Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In Defense Of: The Mosh Pit

There are times in life when I feel I am fortunate. They may not come that often, but for certain opportunities into which I’ve stumbled, I am grateful. In my life as a music fan, I’ve caught many an amazing performance and had some wonderful experiences at shows. But there are many who can say that. I’m lucky because I was able to catch the last days of beautiful mosh pit perfection. I was going to write that moshing gets a bad name these days. However, it is more accurate to say that moshing doesn’t have much of a name at all. When’s the last time you went to a concert with a mosh pit?

See, the pit used to be a wonderful place that was totally dictated by the band’s performance. There was a natural ebb and flow to its energy. When the music would get crazy, so would all the kids in front of the stage. In that craziness, there would be crashing and bumping, and maybe even a jab or two. Every person was entitled to their individual display of exuberance while contributing to something bigger than themselves. There was something organic about the movement of the pit. Some would have people running full speed across the open space, others would have more of a circular, swirled motion, and some were just people jumping up and down together. It didn’t necessarily help the band interact with the crowd better, but fans felt more involved with the show. You couldn’t help but derive more enjoyment from the performance.

Additionally, every single person in that pit viewed you as a brother. If someone fell to the ground, those around him would immediately stop and help him up. Nobody was out to hurt anyone else. People did not attack one another. When the band played a slower song, the moshing stopped because it was all about the music. There was never moshing for its own sake. Some may prefer having a seat at a concert, but even if you stand, you’re stuck in the assigned spot declared by your ticket stub. You can’t passionately jump around to the music you’re hearing. Well, you can, but only within your two foot area. And God forbid you accidentally bump into another person. In the pit you were free to roam. If you were somehow stuck behind the tall guy with unkempt hair or sweaty dude in a leather jacket, it didn’t matter because everyone was going to move as soon as the next song kicked in. It was an egalitarian place. No one deserved a better time than anyone else. Again, we were all brothers.

I started by saying that I caught the last days. I figure I went to maybe three or four concerts with great pits. It’s an opportunity I will always cherish. Because soon after I was discovering my love of the mosh, it was dying on the vine. I saw Smashing Pumpkins at Metro right when Siamese Dream was released. I was astonished to see that there were people wearing tie-dye shirts and hiking boots. I had no idea that hippies were into the Pumpkins. Unsurprisingly, they had no idea what they were doing in the pit. They were actually crowd surfing when no bands were on stage. I couldn’t believe it. It clearly annoyed the hell out of everyone, and Billy Corgan even addressed it during the show, saying, “If someone is jumping on your head during the slow songs, just dump them on their ass.” My disdain for these hippie-come-latelys reached its peak when one of them was surfing during the intro to Window Paine (a slow build). He was flailing his arms and legs like an epileptic and I caught a hiking boot right in my eye. I immediately grabbed his ankles and threw him down to the ground. I was angry. But not just because I had been kicked in the face during one of my favorite songs. Because I had the feeling that moshing was about to die.

Sadly, I was right. As the alternative genre took over popular music, kids who’d seen too many Pearl Jam videos thought they knew what moshing was all about. I recall being punched in the face and kneed in the crotch. That never should have happened. I got in a shouting match with some fourteen year old girls at a Tool concert in Detroit because they were shoving unsuspecting people in the back, forcing them into a pit they had no interest in joining. They felt it was their right to do whatever they wanted. I nearly punched a 14 year old girl that night. But this isn’t just about me. At Woodstock ‘94, kids moshed to Joe Cocker. Joe freaking Cocker! At Woodstock ’99, Limp Bizkit played a song about breaking things, and the fans lost their damn minds. Moshing's worst moment was far more tragic. At a Korn concert last summer, a father was murdered by a fan who took mosh pit violence to an extreme.

But it's not moshing's fault. Like many things that began great, the masses immediately corrupted it. There are some who are actively trying to recapture those days. I’ve given up. Most people at shows these days like to stand around and applaud when the band is finished. And that’s fine. Really. People should enjoy themselves however they prefer. You can’t mosh by yourself. And I’ve lost faith in other fans’ ability to know how to behave. But I will always revel in those shows where I felt like I was somehow more than just a fan watching a performance. I was a small part of the music. Me and my brothers.


Unknown said...

while i never really took an active part in mosh pits, i really did enjoy them back in their heyday. they were a good thing: super fun to watch while adding atmosphere and excitement. i miss them too.

KC_hardcore! said...

i agree that moshing has been wrecked by the mainstream scene, but if you are looking for the stuff that you are talking about at a concert then you must look beyond (Korn and disturbed) version of "heavy" music, you must experience a hardcore show. if you dont already know what that is you can wiki it. the pits are not exactly "mosh" pits they are now called hardcore pits or dance pits. in which one would hardcore dance or "grind" a band you might want to check out is "the devil wears prada"...... happy hunting!

Reed said...

Right on, KC! Glad to hear that moshing is still alive and well in the heartland. I attended a handful of hardcore shows growing up in Chicago. They were subversively blissful, and the place where I learned how to behave in a pit. Over more recent years, nobody was moshing at all, which was a shame. Maybe the crowd was too old (me included). Based on your comment, maybe things are getting better. I look forward to my next opportunity!