The Pit Will Teach Youby Milton Schorr / Images by David Devo Oosthuizen / 03.02.2014
Broken bottles, glass scattered across tar, crunching beneath boots. A crowd’s pouring past… 10 000 of them. Eyes dart nervously around. Some in the crowd are breathless, talking fast. “Lamb of God – Pure American Metal,” is written across a T-shirt, then another, then another, then another.
They’re here – the thought is running through the crowd like collective consciousness. It flows through the piercings, between the tattoo whorls. Chris Adler is here. Willie Adler… They’re here. They’re close by.
When I get inside, the stage is far away. Those that got golden circle are gathered around it, making sure they’re in front, not moving for no one. Out here, in the cold outer reaches we’re huddled up against the barrier watching, wondering why we didn’t book earlier, why the fuck we thought R100 would make a difference, when it comes down to it.
The second warm-up band has finished their set. Suddenly there’s nothing left between us and Lamb. Suddenly we’re at the front… years of dreaming come to a head. Roadies swarm. Winches whirr. A 10×10 ‘Lamb of God’ banner rises above the stage. Chris Adler’s kit appears, shrouded in smoke and raised up. YouTube clips run through my mind. Brutal footage of Lamb live. Lamb at Donnington, Lamb at Download, Killadelphia. Mosh pits 100 metres wide, like a hurricane from space swirling in clouds of crowd.
I shake my head, look around. Fuck. This is going to be intense. Chris Adler’s here. Randy Blythe… They’re here. They’re close by. A security guard stands in a gap in the barrier checking tags. The ‘Golden Ones’ mince through, smug. Fuck them. Fuck this. Jesus, this is Lamb Of God. Something happens, something takes hold.
“My man, my bru, you want a hundred bucks?” I whisper, leaning close, feeling the feel of a folded note sliding into a stranger’s hand… knowing that this is right. And then I’m through. Fuck them. Those guys back there. This is where I have to be. The stage grows as I walk, pushing a few rows closer to the stage. There will be a pit tonight, no doubt. Blythe will not stand for anything less. It’s Lamb tradition. Tonight Jo’burg will play.
I’m not here for the pit, I tell myself. I want to remember tonight.
We wait. Empty water bottles and beer cans sail through the air. Metal is violent. I can feel the adrenaline, the tension. How is this going to be? How big is this pit going to be?
“Lamb!” Screams a broken voice.
We wait. Chills run through the crowd. Anticipation.
“Lamb of God! Lamb of God! Lamb of God! Lamb of God,” chant thousands of voices. Suddenly he’s there. Chris Adler. It’s him, stepping up to the drum kit.
Silence. The man takes a breath. Pauses.
Then chaos. Artillery. Three guitars join the assault. Sound a churning spectacle. Crystal clear. Time change. Vocals add to the wall, thickening it, rising above. Time change. Fuck, that’s deep. Fuck, that riff is raw. Time change. The girl next door knows it. Dressed sensible, she’s an innocent thing among the misfits but she gets it. Secret, succubus smile every time the kick drum kicks her in the chest, every time the guitar slices through. Time is liquid, it’s jelly. This is power – a wave crashing over the crowd.
But watch their fingers and hands. They’re quick, light, gentle. Caressing each note, each beat, then moving on, touching, moving on, grinning devils inciting the mass.
“Alright Jo’burg! Here we go!”
Adler lays in the roar and brother Adler, Campbell and the new replacement guy add the nasty. Symbols chime like a hail of knives. There’s a pit nearby.
Where I am is where I should be, watching, listening, trying to record the show in my head, trying to absorb and remember… But it’s incomplete. The stage is still too far away. The source is too far away. This is not as good as it gets.
“Black Label,” announces Blythe. The seminal pit anthem brings the knowledge that the show is nearly done. The pit seethes as the intro kicks out, building. Something takes hold. I weave through the crush. Sudden space as the song proper comes pounding in.
Pummeled, pulled, sucked in and over. Time change. Direction change. Loss of perspective. Grunt. Pull. Smashed. Suddenly I’m four rows from the front. There’s Blythe. Crazy eyes – conducting the power. There’s John Campbell – long white beard, snarling as his bass shakes the stage. A guy goes down, his body between churning feet, his hands out in front of him.
Ten arms rush in, pulling him out from the crush. His shirt’s soaked through with sweat, his hair plastered to his skin, big smile. He shows me something in his hand. He’s picked up a pic. He found it. He’s got Willie Adler’s pic!
Another crash, another assault, another mesmerised, slow motion moment as fingers pick out a graceful, brutal dance. Blythe takes a breath, preparing to blast it. Campbell nods as his fingers run up and down his bass. Sudden silence as each hand kills the strings in unison, then the blast as the tom kicks the whole, brutal machine off again. This is metal. This is Lamb of God.
Suddenly it’s over. The crowd’s bleeding away. Sweat soaked, dazed scenes. The silence is loud with what’s just happened. I climb on the bike for the ride back to Fourways, the long loop of highway around. Wind and the four cylinder engine set a new beat, making peace and time to think.
The pit will teach you, muses my mind. Metal is sweat. It’s body. It’s alive and rushing. Metal is letting everything go inside the drums, the riffs, the bass kicking you in the chest, the rhythm guitar grinding you while the lead cuts you and raises you up. The pit will teach you the real reason for bleeding to learn to play. It’s to taste power, to be a part of it, something fucking huge. Pure power, controlling it, winding it up in notes and melodies then letting it loose in waves. The pit shows you the details. The pit will show you metal, the pit will show you Lamb of God.
Thank God I got into the pit. Thank fucking God.
*All images ©David Devo Oosthuizen
**Photos courtesy of RAM Touring, Warner Music Group, The Metal Review and Devographic