Leader’s rarely crowd surf. The sensation of being lifted and torpedoed across sweaty, dehydrated concert fans while awaiting the inevitable, precipitous fall is not attractive to the average manager. Even particularly egoistical leaders who believe they operate above everyone else’s shoulders do not demonstrate this confidence at a concert. Last weekend, at Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival, I saw a leader crowd surf.
In a sweltering Chicago heat that seemed to mock the Midwest’s previous pleas for winter respite, an army of hipsters packed in Union Park. If not for the ubiquity of iPhones and Axe body spray at the festival, it would almost resemble a swampy jungle. The crowds adopted an animalistic agility as they fought over scarce, boiling water and oozed in an amoebic blob toward the stages.
During a taunting set by DJ Shadow where the performer denied the crowd his namesake shade, I watched a kerfuffle brewing. It seemed that one rainbow muumuu clad girl had violated the personal bubble of a particularly enthused fan wearing a gorilla fedora. As the gorilla prepared to lunge at the muumuu, a third witness quickly interceded. This witness, a middle aged woman exuding a comforting maternal spirit, asked what was wrong. The muumuu explained that she couldn’t see the stage and was trying to step around the sweat-saturated gorilla. The gorilla meanwhile complained of dehydration and frustration with the aggressive crowd. As DJ Shadow poured out danceable grooves to the thirsty crowd, I watched this maternal bystander transform into a proactive leader.
First, she assembled a coalition of bystanders to help diffuse the situation. She told another concerned concertgoer to go fetch water from the first aid tent. She then asked neighboring audience members if they could clear some room for the woozy gorilla. Without a trace of hubris, she instructed the muumuu to stand in front of her where there was a visual avenue to the stage. Finally, she sustained her rehabilitative agenda by repeatedly confirming that all parties were content as the concert progressed.
As the sun finally surrendered near the end of Shadow’s set, the muumuu and gorilla turned toward the maternal leader. I heard them ask her if she wanted a better view of the DJ’s renowned stage show. Bashfully, the woman explained that it was always her dream to crowd surf at a concert. Without missing a beat, her coalition of supporters banded together and heaved her off of the ground. Just as she had mobilized her agenda with committed political effort, the crowd mobilized this new leader across the bobbing, perspiring heads toward the glowing stage. It was quite the crowd surf.