Let me recount the one and only time I ever tried to stage dive. This was 20+ years ago. I can’t remember what band was playing but the location was most definitely the decrepit bowling alley turned sacred venue Fireside Bowl in Chicago. I’m positive I didn’t have my driver’s license yet so would have been dropped off by my mom or older brother. I would have pleaded with the driving familiar to let me out some blocks away but they would have ignored my request, dropping me off right in front of the lineup of people waiting to get in (oh my suburban shame!).

I can see me then as easily as looking in the mirror now: cuffed blue jeans, studded belt, white button up short sleeve oxford shirt with a bright pink bra underneath, no makeup, big black boots, hair short and spiky, glasses thick-lensed and wire-framed. Too funny I can remember my outfit but not the bands on the bill. There is always a hierarchy of importance within memories though, AKA The Bands Musta Not Been That Good Whereas My Outfit Was Dope.

It was deeply humid that particular show. The walls and ceiling dripping. Truly gross but I was in my favourite place in the world: the front row. Where all the huffing, finger pointing men pulled their pit faces for me to mimic, where I could see the band, look them in the eyes and record their every move for later use in front of bedroom mirror. I was always drawn to that up front intimate space at every show. I thought it was the men, that I belonged with them, that I was one of them. At the same time, I wanted them to think I was “hot” hence pink bra and bedroom eyed slam dancing. Strange duality!

I don’t know what got into me that night but the time had come for this girl to fly. I crawled onto the gummy-germ-carpet stage through the band’s legs (careful not to unplug any cords). I got myself upright, performed a little pep-talk-skank… Then launched the sequence to Officially Stage Dive, as I had seen countless men do on MTV, freeze-framed in Rolling Stone, falling on top of me at every show, even mellow acoustic affairs (there was a time when every show had a pit and divers, no?).
The men always made it seem effortless so I had no doubt I would soar over all the hairdo’d heads, be victoriously caught and carried to the side where from then on I’d be part of the High Flyers Club. Would I get some sort of cool badge to show for it? Perhaps a little cup of Gatorade to replenish my electrolytes? I “ran” the one and a half steps of space that were available to me, I bent my knees (not enough, jeans were maybe too tight), I used my arms as counter weights (wings!) to propel myself up and…

‘A poem unlimited’ Album cover

My airborne ambition was instantly, shockingly cancelled by physics. I hadn’t considered that the stage was only like 3 feet tall. In order for me to have successfully gotten up and over the heads of the crowd, I would have had to have a vertical leap of at least…well…I can’t do the proper math… My poor math left me slamming into the front row of punks like an apologetic wrecking ball. I landed in a radioactive shame sack on the ground, smellable waves of mortification coming off me. This bird could not fly nor did she dare stand up. I crawled on hands and knees through/around the perimeter of the crowd. Once the exit was in sight, I gathered my steaming self up and ran out of there.

I hid outside for the rest of the show, unable to leave the immediate area due to my ride coming to pick me up at some time “on the dot!” I burned with self-hatred imagining that upon my exit the entire show had morphed into a roast of ME, a laugh riot of people recreating my pitiful dive over and over again. I can see now this was a cognitive distortion, to think the world revolved around me and my attempt/misstep. But I didn’t know any better then (sometimes I still don’t). I was a child impossibly lost in A Man’s World trying to sort out my identity and desires. Sure, there must have been women at these shows but I never saw them. I only ever saw the men. Because the men were the only ones I ever saw on the stage.

EVERYTHING changed once I finally started seeing bands made up of women and non-gendered folks. I could relax, I could lose myself in the music/environment instead of using it as some microscope to dissect/judge/morph myself under. And I realized I never wanted to be a man, I just wanted to be on the stage! I was drawn to the front row because it was the closest spot to my dream.
My attempt to stage dive could be seen as my first solo performance in the city.
Ya gotta start somewhere…

Pic by Lauren Khalfayan

Homepage illustration by Pinghua Chou

Meg Remy is a multi-disciplinary artist, and performer. Originally from Illinois, she is established as one of the most acclaimed songwriters and performers to emerge from Toronto’s eclectic underground music scene where she currently lives; she is primarily known as the creative force behind the musical entity U.S. Girls and has has toured extensively through Europe and North America. Meg has also maintained a visual arts practice, exhibiting collage work and directing several music videos and other video art works including her short film Woman’s Advocate (2014), in which she also performed. Her first book Begin by Telling is due in March 2021.