Though rock history is a foggy pursuit –hazed by a thousand bong-hits, head-banging shows, and noise-induced brain trauma– it’s been said that the greatest concentration of stage dives (the art of jumping from a raised stage to be carried aloft by the crowd below) happened back in ’92, when Pearl Jam played a fire-code-be-damned overcapacity crowd at The Snake Pit concert hall, in some lost North American city. The exact number of dives could not be recorded, but sources say it was somewhere in the 18-per-song count, which is a rate of roughly six dives per minute, for a sixty-minute set. This record, though completely unsubstantiated, may have been broken early in the evening on a Friday, May 13th; for on this day, two of the most stage-dive-worthy bands to ever rock Chicago freak out an all-ages show in Lincoln Hall, causing mass hysteria and some of the most impressive crowd surfing antics of all time.
White Reaper plays before Twin Peaks, which is good because sonically speaking, they are the more raucous of the two. Their rowdy punk-inspired songs rally the capacity-crowd into a frenzy, like protons squished into a nucleus in an atom smasher. When they play their single, Cool, the rogue core implodes under its own weight, casting off bodies left, right, up, and down in one of the most explosive mosh pits Lincoln Hall has ever seen. This hardens the concert goers in stage center, preparing them for the crash of bodies to come in the Twin Peaks set.
This is an auspicious night for Twin Peaks. Not only are they back home in Chicago after a long international tour, but this show is being filmed for broadcast on the Internet, and their family members are there. In the back, near the bar, cousins, aunts, and uncles laugh about the early years, when the boys packed garage shows and little bars full of screaming teenagers. The conversation borders on surprise; they seem to find it hard to believe that their young cousins and their friends are now filling one of Chicago’s largest venues. When guitarist/vocalist Clay Frankel jumps into the crowd, guitar in hand, and disappears for an entire song in the quagmire of young bodies in the pit, they all go silent. Moments later, with Frankel still missing from stage right, there are shouts of, “Oh my god, is he alright?” and, “Can somebody check on him?” One older guy, possibly an uncle, who looks like a biker in a wide-shouldered jean jacket, is ready to rush the stage, but just before parting the sea of youngsters like a muscle-bound Moses, Frankel re-emerges, still holding his guitar, and continues singing on stage.
There’s a lesson in that. Don’t stage dive in front of your family! They’ll be worried sick! And not without reason. The dives of this show are truly dare-devilish. Popping off at a rate of (yikes!) 23 per song (a new record!). Two teenage girls, holding each other around the shoulders, tandem-dive face-first, but their combined weight is too much for the skinny-arms of the pre-pubescent landing zone, and they come crashing on their heads to the cement floor. Young men and women are taking running dives without looking, straight into a jumping mosh pit. Some get carried for minutes, others succumb to gravity immediately. Security is powerless to stop them, the crush of bodies is too dense.
Twin peaks doesn’t do encores. When the clock strikes ten, they’re done. They say goodnight, and off the stage they go. Outside, on the curb, one of the girls who rode the most ambitious wave of human hands this night is standing under the marquee lights, held up by her friend. When she jumped she looked so heroic and carefree. Now, half collapsed on her friend, waiting for an ambulance or a cab or her mom’s minivan, her face a blurry crimson smear with the blood flowing from her nose and mouth, she stands as a crushed example. In the heaviest of shows, when the strength of the crowd wanes, girls and boys become rocks, and sometimes get rolled.
Be safe, Chicago. White Reaper and Twin Peaks play hard.