The Mean Little Column - "The Delicate Etiquette of the Slam Dance"

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Mean Little ManSlamdancing. The dance of slam is more than an art form. It is, as all dance is, an expression of spirit. Spirit that will not be broken, spirit that can not be ground to grist. Punks, punk music, hardcore, and even harder ska is the music of frustration, of being outcast and of pent up aggression with the moral tinge that what is happening, and has been happening, is wrong. The soundtrack of the disenfranchised. It is the aching pulse that something isn't right, and the frustration of an unknown cause.

Slamdancing evolved from an early Mod dance known as The Pogo. In the pogo one stands straight up, puts their hands at there sides, and then simply uses their feet to repeatedly propel themselves upward, hopping to the beat. The body, arms, head and knees are motionless. The dance is comprised only of relentless hopping. It is highly annoying to watch. Which is probably why people started slamming themselves into the first Pogo-er somewhere between the 8th and 9th bounce.

But whereas The Pogo was dancing from feelings of repression incarnate, the inevitable slamming that occurred was cathartic. Cathartic beyond belief. From there it got interesting.

The evolution of The Pit soon followed. In The Pit those in the audience who do not wish to partake fully of the physical chaos of slamming would form an open area around those that were. Everyone faced into the circled area acted as a padded wall of arms and legs to keep the chaos contained and moving. The Pit dancers usually move in a circular flow, flailing their arms, kicking their legs, slamming into each other, and expressing their frustrations physically. In its purest form Pit Dancers do not punch or kick each other.

Slam dancers seeking new expressions of frustration, adrenalin, and cathartic release soon took to the air. Climbing on stages or speakers or any elevated position the stage-diver would then dive out over and into the crowd, usually escaping a bouncer's grasp by moments. In the golden age of Punk the stage diver would be caught by the crowd. It was rarely ever a graceful moment or a technique that involved anything resembling Buzzby Berkley.

Things soon changed. For the worst.

The media has rarely been one to understand youth counter-culture, preferring to impart to its audience only shocking imagery that can then be misrepresented as violent, or dangerous. And usually in your town. Media images of this 'dangerous' culture and 'violent' dancing began to attract those violent and dangerous. By the mid-80s sightings of slamming began to occur at heavy metal shows. Its participants mimicking what was seen on the news. Unfortunately the etiquette of the dance in its earlier days seemed to be lost, no longer an expression of frustration and angst, but of violence.

This became known as Moshing. A sad term that survives today.

Not to say that a shift wasn't also occurring in the punk scene. There have always been those that preferred not to leave their spiked jackets or belts on the sidelines of a Pit. A loss in safety, of course. But that small hazard blossomed into steel-tipped boots, razor blades in the laces and other new niceties.

Also, people were finding catching a stage diver was not nearly as much fun as getting out of his way as he plummeted from the heights onto club floors, too often made of concrete. And if someone fell in The Pit stomping was found to be far easier on the back than picking them up. All this bastardization of Slamming reached its zenith at Woodstock '94 where thousands of poor, misguided youth took to Moshing to Sheryl Crow.

NJ has been growing a pretty vibrant punk scene. Its young. Its angry. Its angst-ridden. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. The Murphy's Law show at Asbury's Stone Pony a few weeks back featured some very pumped and powerful hardcore and punk acts. But like so many shows I've seen recently the crowd wasn't Moshing, or Slamming. Not even a Pogo to be found. Stock still as stone statues the audience stood in front of the stage watching through 4 opening acts.

The relentless lack of motion was broken with some dancing beach chicks actually bopping and dancing with the happy cheerleader abandon usually reserved for a good lip-sync session with the mirror and the hairbrush when you are absolutely, positively, sure you are alone. I had found something more annoying than the Pogo.

When Murphy's Law kicked in it was old school. Old school hardcore. And a good old-fashioned old-school Pit straight out of the pre-Wham 80's at CBGB's.

The younger there didn't seem too sure what to make of it, but held in there successfully. With all the self-consciousness of finally participating in a tribal ritual they'd only read about, afraid to be found out, they helped surround the Pit.

People fell down. And they got picked up. People stage dove, and they were caught. It was beautiful.

To assist in making your next Slamdancing experience as pleasant as possible, please print, scrawl on your notebooks, learn, recite, and practice the following:

Rules for Slamdancing

1. If someone goes down, PICK THEM UP. Do not stomp them, or leave them to be stomped. The next time it could be you.

2. Never turn your back to The Pit. Wait until you are at a safe distance. Things in The Pit are unpredictable and you never know what, or who, may come flying your way.

3. Stage Dive at your own risk. If the crowd is thin or isn't into it, don't take to the air unless you like eating concrete, then boots.

4. Do not deliberately punch or kick people. Also be sure to take care when flailing arms and legs that you don't crack somebody like a spaz.

5. Make Room. Don't stand there like an ass if someone starts slamming. Lead by example and make way. Others will follow suit or submit to Darwinism.

6. Don't let others get their ass stomped in The Pit. In The Pit its never 1-on-1. Also, actual fighting in The Pit can get a show cancelled mid-song by a nervous band or bouncer.

7. Don't ostracize anyone. So what if someone shows up wearing a U2 concert T-Shirt? The fact they even knew about the show means they're a fan of the music.

8. Anyone who breaks the above rules shall immediately be removed from The Pit. These rules ensure a safe and pleasant time for everyone.

Hugs and Smooches!,
The Mean Little Man on 2-2-2001.

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