‘This is crazy. We’re all gonna die,’ someone said, half joking, half not, as we waited for Rage Against the Machine to take the stage for its first show in seven years. The mood wasn’t particularly aggressive as we stood around for the better part of an hour, but the people in the pit were noticeably larger than any other band for the last Coachella weekend.
I was at a definite disadvantage energy-wise. Most of the guys around me had shown up only hours before just to see Rage, while I had been driving and running around for three days straight. I had barely pulled myself up from the comfort of the beer garden to mingle with the pit folk.
For many of the other bands this weekend I had been kind of a jerk, pushing my way through standing crowds to get up close. But here, I saw the wisdom in being cool and making friends with everyone around me, even if I was a good distance from the stage.
Finally, the band appeared onstage and Zack de la Rocha announced, ‘Good evening, we’re Rage Against the Machine from Los Angeles.’ The last three words of this were nearly drowned out by the screams of the crowd as the sea of bodies surged towards the stage.
My good karma paid off and I found myself two bodies away from the railing halfway through Rage’s opening song, ‘Testify.’ The pit was lively but manageable and I felt about as proud of myself as I ever had.
Three songs in, I got a little cocky and decided to jump into the circle pit just behind me. This was a rash and foolish decision, and I realized it within seconds. My disadvantages became apparent when someone came flying down at me from out of nowhere. I broke his fall without going down myself, but was shoved from behind. My head barely missed somebody’s elbow.
Ten or 15 seconds later, I exited out the back of the circle completely exhausted. As I was getting my breath back, chants of ‘Fuck George Bush!’ broke out between songs while a pleased de la Rocha looked on. One tall teenager offered his rebuttal, ‘Fuck John Kerry!’ Regardless of my own political views, I had to admire the youngster’s courage, but a worried-looking middle-aged man (possibly the boy’s father) put his hand on the youngsters’s shoulder and shot him a look that said, ‘Shut up before too many people figure out who said that.’
Zack de la Rocha did not want to stop at penetrating the President’s orifices. In the middle of the already hard-hitting song ‘Wake Up,’ he delivered a little speech comparing our government to Nazi Germany.
He said the current administration ‘should be hung, and tried, and shot! As any war criminal should be. But the challenges we face, they go way beyond administrations!