Reflecting on Mayhem Festival

Mayhem Festival 2011Last Sunday I attended the Mayhem Festival at Shoreline Amphitheater with 20,000 other people in San Jose.  The headliners were Godsmack, Disturbed, Megadeth & Machine Head who sing powerful angry lyrics about hating this or that, various pains, suffering, unfair life situations…etc.  I hide the fact that I listen to hard rock, unsure if people will judge or not trust me as a parent. But after 3 hours of jumping, screaming out lyrics and fist pumping the sky I’ve vented enough for months.  I feel like a calmer mom and a more productive member of society because of it.

At first, I looked like the only girl dressed for an Indigo Girls concert, (in an earth-tone tank top without numerous body piercings, a myriad of tattoos or raving mad hair.)  But then I became intrigued with “people watching” for goodness within the mayhem.  I found it fascinating that once I started looking for kindness and generosity, I kept finding it.  No matter what’s on the “outside,” we all want the same basic stuff: Love, acceptance and comfort.  This venue, however disturbing it appeared, was providing just that for those attending.

Men were chivalrous around doors, near bathrooms and while in line for food.  They said thank you, held doors and saved the spaces for their women. Friendships flourished ranging from groups of giddy girls, teens flirting, college-aged guys inventing their own beer drinking contest, couples together (some even with their toddlers) loving each other – their kids smiling happy to be with their rocker parents.  Men and women compared tattoos with a genuine connection to each other.  A daunting guy picked up my sunglasses and gently tapped my shoulder to give them back to me. The lead singers were thankful and grateful for our applause.  I smiled as I observed a fairly intimidating-looking man enjoying his cotton candy.

Then there was the unexpected “eye candy:”  Grey-haired men with hearing aids wearing tall white socks and belted docker shorts gently head-banging, conservatively dressed middle-aged women with Coach bags screaming in delight to Disturbed, next to me an All-American father and son hugging and high-fiving to Godsmack’s “Go Away”, and a young women with her shoulder Buddha tattoo reading “Good Karma” smiled at me across the aisle as Megadeth jammed.  In one line, I watched a young rebellious-looking person strike up a conversation with an ordinary-looking middle aged man, and by the time they reached the beer counter, they were laughing together.  The lead singer of Godsmack wore a knee-brace, which felt comforting…that he was mortal – not just a mysterious, indestructible, maestro.

The most baffling thing to me was the crowd.  There was no thrashing around…people held up their phones and cameras for 30 minutes at a time, intent on recording the concert to share or watch again.  This intrigued me, the idea that they weren’t experiencing the moment as it was happening, but more concerned with capturing it for viewing again in the future… just seeing it through a lens.  I sunk in the feeling of bass reverberating throughout my body, jumped up and down, and became conscious of experiencing every second of live music. The bands were incredible.

I’m always striving to practice the famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and I must say, I enjoyed how I saw the world at this live event!


  1. Mo says:


  2. Karen says:

    Hello Debbie,

    I just found your webpage and have spent the last hour reading and enjoying your words and the way you write. You are gifted and its a pleasure to express your thoughts and to beable to share them with others “like me”. I gives me the strength and happiness and freeing that one needs.



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