Concert Reviews

Dispatches from the Perfect Mosh Pit at Last Night's Slayer Concert

A knight wearing a cardigan steps into a mosh pit. Men and women resembling barbarians, vikings and neanderthals - with long hair matted, sweat soaking their black t-shirts with the words "Slayer" written in blood across their chest and shoulders - surge like an angry sea all around him.

Upside down crosses hover above the stage, and a pentagram backdrop with the repeated word "Slayer" hangs somewhere in the darkness. Thrashing thunders all around, and the sky above the metal band turns red, but the knight simply curls the tips of his handlebar mustache and slams into a neanderthal who looks more dwarfish than human, then hits an old barbarian with long gray-streaked hair, before finally surging against a shore that violently returns him to the sea.

Oh... the madness, a sea of moving bodies crashing and surging, depositing demented fish flopping as if gasping for air in the crowd that forms the mosh pit's borders. But be careful throwing them back; you may lose an ear or a finger. Some of them are vicious fucks, and their smiles and nods of mutual respect hide their evil intentions: to cause raining blood, especially at a Slayer concert.

The knight crashes into a woman whom he'd been trying to avoid. He looks as he wants to apologize, but then she slams into him and nearly takes out his nose and knocks off his glasses. He smiles and spins into another body and another and another as electric guitars ignite on stage.

He stands out among my brethren with his nicely trimmed hair, perfectly styled with a partial part to the left (or maybe the right; a strange fog filled the Southside Ballroom on more than one occasion). Surrounded by slobbering maniacs with matted hair and glistening bald heads, the knight looks as if he's going to be crushed. But he moves with a grace that defies the madness taking over the mosh pit.

The metal gets faster and louder. Cups fly through the air, raining alcohol on the people pouring into the pit, but they don't dodge the beer; they welcome it. Leaning heads back, mouths opening, lapping at the raindrops filled with Bud Light and Coors Light like possessed dogs finally set free for the night.

The knight moves with the beat screaming through the ballroom, sidestepping metal heads ejected from the mosh pit. He jumps, spins, and stops to head bang. But he doesn't understand the pit's chaotic nature, nor does he realize we're entering the mouth of hell. It starts out spontaneously. A certain chord... a rift... a drumbeat - that perfect pitch - or a combination of the three sparks the movement. Resonating through the body, the beat inspires people to move in a circle. A giant step, slam! Fall back, slam! Legs in motion, body swaying... slam! Flying out of the... into the circle. It's a dance of madness.

Mosh pits are genuinely dangerous. People get injured by the thousands. A few have even been killed over the years.

Maybe the knight realizes the mood in the pit has changed as the music transforms into a sound not heard since the days when Slayer looked like rebels without a cause, when they were writing a song about the Anti-Christ.

"They're playing songs they haven't played in 20 years!" screams an older fan, standing near the edge of the pit. He's taking shelter behind four or five people, but he throws up the horns for Tom Arya, Kerry King, Paul Bostaph, and Gary Holt (who's channeling guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who rests somewhere on the south side of heaven).

"This is an amazing set," says another fan.

"Ten years, man," another one chimes. "It's been ten years since I've heard that song."

A joyful madness descends on the crowd, and the knight in a cardigan raises up a partial fist with his index and pinky finger extended like bull horns. Moving his arm up and down, banging his head forward and backward creates an energy more powerful than the electricity fueling the amplifiers and speakers. It singes the soul, weakening the veil that protects them from the metal heads whose anarchist ideals are a big "F--- you" to authority.

And with albums like Show No Mercy, Hell Awaits, Reign in Blood, South of Heaven, Seasons of the Abyss, God Hates Us All, Christ Illusion, and World Painted Blood, no one says "F--- you" better than Slayer.

See also: -The Top Ten All Time Best Replacement Lead Singers in Rock and Roll -Songs That Have Hidden Messages When Played in Reverse -The Ten Best Music Videos Banned by MTV

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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.

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