Posted by: D.A.S. Chicago | March 12, 2011

Need To Unwind? Thrash it up IN THE PIT!

We all have our own ways to relax and unwind. Some people listen to soothing music while others go out and dance the night away. While these are pretty common ways that people use to forget about the pressures of daily life for a while, there are other ways that are a bit less common. There’s a small group of people who, to relax, turn to extreme music shows. By extreme music I mean thrash, grind, hardcore punk and the like. These shows are often in small venues and crowded basements. The lighting is usually dim, the floor is often slick with spilled beer, and the people look like something out of that ‘Mad Max’ movie. Once the music starts people collide with each other, jump off the stage on top of the crowd, and act in a manner that in most other public settings would get them arrested. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if this is what you’re into, then Chicago is one of the best cities to live in. I talked to several people from the various extreme music scenes to get insights into why this organized madness is so appealing.

Hardcore punk has really been one of the main innovators for extreme music. It’s a scene populated by a wide range of ages, from teenagers to old-schoolers. These shows can be found in basements and warehouses all around Chicago. It’s constantly evolving and incorporating ideas from other types of music. I talked with several kids who are active in the scene to better understand what goes on. “A lot of bands still stay true to their origins” I was told by a kid named Mikey. “There’s all this modern hardcore that’s more metal then hardcore. I’m glad a lot of bands  around here still sound like it’s 1987.” That period was when the hardcore scene was going full force. One thing you’ll notice at hardcore shows is their seemingly drunken style of moshing. While modern hardcore moshing is characterized by 2 stepping and displays of karate moves, at old-school hardcore shows people still run and stumble side to side, wildly swinging their arms while occasionally charging the singer of the band to sing along. What’s funny is that some of these kids who stumble around like they’re drunk are straight edge and don’t partake in any drinking or drugs. Stage diving is commonplace at larger venues. A stage dive is exactly what it sounds like. A person climbs up on stage and from a running start jumps out on top of the crowd. All this madness and activity is great for a persons cardiovascular health as it really gets the heart pumping. Injuries do happen but are not as common as some people might think. If you want to know the latest information regarding the Chicago hardcore scene check out the forums at Chicago Hardcore.

Chicago Hardcore band Expired Youth at The Galaxy

One area of extreme music that has been growing over the past several years is the thrash scene. Thrash started in the early 80’s with bands like Slayer and Exodus but almost disappeared when grunge became popular in the early 90’s. Over the past several years thrash has exploded back onto the scene. Termed ‘the second wave of thrash metal’, young bands from all over the country started popping up and established a regular touring circuit. Chicago is one of the main destinations on this circuit and this is partly due to the quality bands our city produces. Diamond Plate, Vicious Attack, and Deadknight are the big names in Chicago.  According to a thrasher name Steve, “When the second wave started, bands were playing anywhere they could find: basements, living rooms, weird venues in far out suburbs. At the same time the scene was getting bigger and bigger. I remember seeing a band play in the basement of a coffee shop at the same time that their music video premiered on Comcast OnDemand. The next time they came to town they played the Beat Kitchen.” As bands garnered a reputation, they began moving to bigger and better venues. Now most touring bands play at Reggie’s Rock Club in the South Loop. Several aspects about thrash are unique. According to Steve, “If a band’s not into it on stage, the crowd won’t be either.” The crowd wants to see the band cut loose and enjoy themselves. If they’re just standing there playing it looks like they’re bored. If they’re banging their heads as hard as they can to the beat of the music, the crowd will respond in turn. “It’s all about the circle pit.” says Steve. A circle pit means that a barren circle opens up in the middle of the crowd with kids running counter clockwise around the perimeter. Some stomp around, others wildly swing their arms in the style of the punks while others run full speed ahead. Stage diving is also common but banned at larger venues. A wall of death is another common element that you see at thrash shows. According to Steve, “The crowd parts down the center like the mother f****** Red Sea.  Usually at the command of the band. The music starts and at a signal from the singer the two sides come together brave-heart style.”

Municipal Waste. They helped start the 2nd wave of thrash and play Chicago on a regular basis

You might think that the people who engage in this madness are crazy, that all of this is idiotic or excessively dangerous and it probably is. The fact remains, though, that this is how tens of thousands of people all over the world choose to unwind. This is how they balance out the stress and burdens of everyday life. In a world that’s as structured and ordered as the one we live in, sometimes a little madness is what we need to escape it all. So if you ever find yourself in a dark, dimly lit basement where the guitars are cranked to 11 and the people are bouncing off the walls, don’t hold back. Take a deep breath and JUMP IN THE PIT!



  1. Great post

    R, Aron
    here’s my site too

  2. that is definitely what I was searching for, You have saved me alot of time

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