Ambient nondescript chords, sounding like music from far away, yet marching closer, growing louder. Intensity grows. A lone tin whistle begins, a wailing, soulful soliloquy, its own singular voice, the voice of what will become the battle cry.
Drums—in a staccato, tribal paradiddle—mark the time, the driving force to the end, pushing, keeping all the elements together throughout the song. Heads nod, catching the pace, followed by hands raised, either fists pumping the air or hands clapping the beat.
To start: A chant. Wordless, simple “Oh” vowel sounds that follow the whistle’s melody, the prelude to the anthem. Voices join in, at times creating harmony to the simple melody. In Unison. Anyone can sing along, even if it’s a first time, it is so easy to join in with the rest—a welcoming song for all.
The tension of the moments increase as the song continues; the crowd can feel it. And like an instinct, at just the right moment, the rest of the band joins in as an explosion of sounds and completely lets loose with all of the joy of an army on the move.
The Pit begins.
This is Punk Rock.
I can feel the bass in my chest reverberating, pounding out the rhythm. The music is loud. The people are ready and have begun their unique ritual moves, each one distinctly individual, yet in unison. The lyrics many know, the words of the song bringing them together as one.
I can feel heat rising off of the bodies of the people around me as they knock into each other, knock into me, wave after wave of ebbing and flowing, movement and swaying, the music dictating the mood and actions. Voices at the top of their range and volume, chanting and singing along with hundreds of others, all in unison.
The Pit goes round and round. What may seem like chaos is actually quite carefully orchestrated rules of engagement. Though elbows and fists may fly as they move and shout together, as bodies bounce and roll and sweat, there are rarely actual fights. Bruises and blood, possibly, but these are expected, a badge of honor even, to show friends at the end of the show.
There are also The Watchers, usually more experienced guys, like punk rock bouncers, standing on the fringe of the Pit. They watch for trolls who aren’t playing by the rules and single them out, giving a warning—usually a pointed finger or pointed look. If the warning is ignored, the spoiler is pulled out physically next time. There is an unwritten code of ethics if you’re in the circle. Bullies aren’t allowed.
Onto the concrete, others follow, tripping, slipping, and there is a mess of arms and legs. The Pit pauses, circles, protects, pulls up, pats on the back. Smiles. Get back to the music.
“If I fall back down, you’re gonna help me back up again” is part of a song by the gutter punk band, Rancid. This chorus could be the mantra of the Pit.
Phone dropped, cash bills on the ground…boy picks it up and holds it above his head, looking for the one out of whose pockets these spilled. Sights him, moshes over, hands it back. Hands shake. This is what happens with every lost article: shoes, hats, shirts, wallets…
Guys with shaved heads, big spikes, black leather jackets, wife-beater undershirts, and tattoos on their faces, bulging arms and necks are smiling at me, giving me a look like, Don’t worry, Sweetie. We got your back. No one’s gonna hurt you here. We give high fives after a few rounds as we mosh—sharing hugs, sharing sweat, sharing more smiles. While it may seem like a Brotherhood there in the Pit, these boys fiercely care for their little sisters, too.
The music plays on and we sing together like family.
What does Jesus have to do with a punk rock mosh pit?
Sometimes the journey with Christ is hard. We hear it calling from far off. Coming closer, we hear the melody. We join in and begin the dance, shoulder to shoulder with others, dancing the dance to the music we are hearing from the same source.
But at times, there are missteps; we can stumble and fall. Who is there to pull us up, dust us off, high five, hug and send us back into the Pit to move to the music once again? (*cough, cough: LIFE GROUPS, accountability partners…) How do we carry one another’s burdens, restoring people gently? (click here to read Galatians 6:1-5)
Do we have acceptance? Can we look around ourselves in church and receive with open arms? Are we, ourselves, received? (click here to see how the Bible describes for us to love one another)
Do the strong watch over the weaker ones, helping and discipling them in their faith, helping them hear the music and its nuances better? Are The Watchers–our elders, pastors, and leaders–willing to love, teach, correct, rebuke, train? (click here to read 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
On our best days, I see the Bride of Christ as the Mosh Pit. Our people are like my beloved drunken, tatted, miscreant thugs—my friends in the Pit— having care and concern for my safety, having my back on any given Sunday or any day of the week. They are there for me, just like I am there for them.
Integrity. Brotherhood. Protection. Unity.
The show is ending. There is a call to the stage and many come forward, climbing up to sing and dance with the bands and each other. It’s called “The Farewell” and it comes before the encores.
This is yet another show of unity—that we are all ONE together for that singular night, in this particular time and space. Trial lawyers, street sweepers, investment advisers, teenagers, school teachers, baristas, mechanical engineers, salesmen, shelf stockers, and the Church Girl…
Our titles on the outside don’t matter when we’re on the inside together, singing and dancing in unison.
This is the tribe tonight, the tribe of the punk rockers. We are all identified as one and the same. There is total acceptance here.
We watch as the masses exit, smiles, sweating, sharing their stories of the night, showing scrapes of skin or rips in clothing. Peaceful. Tired. Laughing. It was a night for punk rock family.
Ready for tomorrow, ready to fight the next day. Whatever that means.
The songs goes on and we will march to them.
Have you had this kind of experience, like the one described, where complete strangers all come together, there is acceptance, and everyone unites as one? When and where did it happen for you? How is this like or not like your own personal church experiences? Let’s have open, honest conversation…COMMENT below.
Here are more photos from the show.
The headline band, Boston Irish punks–the Dropkick Murphys. I love their look onstage!
This is from early in the night.