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Last night I attended the most violent concert I’ve ever been to—and believe me, I’ve been to a lot of them. The thing is, this one was a Christian show.

I’ve wanted to see the rock-rap-reggae band P.O.D. live for a long time. They’re one of the best mainstream acts around and it just so happens they’re Christians. Not the in-your-face kind, though—and, like so many other artists of faith out there, they don’t like to be classified as a “Christian” band. They’re a band whose members happen to be Christian, and who promote positive messages about life and love and God in their music, without inserting “Jesus” into every chorus.

Before the show—at the Nokia Theater in New York City–I waited on the open floor close to the stage for the first of three opening acts. I relaxed, and anticipated the night would be full of good, loud music I could dance and bop my head to. It didn’t exactly go that way.

The first act, Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, a Christian hardcore metal band, approached the stage and immediately launched into their first song—screaming and thrashing about. As I strained to hear the music, I felt a punch to my back. I turned around, and a huge mosh pit had formed behind me. That’s cool, I thought, I could deal with it. I grew up during the grunge era and have been to a lot of shows where pits opened up. No biggie. I’d just try to move away to another spot on the floor.

Then, it happened. Instantly, the pit transformed from a lively group of people jumping around and dancing erratically to a dangerous circle of violence and aggression. The group, at this point about 10-15 people, mainly guys, began punching and kicking everyone on the edges of the circle. I am familiar with this wild, aggressive “slam dancing,” but would never expect it at “Christian show.” Besides, there are certain unwritten rules to participating in a mosh pit–namely, no punching or kicking, especially people outside of the pit.

I was pushed to another side of the dance floor, along with my friend who’d accompanied me to the show. I found a “safe” spot, away from the mayhem, and tried to get back into the music. It was kind of difficult to though, since the drummer constantly threw drumsticks into the crowd, and not once, but twice, almost poked in the eye. The lead singer also thought it was Christianly to spit into the crowd at least five times per song.

The next band, The Chariot–which has been described as Christian southern metalcore (I don’t make up the genre names, people)–had a similar sound to Sons of Disaster, though with an interesting country sound. Another mosh pit quickly opened behind me. I didn’t know about it until a tall teenage boy went flying into me, kicking me in the back of the head. I’ve never been kicked in the head at a mainstream concert, and here I was, getting beat up at a Christian show. Would Jesus would go for this kind of behavior? If he does, I certainly didn’t get that memo.

As I tried to move away from the new pit, I glanced toward the stage to see the lead singer using the microphone stand as a sword, pretending to chop the heads off some of the people in the front of the stage.

Pillar, a hard-rock band composed of Christians came on next. (In an interview with Beliefnet last year, singer Rob Beckley objected to the label “Christian band,” calling it “stupid,” adding, “The Beastie Boys aren’t Buddhist hip-hop”). At this point in the show, a big smoke cloud filled the air. Kids everywhere were smoking pot. “At least this will calm them down,” I thought.

Oh, was I was wrong.

A fight broke out toward the end of Pillar’s set, but luckily I was out of harm’s way. However, I didn’t get to enjoy the rest of the performance as much as I would have liked to, because I was constantly watching my back to make sure I wasn’t punched or maimed. Overall though, Pillar put on a great show, singing some new material off their upcoming album, as well as old favorites like, “Bring Me Down.”

Finally, P.O.D. came on, and they were every bit as wonderful as I imagined they’d be. Although plagued by some technical difficulties, the band was composed and polite and got the entire crowd singing many of their hits, including “Will You,” “Boom,” and “Youth of the Nation.” It was a stellar performance, which coupled a great selection of hits with lead singer Sonny Sandoval’s visable passion for the music he was singing.

At one point, Sandoval threw water into the crowd–something common at many hard rock shows where the audience gets hot and sticky. Although I had seen this many times before, it took on a new meaning at this show. It was if Sonny was baptizing the crowd, not into his religion, but into his music. It was very touching to see this. It almost made up for an entire night of being battered and bruised by an unruly crowd.

Almost.

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