So, you probably watched the VMAs last night, right?
From home, it probably seems like a ~gLaMoRoUs~ event filled with celebs, music, and more celebs.
But I wasn’t at home — I was part of MTV’s “Friends + Family” casted audience, which means I was standing on the floor of the show with thousands of screaming fans. This is my survival story of what I experienced last night.
1. Actually getting into the event is TRULY an adventure.
The streets around the Forum were closed to traffic, so it took a while to find parking. Then you have to go to a designated waiting area for the pit audience and wait in line. Then you have to go through security. Then you’ll wait outside (don’t worry, there are water and port-a-potties available) until it’s your time to go into the audience. Then, you’re brought as a group into the pit. All in all, it took about an hour and a half to get into the audience with a lot of checkpoints along the way. By the time you’re inside you’re sweaty, flustered, and more than a little bit relieved.
2. It goes without saying, but you’re REALLY close to the action…
The pit audience wasn’t actually that crowded, so you were never too far away from the stage, which was pretty cool! Depending on the performance, you could be as close as 20 to 30 feet away from the performer even if you were in the back of the pit audience!
3. …And that includes the celebrity section!
Being in the pit also meant you were perfectly positioned to see the celebrity seating section (because duh, why wouldn’t the A-listers get their own section). So we could see Laverne Cox breaking it down during the commercial breaks, Taylor Swift and Lorde cheerfully chat away, and Kim Kardashian take more than a few selfies.
4. This also means you *might* have the best views in the entire house.
The VMAs is first and foremost a televised event. The artists are, for the most part, singing to the camera, not the audience — for instance, during “Drunk In Love,” Beyoncé was perpendicular to the main audience, which was an awkward angle. It was even worse for the celeb section — Katy Perry, who was up and dancing, could only see the back of her stage. But when you’re in the pit, you’re standing front and center and can pretty much see everything going on onstage — which not everyone else in the audience can say!
5. And you’re also in the “fun” section of the audience.
The main seated audience was kind of boring — they were seated for most of the show and not up and dancing. At one point Beyoncé told everyone in the stands to get on their feet, which they were reluctant to do. C’mon, you won’t even listen to Beyoncé?!? But on the floor, people were screaming and cheering for the whole show and were very, very into it.
6. You’re not supposed to have phones, but that rule was meant to be broken.
You have to go through security before the event, and it was at this point that we were told no cell phones were allowed in the pit for “security reasons,” which was silly because what were we going to do, pull a Naomi Campbell and throw our phone at someone? For a mostly young audience, this was a HUGE point of contention, and eventually, the production company in charge of the event reached an agreement with Forum security, and we were told we were allowed to bring phones in, but if we took them out and were caught, we’d be kicked out immediately.
7. You’re part of the show.
Before the show, we were told to follow a “hip and trendy” dress code and to look “sharp, sexy, and classy.” There were also times when producers would tell us to react to the performer in a certain way — i.e., hands up and clapping for Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” because they wanted a lively audience to appear on camera for TV viewers at home. Sometimes, this felt forced, but other times, it’s hard not to scream and cheer — i.e., when Nicki Minaj literally did anything on stage.
8. You have to move every single commercial break and it is INSANITY.
The stage changed for EVERY performance, and in order to do so production crews had to shift the audience (which doesn’t want to move in the first place) across the floor to make room for the stage to shift. You don’t see it on TV, but being on the floor of the VMAs during commercial break is like the Running of the Bulls — total chaos. But maybe not as much chaos as Nicki Minaj’s dress malfunction.
9. In a way, being in the pit is like being in bootcamp.
In order to move us, there were two production guys who would stand up on stage and give the pit audience instructions on how to move across the floor over the loudspeaker. They wouldn’t talk but would SCREAM at us like a drill sergeant. Then, production members would direct us with those glow sticks that air traffic controllers use. It kind of feels like being cattle. But since no one wants to move AWAY from the stage, the whole moving process is disjointed.
10. And standing in the pit is one of the most exhausting physical challenges you’ll ever complete.
You’re standing in the pit for close to three hours, with no bathroom breaks. Then factor in that you probably haven’t eaten or drank anything in a really long time, and by the end of the show, it feels like you’re about to pass out. But that might have also been because Beyoncé slayed you with her closing performance.
11. For better and for worse, this is not a normal concert experience.
You’re sober, some of your reactions are not natural, and you are directed around the floor like a bunch of kindergartners. BUT where else can you see Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, and others perform live in one concert experience? The answer is NOWHERE ELSE.
12. But at the end of the day, all the screaming, moving around, and standing is worth it.