Local Wire

Pit Stop

There was a time, in the early '90s, when there was no mosh pit I wouldn't brave. I loved the sweat-drenched chaos, the primordial release of pent-up aggression, the feeling of being one with a motley mass of metalheads. I even took pride in my post-pit injuries.

At one show, 350-plus-pound guitarist Roadkill, then of punk band Sloppy Seconds, stage dove and landed on me, leaving me with a concussion. Then there was that time that Merle Allin, Murder Junkies bassist (and brother of punk pariah G.G. Allin) took a swing at my stage-diving friend's head with his bass and knocked a mic stand into my eye. I've also been kicked in the mouth in a Tool pit, punched in the face in a Danzig pit, and accidentally pile-driven at a GWAR show.

But that was then, and this is now. And now — now being a Friday night in late September and me being 15 years older — I'm sitting serenely in a chair, sipping my water, and watching other people slam into each other while local heavy metal band Fracture Point plays at the Brickhouse Theater downtown. The band's onslaught is simultaneously primal and mathematical — guitar harmonies shriek over rumbling rhythms and singer Ben Rosputni's aggressive vocals, which remind me of a cross between The Accüsed singer Blaine Fart's sick screechings and Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe's cavernous screams.

Like Blythe, Rosputni also knows how to work a crowd. Unsatisfied with the meager pit in front of the stage (comprising mostly sweaty, shirtless men and enthusiastic teenagers), he prods the pit-goers to wake the hell up. "You paid $12 to get in," he says into the mic. "Get up here and get your fucking money's worth."

The crowd in the Brickhouse — which consists of about a hundred people — is collectively banging its heads, but with only a dozen or so people willing to engage in the pit, there's too much space for it to be safe. To me, the best pits are the ones that are so crammed full of bodies that you must resort to just staying where you are and jumping up and down. Thin pits are dangerous because people have plenty of room to launch themselves into each other and blindly throw elbows out behind them. So while Fracture Point's music is heavy and fast enough to merit a ferocious slam-danceathon, what's going on in front of them more resembles a dirty football game among a handful of blind, psychotic players. Nobody else wants to join the team.

Rosputni keeps trying. "Let me see your fucking horns!" he shouts, before the band rips into "Trapped Among the Fallen," a thunderous, fatalistic ditty punctuated by drummer Dan Ammon's whiplash timing changes, Matt Bond's burly bass, and guitarist Matt Hobart's finger-twisting fretwork. Behind the band, images of the Grim Reaper loom on a massive projection screen. Flames lap at his waistline while creepy crows fly past his head. It's the most metal thing I've seen since Iron Maiden, and still, there is no big pit.

Before launching into "Inherit the Downfall," the title track from Fracture Point's upcoming CD (expected to be released next April), Rosputni tries to encourage the audience with some swag. "Prove yourself on this song and get a free shirt," he tells the crowd.

A couple of people join the fray for the freebie, but there's not enough action for Rosputni, who announces Fracture Point's last song by screaming, "One last time — let's destroy the fucking Brickhouse!"

But by the end of the set, the Brickhouse is still intact, and the band is a bit disappointed there wasn't more audience participation. Tonight's low-key pit was a contrast to most of Fracture Point's pits. They consider some of their crazier shows to be the among their best moments. "I'd say it has to be the mosh pits, from the guys that get their nose busted on the very first song to destroyed merchandise booths, to just walking offstage and being hounded by people just loving what we did," Bond says.

"We had a mosh pit at Chasers so big once that people knocked over our merch booth and destroyed it," Hobart adds with a smile. "Spilled beer all over our merchandise . . ."

Everybody in the band's been in caught in countless moshes themselves, so what's the biggest pit they've ever been in? "That'd have to be Pantera, in '95," Ammond says.

"Mine was Hemlock," Hobart says. "It was a couple months ago, and I fractured a rib. And my knee is still fucked up."

"I got my nose broken at In Flames once," Bond offers.

"I'd have to say In Flames," Rosputni says. "I lost a shoe, and I had a bruised rib."

Those injuries are metalhead trophies, though, and won't stop the band from continuing to work on songs for the new record. Hobart says they're "saving up for really killer production," and thinking about working with local über-engineer Cory Spotts (Greeley Estates, Job For A Cowboy) at his BLUElight studios. They'll also continue to play shows around the Valley (visit www.myspace.com/fracturepoint for a long list), where they're selling T-shirts and copies of their EP, Hatred Set Free.

And of course, they'll be promoting the pit.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea