Camp Moshava is not your average summer camp. It was more like Wet Hot American Summer—if instead of sex, the camp’s staff obsessed over Orthodox religious Zionism. Office workers would whisper “make aliyah” over camp loud-speakers, we weren’t officially allowed to touch girls (at all!), and torah learning and prayer were big components of our daily activities.
The summer before eighth grade, buzz had been building across camp after it was announced that Blue Fringe would be performing. At the time, the band represented an anomaly to the moribund American Jewish music scene. “Blue Fringe,” Tablet Magazine’s Liel Leibovitz wrote in 2005, “is bridging the gap between rock culture and religious faith.” Their sound was edgy enough for us kids to enjoy, and their lyrics were acceptable enough to pass the camp’s religious litmus test.
We loved Blue Fringe. Their songs echoed off of the wooded bunk walls every Friday when the camp cleaned before Shabbat. Nothing like this concert had happened before and people were excited.
The concert took place in the biggest building we had. The place resembled a big barn on the outside, with an A-frame roof, gray walls, and a stage inside. Wooden floors, stained a deep, scuffed brown, were worn from years of shuffling and shuckling during prayers.
It was those floors that gave the place its life: on Friday nights when we would all dance around the bimah, they bounced lightly up and down with the rhythm of our feet.
The night of the concert, the barn was filled with campers, guys and girls separated by a mechitza down the middle of the floor. When the band came on, the place exploded with pre-pubescent screams that I imagine are currently reserved for only the Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus.
As they struck their first rock chord, the guys in my section, we began to dance.
This was not the hora circle-dance of Friday night prayers, but rather something of a primordial mosh pit. I remember Blue Fringe’s sound filling the barn and willing myself to jump.
Everyone around me was doing the same. The floor undulated beneath our feet—up and down, up and down. As we surged toward the front, elbowing each other for a better view, our jumping became more electric.
Ever the neurotic, I glanced nervously at the bouncing floor, which seemed to roll a bit too quickly. It had withstood a lot until now, I reasoned to myself. So I continued to jump.
Then Blue Fringe played one of their more popular tunes, and the crowd really went crazy. We danced even harder, and this time the floor started bucking. As I felt the floor groaning beneath my feet, I was suddenly sure I was going to die.
With one last groan, the floor started sinking—it really started sinking—and I thought, this is it. I was going to die at Camp Moshava in Indian Orchard, Pennsylvania, right on the cusp of my high school years, and Blue Fringe’s Jewish rock and roll would be the last thing I would ever hear.
The floor sunk and sunk and sunk. That’s when the dancing finally began to ebb, and the adults intervened. They cut the sound and ordered a hasty retreat.
As we were ushered out, a big wave of relief spread over me. Looking back over my shoulder, I saw the pockmark our dancing had created on the floor. A fifteen square foot dimple, perhaps two feet lower than the rest of the floor at its center point, where I was sure I had been standing just moments earlier.
It was obvious that I was never in any real danger. A few scrapes, maybe, but death? Probably not. And yet, every concert that I’ve been to since has been measured against that one. So far I’ve been unable to recapture that singular, energizing terror that can only be felt at the presumed onset of death by music. Thank you Camp Moshava. Thank you.
David Fine is editor emeritus of the Columbia Current. He tweets at @DavidFine.