The Mosh Pit
Learning to dive in and survive the gig without being trampled on or headbutted in the nose
Ah, yes, the mosh pit; the symbolic representation of complete madness at any heavy gig. The one peculiar thing you might dismiss as being the thing of insanity, but the same thing you'd be surprised about if there wasn't one at all.
A mosh pit, in a nutshell, is a swarm of people you'll find close to the centre of the crowd nearest to the stage. And depending on the gig, you might find bobbing oldies rubbing shoulders with one another (usually a Ska show), or you could catch swinging fists firing like aimless machine gun rounds. Either way, you'll be quick to notice the carnage that goes on deep within the pit at most rock gigs. But, surprisingly, it's all part of the gig experience.
Show a ninety-year-old granny some amateur footage of a death metal mosh pit and she might just faint in horror. Then, providing she wakes up, she'll likely curse you and call it a thing of the devil. But, I mean, she just doesn't understand the passion behind it. And believe me, there is a certain beauty behind these bands of meatheads swinging arms into one another. But it'll take a little bit of explaining to reel you in. And a dose of persuasion, perhaps.
Usually, you'll find mosh pits revolve around the heavier genres as oppose to things like Hip Hop or Grime. Although, my younger brother, who is a hipster in denial, recently told me of this 'dirty mosh pit' he encountered at a rap gig. Now, I couldn't help but feel the sudden urge to swing for him right there and then before sitting him down for a 101 on mosh pits. But, you know, guilty conscience and that.
So no, you wouldn't exactly find a mosh pit at an Ed Sheeran gig, that's for sure. And believe it or not, there is a reason for this particular genre when it comes to bringing the battle to the stage. And, funnily enough, it isn't about violence or excuses to crack somebodies teeth in. Hard to believe that but it's actually true.
See, heavier genres tend to bring a certain essence to the crowd. There's a spark of rebellion that reminds you that for an hour or so, you are no longer an oppressed individual. You are, in fact, a victim that can have the chance to release a pocket of rage for a small duration of time as the band speaks of redemption and freedom.
There is nothing holding you back from submerging into the pit and banging your head to some iconic tracks whilst engaging with fistfuls of other tormented souls. And, in those short moments, you are bound together in one herd; releasing a certain emotion that at no other point during the day could be expressed. Anger. Hatred. Sadness. Pain. Anything that could be brewing from deep down within during the day. But as the band storms the stage, that small pocket of people you'll find in the centre of the crowd; that's where the caged emotions are free to run wild and escape. If only for a while.
Back when I was twelve I witnessed my first mosh pit. And, like most kids, I was petrified of it and didn't dare to go within twenty feet of it. Because, in my fragile mind, it was full of people that just wanted to start fights and have a get out of jail free card in the process. But I was naive, and these people, to me, appeared only as monsters in studded belts and steel cap boots. So, of course, I wasn't even sure of the consequences should I have thrown myself upon these 'dangerous people.' Not until my mate Tim decided to shove me in that was. But that was a very short-lived experience due to almost crapping my pants at the sight of a nearing roundhouse kick. After that I pretty much just ran away and didn't go back to the venue. But that's besides the point. Mosh pits are, believe it or not, relatively friendly places.
It's hard to believe that anyone involved in these things would actually possess genuine qualities or even so much as a heart, but you'd be surprised at how kind most of them really are. And, to be honest, I've actually made a shedload of good friends after being the victim to a good old-fashioned nose punch every now and then.
In my many years on the scene, I have attended and buried myself inside many, many mosh pits. But have I ever broken anything? Have I ever left a show feeling the blood boiling in my body? Have I ever made lifelong enemies that I swear to destroy should I ever see them again? No. No I haven't. But I have, however, patted plenty of sweaty people on the back and complimented their form like it was nothing more than a friendly spar. And, as the lights go down on the venue, I have indeed had several pints with total strangers who were, no less that thirty minutes prior, throwing fists towards my forehead. And that's actually pretty standard in the scene, believe it or not.
Going back to the kind-spirited qualities of a fellow mosher, I'd like to point out another few cases that will hopefully support that statement.
Rewinding back to a punk show I attended five or six months back, I had the opportunity to be up close and personal with my all-time favourite band, NOFX. Now, followers of the punk scene or band would understand that these live shows are not for the faint-hearted. They are always packed out. They are always wedged in so tight that you can barely move an inch for two solid hours. There's gallons of sweat. There's armies of angry kids urging to bang heads with strangers. And there's a whole pit of insanity.
But, as I moshed my way through a two-hour set with my best mate who constantly ducked in and out whilst being sucked into the pit, I noticed several things. Things that actually put a smile on my face and respect the pit a whole lot more.
During one of the bands heavier songs, the pit went completely wild and sucked up almost two thirds of the crowd and converted them into moshers whether they liked it or not. And within seconds, the whole venue was bouncing with thousands of flying boots, lassoing forearms, half empty pints, and dozens of soaked shirts.
But, to my surprise, as one younger girl close to me started to look panicked as she lost her glasses somewhere on the ground, the pit partially dispersed. Every person within a close proximity scoured the floor and kept the girl out of harms reach whilst searching for her glasses. And, after moments, the toughest looking guy in the building quickly flung through with the glasses high above his head. He handed them over and smiled. Then, he transformed once more and threw himself back into the carnage of the pit; like it all meant very little to him.
I've seen the same in every gig, regardless of how heavy the band playing is. With things like wallets, phones, t-shirts, and anything else somebody could be desperate to find, you're quick to notice that most people will actually help you. Because, honestly, nobody is there to inflict any form of real pain on you. Everybody is on the same side. Only the chosen expression for the one-sided army is a little, as you'd say, extreme. But nobody is there to hurt you. (... Intentionally).
If you fall, people will pull you back up. If you lose something, somebody will help you find it. If you collapse and urge for fresh air, you will be rescued and brought to safety. These are all relatively basic rules of common decency that everybody tends to follow at a gig. And to the small portion of people you might find at a gig who'd rather not respect a fellow mosher, well, you guys are just dicks. 'Nuff said.
So, put aside the gritty shell of moshing and you've actually got yourself a pretty sweet thing. I mean, hey, it ain't perfect, but it's something a lot of people live for and respect. It's something that brings people together from all kinds of backgrounds and origins. It's a massive middle finger to the world as you let your hair down and just live for a short while before being snapped back to reality. It's not elegant by all means. But it is somewhat beautiful in its own way. That's something you can decide for yourself when gearing up for the next show.
To all the fellow moshers out there: remember to keep it real and respect the other kids finding their feet. And to those who are somewhat ambivalent towards the pit: keep your head low, your ears open, and your arms up—you WILL survive.
SEE YOU IN THE PIT!
- J Tury