This piece is reprinted from The Sun Burns Cold, and is the first guest contribution from Rip It Up’s Stateside buddy Dave, author of said website. You should check out his blog because it’s a truly immersing read – not always easy reading but pretty incredible in terms of the author’s ability to tell a story. As you’ll see from the article, Dave knows his punk rock stuff.
I remember my first pit, it was a L.D.S. w/ Sustained Agony show in an apartment above a pottery shop in Spokane Wa. back in the mid eighties. I posted footage of Sustained Agony playing that night a few months ago, some old VHS action that was on You Tube I found when perusing the Spokanarchy! doc site. Anyhow, it wasn’t like a “big show”. This guy, Harry, just let bands play in his living room. It was a much D.I.Y. punk by definition venue. Everything got cleared out, and the bands showed up, there was flagrant and unbridled teenage drinking…and of course, dancing.
Thats what it was called. Metalheads, and later, frat boy types, used the term “moshing”. You don’t mosh. You dance, or slam, but not “slamdance” unless your idea of punk rock came from the televised warnings about the latest miscreant delinquent trend of violence taking the nation called “slamdancing”. And anyways, that’s what it was called in the 70′s I guess, and nobody readily acknowledged that punk really existed before Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown ep. Cause, after all, we were 80′s kids and were more into skateboarding and the Short, Fast, Loud rules of hardcore than safety-pin accoutrements and dress up punk.
So, you know, you go to a show and see some bands and you dance in the pit and that kid who knocks you over gives you a hand back up and everybody has a bitch-en time. That’s pretty much how it went. Unless there were a lot of heshers or skinheads at the shows cause they were all about throwing elbows and being dicks. But the pit was generally a recipe for fun for all. That and stage diving. The end all be all of homemade punk t-shirts was made by Subvert’s original singer-white t-shirt, magic markered with ” Q: What Do You Want To With Your Life? A: Get Drunk And Stage Dive”. To this day I still remember my first stage dive. It was when I saw Dag Nasty, Subvert and Coffin Break at the Community World Theater in Tacoma. That was like 86 or maybe 7. It’s hard to remember exact years back then-the mid and late eighties are just a big blur of acid damage, liver abuse and all that shit about marijuana affecting your…what the fuck was I going to say? Memory. Yeah, thats it, memory. Yeah anyways, I was at the show and I saw people just getting up on the stage and bailing into the crowd and I was all “ohfuckyah. I’m there”. I did it and my friends were all stoked for me and they did it and I was all stoked for them and it was like when you pop your first really big Ollie on a skateboard or something. It’s like a fucking sense of accomplishment and shit. Shit was fun. I came home, a little worse for the wear after the nights expenditure of energy and consumption of Schmidt we got a drummer in one of the bands to buy since he was of age. My mom asks, “Where were you?” cause it’s like one in the morning. “Oh, nowhere. Just went and saw some bands”.
I recall one show at the Community World, I don’t remember who was playing, it might have been the Dayglo Abortions show when they got denied entry at the border and only the opening bands on the bill played. Oh, wait, one of the Dayglo’s made it and was trying to sell tour t-shirts but nobody would buy them because it would be lame to own a tour shirt from a band you never saw play on tour. Fuck, today people wear band shirts of bands they’ve never even fucking listened to. But the show was during the time when all these skinheads from Gig Harbor would come to the Community World just to start shit. Well there’s this one skinhead girl, I remember her because she didn’t sport the skin chick “fringe” haircut but instead was bic bald and rocking a pink ballerina tutu. Nazis in tutus, I’m surprised no one has used that for the name of their ‘zine, or blog. At any rate she tried to dive and no one caught her and she landed right on that bald fucking head. Ambulance came and everything. She was all fucked up. There were unsubstantiated broken neck rumors. I suddenly found myself feeling really bad for her, Nazi or not. I mean that just kind of sucks, fuck all the ideological interpretations. Kid goes to a show, leaves on a stretcher. Never a good thing.
The whole Skins vs. Punks thing started broiling over when Youth Brigade (then touring as Brigade) played and stopped their set because the skins were being fucktards. Some, er, “peer pressure” via the application a body check or two and various pairs of ten hole DM’s and the skinheads left en masse. The band came back on and finished their set, with a rousing 15 minute jammed out version of “What We Gonna Do About The Man in Blue?” ending the night.
The next show was Christ on Parade and Neurosis. To this day I think that is the number one “FUCK I WISH I WOULD HAVE FUCKING GONE TO THAT ONE!!!” on my list of shows I missed. At the time I was in custody of the authorities though, living in a “placement” in Seattle’s Seward Park district-after I got in enough trouble with the cops in Auburn that I was pretty much labeled an incorrigible juvenile drug fiend or what ever they refer to major fuck ups as in polite circles. But apparently, from everything I’ve heard the C.O.P./ Neurosis show at the Community World was the big square off between the Nazi skins and the anarchist punks. Showdown in Dodge city or whatever. The Skinheads never really came back after that. My one buddy had a swastika ring that was quite unwillingly, and as the story goes, painfully taxed from its previous owner that night. He never wore it or anything, he just kept it as a trophy. So much for all that hippie pacifism people like to equate anarcho-punk with.
Of course, I went to lots more shows through the years. By the mid ninetys I was living here in NEPA when things started getting stupid though. Guys would come to shows and do like these silly martial arts Kata routines in the pit. But that was when the “tough guy” capital-H Hardcore thing was going on big time. The last band I was in, we had to go up to play in Binghamton to get away from the behoodied/wallet chain/backwards baseball cap crowd. Up there it was a good old time though, surrounded mostly by “ancient ones” like ourselves-the over 25 crowd.
Then everything fucked up and I spent eight years in the stone hotel on a robbery beef. I got out and I was living in Erie. It is of my opinion that Erie is one of the finest places I have ever lived. Given the choice of going back out to the Seattle area or going back out to Erie, I would pick Erie hands down. It’s just rad for so many reasons, the least of which not being it’s punk scene-which is fucking great. Even the capital-H “814″ Hardcore bands from Erie are formidable as fuck. And even more important, I never went to a show there where people were anything less than friendly. And yes, they knew how to dance.
So it all came full circle, as in circle pit. And then I moved back here. I am generally unaware of any shred of evidence pointing to the existence of a zone, temporary or not, wherein punk/hardcore bands might play thus leading to the spontaneous eruption of a pit and/or stage diving activities. Of course, I’m way too old for the latter. But, y’know, just saying. Generally speaking, if a type of music that inspires violent bodily frenetics and the leaping off of indoor structures is played…well, I’d just like to be there to hear it.
Not that it really matters. Blasted and The Wallrides could be touring this summer and making their only stateside appearance in Scranton and unless it was on a Monday I wouldn’t be able to go because I work six nights a week.
But, y’know, I’m just saying and all. There’s a time when a motherfucker just gets the itchin’ to put on his dancing boots.