2014 was another bruising year for punk and metal fans in Houston, and naturally, most of those bruises were self-inflicted. From the southern outpost of Scout Bar to the northerly slope of the Woodlands Pavilion hill, alcohol-fueled crazy persons made a sport out of slamming into one another, turning the city's clubs, dives and amphitheaters into rock and roll proving grounds. In mosh pit after mosh pit, we watched the adrenalized mayhem turn boys into men and girls into badass chicks who are not to be fucked with.
At times, it was beautiful: Only at a rock show can you see a grown man hug the guy who just violently knocked him off his feet. Other times, the moshing got flat-out scary, sending all but the most indestructible mutants scurrying towards the bar. More than once, the action in the pit proved to be more memorable than the music onstage.
While nobody can claim to have caught every mosh pit in Houston this year, we here at Rocks Off are proud to say we braved quite a few of them to bring you those pictures you like so much. And a few of those pits stood out more than others, forcing us to stand back and simply admire our city's lack of sanity. What better evidence of a great show can there be?
So for all the skankers and the skaters, the bros and the bullies, we present to you now our official accounting of the Top 10 mosh pits of 2014:
10. GWAR at Warehouse Live, 10/26/2014 For a while there, it seemed as if Houston might have seen its last GWAR mosh pit. When beloved front-being Oderus Urungus passed from this plane of existence earlier this year, many fans feared that the mighty Scumdogs couldn't carry on without him. By October, however, Warehouse Live was once again wrapped in plastic from ceiling to floor as GWAR's many local slaves battered one another within the band's constant streams of blood and bile. The wild pit served as welcome reassurance that GWAR is more than capable of continuing to dominate a post-Oderus planet.
9. Back to Back at Fitzgerald's, 1/26/2014 Fans of Toronto's Fucked Up know to arrive at their gigs ready for plenty of crowd participation, but the most memorable moshing action at their January show at Fitzgerald's was stirred up by local hardcore standouts Back to Back. One brave young woman was inspired by the band's chugging brand of punk to hop onstage and see how many people's heads she could walk on before tumbling into the pit.
Not sure what her final tally ended up being, but she must not have been satisfied with it, because she tried repeatedly to break her own record.
8. Goatwhore at Fitzgeralds, 9/15/2014 Monday nights can make for some pretty lame mosh pits, but New Orleans' death-metal torchbearers Goatwhore churned up one of the year's best at their September show at Fitzgerald's. Spurred on by guitarist Sammy Duet's outrageously loud Randall amplifiers, fans thrashed across the floor with satanic glee, completely oblivious to the impending tragedy of getting up for work the next morning. As longhairs careened off of one another up front, Monday had never felt more metal.
7. H.R.A. at Rudyard's, 1/18/14 Rudyard's Pub may be best known for its cozy Montrose atmosphere and its mad decent pub grub, but the neighborhood bar has also hosted its fair share of metallic mayhem over the years. In January, local hardcore cretins H.R.A. turned the tiny dance floor upstairs into a crowded, roiling mess with a few jagged chords and a nasty attitude.
Bodies and wedge monitors were repeatedly bowled over as a rowdy micro-pit broke out in the tight little space in front of Rudz's corner stage. It's cool, though; I wasn't going to drink that beer anyway.
6. Revocation at Fitzgerald's, 10/10/2014 Sometimes the last night of a tour can be a real letdown, with road-weary bands trying to get the gig over with quickly and painlessly so they can get back home to their very own beds. But if Boston's death-metal alchemists Revocation were tired when they came through Fitz with Crowbar in October, it sure as hell didn't show.
The band had to raise its game to match the enthusiasm of the Houston crowd, whipping the pit into a frenzy with mighty kick-drum precision. When the band's last 32nd note finally died away, front man Dave Davidson thanked the moshers for making the last stop one of the best nights of the nationwide trek.
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5. Avenged Sevenfold at the Woodlands Pavilion, 8/10/2014 Call us poseurs if you must, but there's simply no denying that the well-manicured hill at the Woodlands Pavilion is where some of the biggest and best mosh pits in Houston history have broken out. It's a million miles from the stage and kinda steep to boot, but that's never stopped metalheads from churning up thick clouds of dust up there.
Avenged Sevenfold singer M. Shadows paid tribute to the anarchy in the back this summer at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. "Every time we play here, there's some insane motherfuckers pitting up there," he said. ""So we're going to play one for you to get crazy to." As the band broke into "Bat Country," fanatics from all over the hill streamed into the pit, creating a terrifying spectacle on a scale that can't be found anywhere else in town.
4. D.R.I. at Scout Bar, 12/8/2014 Long before local hardcore expats D.R.I. had even taken the stage as Scout Bar, at least one blogger had already been completely flattened by a flying punk that he never saw. Things only went downhill from there. As D.R.I. deployed pulse-pounding thrasher after thrasher, the fearsome circle pit inside Scout Bar never slowed down, with moshers plucking stage-divers right out of the air and parading them around the floor on their shoulders as if they'd just won the Super Bowl.
3. Power Trip at Walters Downtown, 2/15/2014 For the third year in a row now, Dallas' Power Trip earns a spot on this list thanks to their mentally ill coterie of loyal Houston fans. The mere appearance of the Texas hardcore standard-bearers onstage at Walters during the Badass Weekend festival was enough to eliminate all sense and reason from the crowd as the band's devotees degenerated quickly into a violent mania. It's a good bet that Power Trip will be back in H-Town sometime soon, so go ahead and pencil them in for a spot on this list next year, too.
2. Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals at Warehouse Live, 1/10/2014 It was really no surprise when former Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo sold out the Warehouse Live studio with his new solo act. Not only is his work with the Texas metal icons deeply cherished by the majority of Texas headbangers, but the Illegals also feature the slick shreddings of well-known Houston guitar-slinger Marzi Montazeri.
The tightly-packed venue churned into a maelstrom the minute Phil appeared, but when the band busted out a trio of Pantera classics towards the end, the ecstatic moshing ascended to a new level -- one that would prove almost impossible to beat.
1. Cro-Mags at Walters Downtown, 7/10/2014 Nobody seemed quite able to remember the last time New York hardcore legends the Cro-Mags had been to Houston when they rolled into Walters this July, but it had clearly been way too long. Before the band could even plug in, out-of-control maniacs were already jumping off the stage, and they never quit.
The carnage was simply off the charts throughout the Cro-Mags' set, and the club was packed so full that there was nowhere to run. The brave souls up front absorbed body blows and boots to the head all night -- most of them giving as good as they got. But even the lucky wimps in back went home with their ears brutalized, courtesy of the Cro-Mags' indefatigable crunch.
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