It happens at once, together, like a murmuration of starlings changing course. There’s a young guy onstage, his face long and stabby and white as a ghoul. Black-metal locks whirl as he screams a hernia-kicking version of Limp Bizkit’s ‘Break Stuff’ that, we are told, “was written by a lovely man.” He’s wearing a mesh top. Spikes. Black lipstick. A white contact in one eye. When a beat drops, he’s on a bloodhunt, but just talking to him — and between songs — he’s a kitty cat. The gentle way he says, “This next one is based on a true story. It’s called ‘Moshpit Blowjob’,” is more wholesome than I am prepared for, warming a cockle I didn’t expect to find so far into the dregs of Manchester below a train track and above a pub famous for bankrupting students who kind of caterwaul outside, smoking and squinting at more smokers on our staircase.
But anyway, this guy, Hanging Skeletons, is howling again, and the thing happens — half the crowd falls to its knees. Rises. Falls. Salaams. Kids bend together, heads on the floor. I know some of them. A lad at the front has red hair waxed into spears; I almost ate one when I said hello from behind. Others are scrawny shadows in hoodies or candy Eurotrash tracksuit jackets. I’ve never seen them all together before, but now they’re bowing in sync. No-one seems to start or stop on their own. One minute, they’re praising Skeletons; the next, they’re stirring a pit, perhaps opening the door to more blowjobs. Who knows? It’s like watching a cell divide and realign. They are not a dozen boys. They are an organism.