OP-ED: Views from the Pit

by Kenny Ramos

Photo courtesy of Judge's Facebook page

It was 8 p.m. in Cambridge when I got off at the Central T stop. I was nervous and very self-aware as I walked into an undisclosed building, eager to start my Saturday night off right. The doorman checked my name off the sheet followed by a stamp on my right wrist. I was there to see one of the most prolific punk bands of the New York hardcore scene; Judge.

I’d been to punk shows before, but this one was different because, unbeknownst to me at the time, tonight I finally threw myself into the center of the pit.

Prior to the show, I had no desire to do any such thing. My 5 foot 4 inch, 125 pound noodle body usually situates itself a few layers of people away from the pit because I always thought that’s where I belonged. Intuitively, this makes sense given that once the thrashing would inevitably start, I would have a zero chance of stopping a 200 pound punk from rolling me into the ground. I will say, however, most people in the pit do look out for each other, and will lend a hand to pick you up after you’ve been knocked over. Still, it is a truly hectic and lawless scene, which explains my general avoidance of it in the past.

That being said, the Judge show that night was an exception. For one, I’m a big fan, and even though I’m not too involved in the straight edge hardcore scene, Judge is one of the few bands I do closely follow. It was also probably the only chance I’d get to see them play. I spent much of the night watching the earlier acts from the sidelines with my boredom building up.

Was I going to safely and idly stand by once Judge went on? Were my weeks of long awaited anticipation going to fizzle out into a bland recollection of my first and probably only Judge show? Should I have just thrown caution to the wind and charge into the pit knowing my own blood may spill?

At 9:30 p.m. Judge began to set up. I inched forward into the mob. The guy next to me took off his shirt and tied his hair into a bun, then began to stretch. I took his odd pre-show ritual as a sign that I should either let nothing hold me back tonight, or retreat to the far side of the room while it was still possible. By this point during the show, the air in the room carried a humid musk of heavy sweat and deep breathing. This was the final calm before their set.

Immediately, the drums rattled violently as “Bringin’ It Down” caused the crowd to erupt into a frenzy.

Perhaps in that moment I completely snapped or maybe I no longer had any other option, but with a tough snarl I leapt into the pit. It felt like a release valve had been unhinged, and the pit was where everyone was welcome to swing, gyrate and stomp with manic aggression. From an outsider’s view, the pit looks like a disaster, but being a part of it made me realize that everyone in there had a tacit understanding of one another. Regardless of where you came from, we were all there to express our admiration of Judge through explosive, lunatic movements. No one there was to hurt anybody else. No genuine hopes for violence existed. No hatred of one’s religion, gender, orientation or race was present.

It did not take long for me to feel comfortable inside the mosh pit. Despite the flying bodies and tornado-like spinning, I was enjoying being in the center of this controlled chaos. Any apprehension I had in the past was more of a misunderstanding. Sure, there is a real danger of being physically injured in the mosh pit. Accidents happen, and yes I’ve seen my fair share of broken bones and black eyes due to moshing. The key takeaway, however, is that people in the pit have no desire to harm your body. In fact, they want you to enjoy the show just as much as they do.

Overall, I think what the pit represents is a communal bond for music fans. It’s a non-verbal way of saying, “Woah, you like this band too? ‘Hell yeah I do,’” followed by an arm over the shoulder charge across the pit in tandem with your new comrade. It’s just an aggressive way to celebrate.

I went home that night with my shirt stained with sweat and collar stretched out along with a fresh outlook. Don’t let the fear of getting roughed up in the pit prevent you from having an unbelievable experience. My only advice would be to keep on moving, and I promise you that fear will give you the adrenaline rush your life desperately needs.