I’m old now, and out of touch, but when we were kids we called it moshing, or slam, or maybe just the pit. We didn’t really ever call it dancing, though that was what it really was, just a movement to the music, a release, an expression of ourselves, a bunch of lost kids, angry and disappointed with the world. To an observer, it looks violent, and sometimes it is, if you get a drunk in there flailing his elbows around, or some tourist jock type dude that saw it on movies or something and just wants to push people around, and sometimes something happens in there, people can crack their heads together, or you can get a fat lip or something, but mostly it is just bouncing around, just dancing, but like I said nobody really called it that. It was just the pit, a thing that happens at shows, between the crush or people at the front, all sweaty sardines, dudes trying to keep their girls from getting crushed, all smashed in there, hot and stifling, between there and the stoic older dudes in the back, black jeans and white t-shirts, and Chuck Taylors, standing there nodding, bopping, and keeping the pit contained, pushing an unruly shirtless straggler back in with the other animals where they belong.
It can get nuts in there, you can get thumped pretty good. Sometimes, you can trip, you can fall down, surrounded by legs and stomping boots.
But here’s the thing: if you fall, they pick you back up.
You trip on someone’s feet, you get caught off balance, you step on an empty beer bottle, some stage diving lunatic lands on your head, you fall. It seems scary, dangerous even, but it isn’t.
If you fall, someone will grab you by the arm, they will pull you to your feet and then this Good Samaritan saint will just bounce off like it never happened, and you get back to bouncing too, and you don’t get trampled like a old lady at Wal-Mart on Black Friday, you don’t get crushed under all those feet. We watch out for one another; someone falls, someone else reaches down, and they help you up.
And that’s what I think of more than anything, that’s what comes to my mind, not the Mohawks or piercings or bullet belts or patched up jean jackets or spikes and studs and leather, what I think of is a stranger’s hand reaching down through the chaos and helping you get to your feet.
We get drawn to punk for different reasons, maybe we’ve got a bad father or drunk parents or nobody gives a shit about us, or maybe we find it for no reason other than the world is scary and confusing and there in the dark, singing with your arm around the shoulders of your friends, there sweaty and smelly and smokey getting blasted with sound, there everything seems to make sense. There in the flashing dark is the three chords and a whole lot of other people that feel just like you do, that life is strange and sometimes awful, but here and now none of that shit matters, nothing matters but the sound and the heat, and we raise our broken and cracking voices to the sky and we sing and we shout, and for a while there, nothing can hurt us.
There we are not alone.
It doesn’t make us any less fucked up, understand, it doesn’t cure our depression, our anxiety, our addictions, our self destruction. It won’t wash away the abuse, the neglect. It won’t make your dad come back home or make your uncle stop touching you, it’s not going to make your friend not attempt suicide, it won’t wash away that garage tattoo or stop you from getting in an unnecessary fight, it won’t fill in the holes in your clothes and in your heart and in your soul, it won’t make someone care about you, or to not have fucked that guy when you were away. But there, if you fall, there is someone looking out for you, someone there to help you up, they take you by the arm and they lift and they pat you on the back and then they disappear into the slam, they jump on someone’s back and shout and raise their middle fingers at the band. More than anything, there, we are not alone.
Some of don’t make it out. It seems like we lose people every day, to overdose, to suicide, to jail. Some of us become our parents, we become abusers, neglecters, we become distant addicts, violent drunks, we die in car crashes and homicide. Some of us don’t make it out at all.
And we go to funerals and we say things like another brother down, we drink whiskey and we toast to our lost friends, and we look around and wonder who is next.
And then we get older, or some of us do, if we are lucky enough, if we found something to hold on to in this churning maelstrom, some way to keep our heads from sinking below the surface, and we still go to shows, we stand in the back with our arms crossed and we nod our heads and bop a little, and we remember what it was like to be in there, and when some shirtless maniac comes veering out of the pit we just push them back in to the slam with the other animals, back in there where they belong, back home, where if you fall down, there is somebody looking out for you, someone there that will reach down and help you back to your feet.