Bloody Battles Will Be Fought Here
The inquiry came from my wife and it was directed at me. I would be going out with some friends in just a few hours to experience some epic metal performed by none other than hometown epic metal warriors, The Sword. My first metal show in close to a decade.
In case you don’t know, The Sword is a band from right here in Austin that specializes in metal of the fantastical/science-fictional variety. Sprawling sword battles, magical creatures, ancient goddesses, time travel - these are but a few of the topics you’ll find expounded upon in their lyrics, complete with copious references to literature of related genres. I mean for crying out loud, they’ve got a song called “To Take The Black.” As one friend of mine put it, they’d probably drift right into Spinal Tap parody territory if they weren’t so damn sincere.
And of course, there’s the fact that they fuckin’ rock.
“Are you gonna mosh?”
“Mmm, nah, probably not.”
I met up with my friends Bill and Brendan before the show to throw back some pints. In terms of age, I’m the middle child in this group, Bill being the senior by just a hair, and Brendan being the baby of the bunch. I’m the only dad in this crew, though Brendan and his wife are expecting a baby boy come August. Bill, for his part, is something of an adopted uncle figure to all the offspring of our circle of friends. My kids love him, my friends’ kids love him, and he loves them right back.
“So are you guys gonna mosh?” I don’t remember who asked the question as we sat around the table downing our brews. We all pretty much agreed we would not be partaking in the melee that evening. Me, I did plenty of that sort of thing in my younger days, so I felt like I pretty much had it all out of my system. Plus I’m reaching the age where I gotta pay a bit more attention to what’s going on with this body of mine. I can’t just go throwing myself into every swirling vortex that I happen upon.
We left the bar and headed over to the club. It’s a new/old kind of place - new in that it only opened its doors in its current incarnation less than a year ago, old in that it used to be this divey little metal bar called The Back Room. I saw some good shows at that little shithole back in the day. It was nice to see that the current owners had done some renovations.
When the band came out, we grabbed ourselves a little spot off to the side where we had a good view of the stage. They tore through several of my favorites - “Tres Brujas”, “Barael’s Blade”, “Freya” (which also happens to be one of my 4-year-old’s favorite jams) - and the three of us howled our approval along with the hundreds of other people who’d come out to watch The Sword unsheathed. All across the room, pointer and pinky fingers reached skyward in salute. We had a perfect view, the band sounded great. We could just hang out back here all night. There was no reason to leave this spot unguarded.
He shook his head. “Nah, I don’t think so.”
“Okay.” Then, as if I hadn’t even heard him, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the hardshell glasses case that I’d brought along with me, just in case. I slipped my glasses inside, dropped them back in my pocket, and made for the stage.
What am I doing?
I found the pit moments later, right down front where it always is, a sea of consensual violence moving not so much in time with the music as in spirit with it. I hesitated a moment. Then the moment passed.
What the holy screaming fuck am I doing?
Except then all the questions vanished. Because while there are questions before the pit (Am I really going to do this?) and there are questions after the pit (Why in the hell do people do this?), there are no questions in the pit. It’s like meditation in that sense - when one is moshing, one is only moshing, one is doing nothing else. One is fully present in the moment.
Except then one falls because if enough shoving and slamming occurs, one inevitably finds oneself on one’s ass. Except! that’s part of it too. There are these rules, see, they’re not written down anywhere, but they basically all boil down to “Be cool, don’t be an asshole.” If somebody falls, you make room and you help them back up. A pair of arms wrapped around me and pulled me to my feet. I turned around to thank my rescuer and lo and behold, there’s Brendan grinning back at me.
“I couldn’t let you go in by yourself, dude!”
Bill made it in too. I know this because his bald head smacked me in the chin at one point. These things happen.
We stayed down pitside for the rest of the show. When the last note was finally sounded and the band left the stage for good, the three of us wrapped our arms around one another and hugged like a trio of madmen, unable to stop laughing. Another dude joined in our group hug, bringing us to a quartet. We didn’t know him and he didn’t know us, but he was glad to be there and we were glad to have him. I’m pretty sure if someone had offered us a raw steak, we’d have sunk our teeth into it right then and there.
As we walked back to the car, Brendan pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to me. It was a book. He said he’d found it in the moshpit. The cover was missing and the front page was torn. It looked like it’d just been stomped on by a bunch of metalheads. I turned it over and looked at the back.
“Uh, dudes, this is Two Towers.”
We stopped in our tracks. A copy of the second volume in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series, the early source material for so much of the type of music we’d just experienced, found in the moshpit at The Sword concert. We felt the epicness wash over us.
“Do one of you guys want this?” Brendan offered.
“Hell no!” He found it, we told him, he needed to keep it so that one day, he could show it to his son and tell him about the time that his dad found it in the moshpit at The Sword concert. He said he would put it in a glass case. I believe him.
\m/ >< \m/