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I missed the whole grunge, punk slam dance thing growing up.  Even as a professional in the middle of my career, I never really photographed a punk band or any kind of grunge band for that matter. The only thing I remember about the 1990′s is that some really awful music was spawned during the decade.

BottleRock Napa, in all it’s frenetic, laid back, hip hopped, blue grassed and whatever else music created is the melting pot for music fans. In less than five minutes, you can walk from stage to stage and hear entirely different kinds of music.  Music fans of every generation mixed with one another, seemingly enjoying each genre.  It was fun to watch and photograph.

Then came Primus, with Sebastopolian front man Les Claypool leading with stylish riffs on one of his numerous bass guitars.  In theses situations, photographers are allowed to photograph the first three songs of a performance.  I’m not sure where that started, for my ears sake I guess it’s a good thing.  (The last heavy metal band I photographed was Twisted Sister, thusly losing partial hearing in my left ear).

Not that Primus is heavy metal.  However, being in the pit between the stage and the fans you really couldn’t tell what kind of music was being played, well because the fans were going Cra-zy.  During the last song of our three granted, a mosh pit formed in the middle of the crowd, people would circle, slam each other, fall down, get up and repeat.  Shortly after,  concert goers started to surf above the crowd, snaked along by hundreds of hands to the photo pit.

Let’s just say that this wasn’t the wine and brie crowd.

Security, obviously schooled in the finer repartee of mosh pitting, would dutifully receive the hanging twenty surfer and escort them from the venue.  I’m not sure if they were kicked out. Not without controversy, the mosh pit in general has been much maligned over the years.  Injuries and even death has occurred.

After our allotted time in the semi-surf photo pit, I asked fellow photog and all around nice guy Paul Kitagaki Jr. of the Sacramento Bee if he wanted to go in to the crowd and photograph the slam dancing.  I like to work with a wide angle lens and sometimes get closer than I should.  Figuring that I could handle Oakland riots, I could handle moshers.

“Yeah!” He said.

I couldn’t tell if he was apprehensive or excited or just going with the flow.  Getting through the crowd, maybe 100 deep, was a challenge of course, but I just kept smiling and saying “excuse me, pardon me, gotta get by you, can I get through here?  Cool shirt dude! Hey watch your toes, big guy coming through”.  Paul followed in the wake of my excuses.  Once in to the mosh, it seemed like pandemonium.  Really it’s not, but you can’t be in bad shape either, nor old.  if you don’t watch it, you can get clobbered pretty hard.  When a mosher fell, fellow moshers hoisted them right up.  I was struck by the created insanity and the polite gamesmanship after someone was creamed. It was wine country diplomacy mixed with redneck dichotomy.

After about 10 minutes of shooting and getting shoved pretty hard on several occasions, Paul and I decided we’d had enough.  It was a mutual look that did it.

As I edited the photos, dripping sweat everywhere, I couldn’t help but laugh.  On the main stage, the Avett Brothers played blue grass.  Behind me Primus wrapped up their crazy set.  I couldn’t understand any of the music.  Where else could this happen?  Napa of course.

Paula Kitagaki Jr., a photographer with the Sacramento Bee, wades in to the moshing melee at BottleRock Napa, Thursday May 9, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

 

One of the older gentlemen in the crowd surfs to security guards. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

The Mosh Pit during the Primus set at BottleRock Napa, Thursday May 9, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

The Mosh Pit during the Primus set at BottleRock Napa, Thursday May 9, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

Les Claypool of Primus during BottleRock Napa, Thursday May 9, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

The Mosh Pit during the Primus set at BottleRock Napa, Thursday May 9, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

The Mosh Pit during the Primus set at BottleRock Napa, Thursday May 9, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

 

The Mosh Pit during the Primus set at BottleRock Napa, Thursday May 9, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

The Mosh Pit during the Primus set at BottleRock Napa, Thursday May 9, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

As Primus heats up on the Citi stage, the crowd starts to body surf during BottleRock in Napa, Thursday May 9, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

After all is said and done, I’m off to photograph a wall.

-Kent Porter

 

 

 

 

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Comments

6 Comments

  1. ER

    Brave soul to go into a mosh pit, especially with camera and gear. Hope everything emerged intact without damage. Of course, getting a camera smashed is easier to deal with than getting your head or a body part smashed.

    Closest I got to a mosh pit was being in the crowd near the stage at an Amnesty International concert. After being pushed and shoved by the crowd for a while, (finding that standing with my legs shoulder-width apart, knees bent, and upper body slightly bent over worked the best for staying upright), I got tired of it and made my way to the bleachers.

    May 12th, 2013 3:25 pm

  2. Michael Rudnick

    The damage to the camera isn’t the only thing to worry about. You’re in a place of sudden violent motion. How do you know that you won’t get shoved, somewhat lose your balance and suddenly your camera rams into someone’s head? Moshing while holding metal objects is not a good idea.

    May 16th, 2013 10:01 pm

  3. Kim Martin

    The pit I will photograph will be not nearly as wild and violent as this! These photos are fantastic! I hope for some motion blur as well. Thank you for braving the pit…cannot wait to see your shots from the wall!

    May 18th, 2013 2:13 pm

  4. weather

    I wasn’t the only one in the fray with a camera. I counted at least 10 other individuals, not to mention those with smart phones. How else are people going to see what goes on?
    Thanks for writing!

    May 23rd, 2013 10:17 am

  5. weather

    It was interesting for a little while but everyone was doing the same thing. The photos became a little repetitious. One thing I have to ask, a mosh pit at an Amnesty International event?

    May 23rd, 2013 10:20 am

  6. weather

    I was a bit surprised, well, because I’m not known for my moshing skills. The next chance I gets may be the next BottleRock.

    May 23rd, 2013 10:24 am

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