Into the pit

cannibal corpse

I’ve been to mosh pits before, including its arguably more insane variant, the circle pit. But it was last Saturday night, at Pulp Summer Slam XIII, when I stayed in one the longest. By my estimate, I was probably at the pit during 90% of Cannibal Corpse’s 14-song set. I got lumps and bruises to show.

It wasn’t planned. I didn’t go to Amoranto Stadium seeking sadistic gratification. I went there to listen to live music, from bands I only see in magazines and on the Internet, to bang my head and perhaps do a little pushing and shoving… but only  at a safe spot and with my bros nearby. That, however, changed after a conversation with my tukayo, the writer Karl de Mesa, at the venue.

“Dude,” he said. “Slam ka?”

I gave him a safe answer: “Not sure.” And then I threw him the same question.

“Nope,” he blurted. “I’m too old for that shit.”

Understandable, I thought. Like me, he’s well into his 30s and isn’t exactly one may call “athletic.” Still, his retort got me thinking. Am I too old for that shit too? The question — and its thinly veiled challenge — burned and festered in my head. It nagged at me. It made me uncomfortable. The English power metal band Dragonforce cried thunder in front of us, but half my concentration was on that question.

I figured there was only one way to find out, and the realization made my amygdala, the “fear center” of the brain, kick into high gear. Those who say there’s no harm in trying aren’t talking about mosh pits.

When American metalcore band As I Lay Dying took the stage, I decided to test the water. Prepared for the worst, I plunged into the seething whirlpool of angry young men, some of them built like construction workers, despite not being a fan of the band nor their brand of heavy metal. When I found myself still standing after two songs, feeling good despite the blows I received, I grew confident that I could handle Cannibal Corpse. And boy was I right.

When the band ripped through their set, it was pure mayhem down there at the pit, and I stormed to the center of it, fists up, ready to rumble, ready for anything, another half-naked fool there to enjoy the madness. I kicked, whacked, shoved, elbowed everyone on my path, and was kicked, whacked, shoved, elbowed in return. Fights nearly broke out, as was normal in this kind of activity, but peace signs were raised and the hotheads were pacified. Three times I saw someone fall to the ground, only to be assisted to their feet by fellow moshers. I found that touching, considering the violence both on and offstage, the liquor in our bellies, and the fact that we were all strangers to each other. At one point, two girls joined the pit, and the guys had to make space for them. Even in my beer-bombed condition, my head cranked up on violence, I was able to appreciate the gesture, and right there at the pit, among the misfits, the rebels, the social outcasts, I experienced brotherhood of the purest kind and felt — strangely enough — something resembling inner peace.

Non-moshers will probably have a hard time understanding this.

So, to answer the question, no, I don’t think I’m too old for that shit.

Photo from Reese Belarmino.

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