Fitzgerald's is trying to lose its reputation as a punk rock joint. No big deal, right? Well, from a Houston music lover's point of view, this change of heart should stop you in your army-boot-wearin' tracks; because not only will Houston one day lose its best, biggest place for rowdy small and local punk acts, it will also lose its only spot for the regular authentic punk rock experience.
Like that Sid Vicious T-shirt your mom bought you at Target a couple of years ago, moshing -- on the day, two months or two years from now, that Fitzgerald's inevitably phases out punk shows -- will be a thing of the past.
Can't comfortably do it at Rudyard's (too small). Can't do it at The Oven (too, too small). And you can't do it at Instant Karma (too quiet).
Says Ryan Plagman, booking agent at Fitzgerald's: "It's more pain than it's worth anymore."
But as moshing goes the way of the whooping crane and the spotted owl, we should try to look at its departure as a harbinger of something better; possibly a kinder, gentler hardcore crowd.
For one thing, moshing was annoying. It was created by the need of some concertgoers to be individualistic on the dance floor. As a result, it destroyed punk's sense of togetherness-in-outsiderness and community -- as trite as that may sound. The history goes like this: Moshing (i.e., people non-dancing) is a bastardization of slam dancing (i.e., people dancing against each other), which in turn is a bastardization of pogoeing (i.e., people jumping up and down like pogo sticks, bouncing off each other), which is a bastardization of simply jumping up and down in place. By the time moshing made it to the mainstream, most horribly evident in Woodstocks '94 and '99, it had lost all of its punk heart and had become part frat-boy fantasia, part skinhead drama. These two groups of folk weren't participating in the pit to have fun or release tension. They were there to grab ass and start shit.
"If it's done correctly, it can be fun," says Byron Dean, front man for Poor Dumb Bastards and, at 36, old-school punk rocker. "If it's not violent or there aren't any little bastards trying to hurt people, it can be a good release."
That's another good thing about moshing's eventual demise in Houston: safer shows. Injuries and lawsuits resulting from mis-moshing have been well documented. A couple of years ago, six loaded Kingwood High School football players and two hangers-on beat the living shit out of a 16-year-old fellow student at a local punk concert at the Kingwood Town Center. All eight were charged with misdemeanor assault. In Wisconsin a man reportedly slammed another so hard into a wall during a show that the second man suffered head injuries akin to what one would endure falling off a roof or getting into a car accident. And the Australian Journal of Emergency Medicine published an article detailing injuries that people age 15 to 23 experienced while moshing. A dislocated shoulder, scalp lacerations, broken wrists and a cigarette burn to the eye were just some of the boo-boos mentioned.
"As long as it doesn't get out of control," says Fitzgerald's Plagman, "we've let them [mosh]." He also says Fitzgerald's makes all its employees learn the club's security code, which includes an "exit policy."
"If people are slamming too hard or are out of control, we have them exit," says Plagman, who typically doubles security to about a dozen guards for mosh-inducing acts. "Or if they're endangering others."
A lot of the bands that perform at Fitzgerald's are made aware of the code beforehand. Plagman says he doesn't tell bands to hold back; just not to incite the crowd. Some heed the word. Some, like Blanks 77 last week, don't. "What can you do?"
Says Scott Doyle, punk rock fan since he was 16 (he's now 21) and front man of local punk rock outfit O'Doyle Rules: "[Moshing] is just fun. I guess it's good for an angry young kid, ya know. If the band's good enough, I'll do it.
"There's always gonna be some jerks there. Some people just want to hurt others. Skinheads will try and start a fight. That's the only time I got mad. Or when a drunk guy's there."
Moshing's extinction will lead to a democratic process: Punk rock fans will be forced to choose how they want to dance in the tinier digs that remain. They won't be answerable to "mob rules." And if they choose to mosh? "The people doing it should be responsible," PDB's Dean says. "If you don't want to get hurt, don't hurt anybody, 'cause retaliation is done, and when it comes back around it's a bitch."
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Sixteen local DJs will be vying for cash prizes and new turntables as The Box's "Mixx DJ Contest" takes place at Cloud 9, 9347 1/2 Richmond. The contest began last week and will run until January. Next round is Tuesday, November 30. Call (713)781-9861 for more information.
Last week's Rotation review of the Houston Jazz Trio album LandHo was written by Paul J. MacArthur, not David Simutis, the Press contributor to whom it was wrongly attributed. Our bad, Paul.
E-mail Anthony Mariani at email@example.com.