Published Jan 01, 2006For those who were into punk long before the whole Green Day/Offspring uprising, slam dancing and stage diving went out of style sometime around 1988, when mosh pits started erupting at Van Halen shows. Around that same time, DC proto-punks Fugazi were actually banning such anti-social practices at their shows, going so far as to stop mid-song and single out those who were violating the rule.
Fast forward about a decade and El Paso, Texas art-core practitioners At the Drive-In, who are often compared to Fugazi for musical reasons, are enforcing a similar pit-free policy at their shows. But they don't just do it to be dictatorial. "We've had one friend paralysed, we've had people get their heads hit into the monitor so hard they get cut wide open because there's some guy who wants to stage dive," explains ATDI drummer Tony (the band also has a no last names policy). "If you're standing in the front and you get your head slammed into a monitor while you're trying to enjoy the show, then that's a problem.
"We're small people and we know how it is to get pushed around when you're just trying to sing along to a band you like." The irony in the case of ATDI, though, is that while they frown upon mass audience freak outs, the band offers up one of the most physically dangerous shows around. Cedric and Omar, the band's infamously afro-ed singer and guitarist, routinely swing microphones and guitars around while Pall, Jim and Tony do their best to stay out of harm's way.
"We get a lot of people really yelling at us about that," says Tony. "They want to know why it's OK for us to do that. It's how we express our emotions and maybe moshing is how other people express their emotions, but at least the five of us consent to do it together. With a crowd of 200 people, I'm sure not all of them want to get pushed around."
But with the release of their brilliant third full-length disc, The Relationship of Command, and career-advancing invitations to open for Rage Against the Machine and Beastie Boys, they may find themselves having to enforce the rule with much larger audiences than they're used to. But as Tony says, it's not a daunting task when it's a matter of standing by a rule that's born of a principled belief. "It's the year 2000, let's change things together," he says. "Let's create a new way to enjoy a show instead of something that's been done for years and years."