehouse, where chains and meat hooks hung from the high ceiling. A giant ram skull was suspended above the stage.

Awestruck and deafened by the music blaring from the speakers, I stood near the entrance for a moment too long. When I looked around, my friends were gone.

Refusing to panic, I told myself I would be able to find them outside after the concert. So, I let the crowd take me as it moved towards the stage.

As Bring Me the Horizon strode onto the stage, the crowd surged forward, fans screaming. The dark-haired frontman, Oli Sykes, was bleeding charisma, his heavily tattooed, slender body convulsing to the heavy bass. I was so starstruck, I didn’t realise the crowd was shifting behind me.

My very first mosh pit was unexpected. I didn’t realise people were circling behind me until a rapid, high-pressure ring of people formed. Someone yanked on my ponytail, pulling me into the sea of bodies. Before I knew it, I was on the floor, covering my head as people jumped all over me.

Near tears, I began to think this was how I’d go – on the sticky floor of a derelict warehouse. But then I felt a tug at my backpack and I was dragged out of the mass. I turned to thank my saviour, but they had already turned away to help other concert rookies.

Slightly traumatised, I regained composure and continued screaming along to the music. Only about 10 minutes passed before what I later learned was called a “wall of death” commenced. The crowd parted like the Red Sea. When one side began to surge towards the other, I closed my eyes and waited for bones to crunch.

Somehow the death wall left me unscathed, save for a few bruises. I barely remember the rest of the set, I was so frazzled and overwhelmed. But I do remember thinking Oli Sykes looked at me, which made any near-death experience feel worthwhile.

After the gig, I found my friends outside the venue. We all gushed over how amazing the set was, ignoring how terrified I’m sure we had all felt.

Climbing into the safety of Pia’s car, I believed the trauma had passed. But 20 minutes down the highway, we were signalled by the car behind us to pull over. The car had no signage, so my friends and I all begged Pia to continue driving. Pia, while nervous, was more afraid of potentially disobeying a police officer than being flayed by a killer, so she followed the car to a dark side road.

Having survived the mosh pit, I was now convinced we were pulling over to our demise, preparing to die beside cows in a Swiss pasture in the middle of nowhere.

But this was Switzerland, one of the safest places in the world. The car turned out to be undercover police officers, informing us that Pia’s tail lights weren’t working.

I thought I would die three times that night. But I didn’t. Thinking death is knocking on your door can teach a teenager a lot about life outside the safe bubble of home. I went to that concert feeling like a mature, independent grown-up. I left wanting nothing more than a hug from my parents.

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