Houston's 10 Gnarliest Mosh Pits of 2013

Punks and metalheads don't always see eye to eye, but one commonality they can always high-five over is the predilection to batter one another senseless at every opportunity. Houston played host to countless shows and tours this year that forced fans to keep their knees bent and their elbows out if they wanted to remain upright. Most were typically joyous affairs; some were a tad nastier than that.

Whether it was with hardcore floor-punches or thrash-metal clotheslines, you really beat the shit out of one another this year, Houston. Kudos! Now, at year's end, Rocks Off salutes your best concert scrums of 2013 by reliving a few of the scariest, most exciting mosh pits of the past 12 months. If you ran towards these mini-riots instead of running away from them, you're indisputably bigger, younger and (possibly) crazier than we are. Difference is, we got the photos.

For those who weren't there or were simply too concussed to remember much, let's take a look back at the bands who left the most scars, shall we? If you found any of them wanting, remember: The best mosh pit is always the next one that you start.

10. Warbeast, 1/14/2013 The first big mosh pit of the year came courtesy of Texas thrash revivalists Warbeast, who headed south down I-45 in support of New Orleans sludge superstars Down. While Warbeast had no problem getting heads banging on their own, the mosh-pit activity was kicked into overdrive when the band brought out friend and benefactor Philip H. Anselmo to duet with singer Bruce Corbitt on a track from their most recent album. Unabashedly showing out for the Texas metal icon, fans stepped their game up a notch or three during "Warbeast" in reminiscence of pummeling Pantera pits long past.

9. Overkill, 2/6/2013 Virtually no one who played Houston this year could touch thrash innovators Overkill for pure speed. Urged onward by buzzing guitars that often sounded like dangerously overheated chainsaws, ecstatic mosh pits exploded like ecstatic IEDs inside House of Blues as the band reminded old heads and new that the classics never go out of style. It was a blistering metal onslaught that proved to be far sharper than many of us had anticipated from such a long-running act.

8. The Acacia Strain, 2/22/2013 More scuffles broke out in the pit during the Acacia Strain's February set at Warehouse Live than at any other show I attended all year. The mean-muggin' deathcore act was a bit of an uncomfortable fit with headliner Every Time I Die's upbeat, smiley countenance, and things got heated fast as the group ground out its misanthropic brand of breakdown-heavy rumbling. With Warehouse's studio room packed to the rafters, there was nowhere to run from the turmoil as hardcore and metal moshing styles clashed violently in the scrum.

List continues on the next page.

7. Negative Approach, 11/2/2013 Few bands in history ever spewed bile as angrily as Negative Approach, the hardcore survivors who whipped punks into a nasty little frenzy at Walters last month. Combat-booted punks with a spring still left in their step flew off of the club's small stage like Navy HALO jumpers throughout the group's performance as circle pit after circle pit forced fans to keep one eye on the stage and one eye on the floor to avoid being leveled. Even scowling singer John Brannon curtly nodded his head in approval at the chaos -- the hardcore equivalent of a gracious, ceremonial bow.

6. Slayer, 11/12/2013 Thrash titans Slayer suffered some big setbacks in 2013, including the death of guitarist/songwriter Jeff Hanneman and the departure of original drummer Dave Lombardo. Nevertheless, the band continues to soldier on, speedy and evil as ever. Their November gig at Bayou Music Center was a tad tamer than many Slayer shows I can recall, mostly due to it falling on a Monday night.

Luckily, plenty Slayer fans are completely insane, and managed to batter one another with sociopathic precision in the pit with little regard for work or school the next morning. If you've never taken a forearm to the throat during "Angel of Death," chances are you don't quite "get" Slayer, and probably never will.

5. Bickley, 7/20/2013 21st-century appearances by local punks Bickley are a rare treat, indeed, and when the resolutely scatological group popped up onstage as part of 30footFALL's 20th anniversary show this summer, fans were in no mood to hold back. Sloshing beer all over each other and screaming along with much-loved old chestnuts like "Fuckwall" and "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight," the young and young-at-heart in the crowd shoved, stumbled and swung through a raucous set that easily rivaled the headliners' for sheer nostalgic glee.

4. The Dillinger Escape Plan, 7/27/2013 After enduring a pummeling slate of extreme acts on the Summer Slaughter Tour in July, the crowd at House of Blues took a bit to kick into high gear for the anarchic Dillinger Escape Plan. Soon, however, there was no escape from the insanity, with pits breaking out all over the floor.

Rocks Off dispatcher Corey Deiterman reported that two people had to be dragged out of the carnage after being knocked the fuck out, but even the police officers on hand found themselves unable (or perhaps merely uninterested) to stem the chaos.

List continues on the next page.

3. Black Flag, 8/26/2013 Young punks hoping to experience a bit of the legendary mayhem incited by Black Flag back in the early '80s had to be a bit concerned to find the Walters stage surrounded by barricades when the reconstituted troupe arrived in Houston this August.

Despite the angry signs warning against stage diving (posted by the band, I can assure you), the crowd slammed with elated abandon during the DIY icons' set of classics, pogoing, shoving and stomping around in precisely the manner they'd learned from studying grainy, black-and-white photos of hardcore's heyday.

2. Power Trip, 12/7/2013 When Dallas' thrashcore champions Power Trip come to town, veteran fans who prefer not to be bruised know to stick close to the walls if they want to avoid flying fists and feet. After a busy year that saw the release of the band's Southern Lord debut, Manifest Decimation, Power Trip capped off 2013 with a furious set at Fallcore 13 that inspired the most violent windmills, scissor-kicks and summersaults since, well, the last time they were here. The hardcore dancers' vicious onslaught parted the crowd like Moses did the Red Sea as the more staid scenesters did their futile best to stay out of the way.

1. Cannibal Corpse, 5/10/2013 Oftentimes, the best mosh pits are the ones you simply can't get away from. That was certainly the case when death-metal deities Cannibal Corpse arrived ready to stomp Fitzgerald's flat in May for the first night of the Decibel Magazine Tour. The old club was bursting at the seams with rank longhairs, whose nonstop slamming and shoving turned the entire floor of Fitz into a roiling hellscape of exuberant fury unmatched all year long. The very bravest (or maybe just brainless) metal fanatics bounced around with their phones out, recording first-person video of the mosh of 2013.


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