It's just gone nearly pitch-black inside Pasadena all-ages metal stomping ground The Pitt (109 N. Spooner), and all things considered, we'd prefer it hadn't.
We're not trying to be all cutesy-ironic, like, "Oh, look at us, we're afraid of clowns, aren't we quirky?" Shortly before the lights went black, visceral metallurgists Lamb to the Slaughter took the stage and a hearty little mosh pit broke out.
Now, somewhere, anywhere, everywhere, there's a fray of seven or eight white kids shoving, pushing and punching the shit out of each other. One flash of light even reveals a guy in mid-kick.
Knowing this barely controlled violence is going on is way worse than not. It's the difference between swimming in the ocean, thinking there are sharks around, and swimming in the ocean and knowing there are sharks around.
And to top it all off, one of the sharks, an 18-year-old Pasadenan named Travis Prince, is more than six feet tall, possessed of uncanny skinny-guy strength and really intent on showing Lamb to the Slaughter how much he appreciates its performance.
"When we mosh," says the sweaty, shirtless Prince, clearly the baddest of all the asses, "it's because the adrenaline is going. [We] want to show support for the band. They're playing, I'm moshing. It lets them know that I'm enjoying the show. But we're all friends."
Wait. So you support local music by slamming your friends to the floor?
Wayward as this seems, it tends to be the prevailing ideology at The Pitt — which isn't entirely unexpected once you learn that the average patron is local, overwhelmingly male, between 16 and 19 years old and very possibly bored out of his skull.
"This is the only thing to do in this fuckin' town," says Travis Seymour, a 16-year-old Deer Park student and Pitt regular. Seymour, oddly, earned the nickname "Angel of Death" from his mother while at the wickedest of all of the rodent-themed pizza joints, Chuck E. Cheese's.
He has a point, though — at least as far as concerts are concerned. The Pitt, which has "unofficially" been open since 2002, is Pasadena's only live-music venue of consequence. That's one reason the place was opened, according to part-owner Danny Espinosa.
The other reason The Pitt is a venue and not something else is that recording equipment is expensive. Espinosa was in a band himself once and intended to open a studio, but when things didn't come to fruition quite how he hoped, The Pitt was born.
Inside, the gutted 40-by-80-foot former mechanic's shop is exactly what you may be picturing: black walls, concrete floors, 25-foot stage and that's it. It calls to mind a rougher East End metal works The White Swan (4419 Navigation), and may share similar underage-drinking issues — despite Coke being about the strongest drink on offer at The Pitt, more than one of tonight's under-21 patrons appears to be less than sober.
Interestingly, The Pitt is a nonprofit venue, which is why it's damn near impossible to find anything about it on the Internet. Espinosa and the other owners — i.e., his mother and sister — all have daytime jobs.
The Pitt's Friday and Saturday shows of metal, progressive metal and metalcore run $8, and the Espinosas say that any money made goes directly back into upkeep. That's how they've maintained The Pitt's no-frills identity, apparently.
"This place has the better aura," says security guard Loren Hernandez, when asked to compare The Pitt to slightly more polished all-ages venue Javajazz (2502 FM 1960). "Javajazz is in it for the money. This is for the kids. It's not a matter of, 'Hey, they're sheep, let's take their money.' It's about giving back to them."
Not everybody is quite as impressed with the Pitt and its preemie metalheads. Commenters on the Hands Up Houston message board less than adoringly describe the place as "severely disappoint[ing]...a place for shitty generic metal, owned by rattfink nümetal fags."
Nevertheless, the Espinosas' venue fills a much-needed niche for southeastern Harris County's musical youth. It offers local bands an official place to play where otherwise there would be none — or at least none within reasonable driving distance.
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At night's end, Lamb to the Slaughter guitarist and scene enthusiast "Johnny Chaos" humanizes this point perfectly — though somewhat unsettlingly.
"I'm not really a family guy," says Chaos, a high-schooler born Angel Guerra who declines any further elaboration. "I've pretty much been on my own for a while, just me and my guitar. [The Pitt] gives me a place to go and fit in."
If you're interested in getting a glimpse of what Espinosa bills as "the next generation of metal," hit up the biannual P.M.H. (Pasadena Metal Head) Fest this Friday at The Pitt. Lamb to the Slaughter, Monkeys Beat Jesus, Haunted Chapel, Dismembered, Ethereal and Buried Waste are all scheduled to perform. And if you happen to see a bushy-haired six-foot teenage tornado, watch the eff out. That's Travis Prince, and he will wreck your shit.