When is a mosh pit no longer a mosh pit?

Seems like there is a rather simple answer to this headline, when no one is moshing. Well, you’re not wrong there.

The use of the description “mosh pit” is being embraced by new musical genre though, other than the traditional heavy metal/thrash scene that embraced it and created what we now all believed to be our understanding of a “mosh pit”.

If you do not understand what we are talking about, here are some simple definitions.

Moshing

“Moshing or slamdancing is a style of dance in which participants push or slam into each other, typically performed in “aggressive” live music. Moshing usually happens in the center of the crowd, generally closer to the stage, in an area called the “pit”. It is intended to be energetic and full of body contact.”

Mosh pit

“ “circle pits” (where the participants bump and jostle each other as they run along the circular perimeter of the pit) “

En.wikipedia.org

Mosh pits are commonly mistaken for what was originally called “circle pits”. The mosh pit is simple the area near the stage where you head to, for a bit of jumping (pogoing), slam dancing, crowd surfing and other more active participation than tapping your big toe along to the beat and the odd bit of headbanging. 

The “circle pit” description though has been embraced by the masses, to where it is commonly considered a mosh pit. Who are we to argue with the greater collective. 

The origins of this activity started off small in clubs and venues and over the course of many years grew to what we understand today. As many blogs before have explained, there are rules; so we will not go into these here. Participants learn these rules through being part of the activity, sometimes your friends explain along the way, sometimes your father or mother may pass the rules down to you (yes we are fully aware of how strange that sounds….but true; I taught my son the rules before his first gig). All of this took time.

Now, we get to the adoption of this activity by other music genre.

As music grows and audiences want to express how they are enjoying the experience, their actions become more extreme. The latest addition to the moshing scene is the urban/grime (Grime) audiences. As with the roots of hardcore punk and metal, many of these acts start off in small clubs and venues and like punk/metal the mid 80’s into the 90’s, now is the time Grime music is making the giant leap into arena, stadiums and festival headliners. With this leap, comes the adoption of new fans and crowds that do not know the perceived norms of the scene, so they make their own, and some of that will be through adoption.

Unlike its predecessors though, the adoption is moving at a pass and sometimes the rules are not understood and this can lead to harming one another. This speed is through the sharing of video content on social media platforms.

Adopting more extreme crowd behaviour is possible if accepted by the masses, although most activities will be rejected. Slam-dancing, most will see this as you trying to start a fight and will quickly lead to a sore face. Crowd surfing, do you know how long some folks spend on getting their hair just right, you ain’t getting to flatten it. Wall of death, well we will get back to that one. Circle pit, now that is achievable, although all that running about is a bit much.

What many that listen to Grime music, call a mosh pit, is not in the traditional sense what they are participating in. It is an amalgamation of several crowd activities, to create a new activity that is acceptable as a group norm.

So what activity can be brought together?

Goal Celebrations.

In the UK this has grown over the past few years. Behaviour is more extreme, but safe. Jumping about, hugging, throwing “limbs” about, causing a “scene” and capturing the majority of it on your mobile to let everyone see how crazy you all got.

Circle Pit

The running around in circles is a bt much, but all facing into one another focusing the point of peak celebration is acceptable.

Wall of death

The thought of running into one another at high speed is taking it too far, but if you slow it down by pogoing into the middle in time to the base drop you have something acceptable. Also brings back a very old playground activity “British Bulldogs”.

Pogoing

It has always been there, jumping up and down in time to the beat. The name is just not used anymore.

So, put these all together and you have something “new” and dynamic. Then you add the cherry on top, the mobile phone and social media. Allowing a younger audience to show how extreme they are or the perception of how extreme they are. A short Snapchat video goes a long way to building a misconception of extreme behaviour. 

When you compare these “mosh pits” to what we originally accept of that should be involved, they are very sanitized and safer. The reason you do not see much footage from inside a “circle pit” at a metal concert is because there is a good chance you will lose or damage your phone. The Grime “mosh pit” is far more camera friendly lets say. It’s designed to allow those participating all the content they need to show what a fantastic time they are having. 

What we have noticed though, is the inability to know when to participate in this action and not. There are accounts at festivals this summer of these “mosh pits” taking place during acts that have never seen this type of activity before; we even witnessed it during an Emili Sandi set at a festival. Is this due to a lack of understanding on those attending and they don’t know how to be a crowd or is it because it’s the only thing they know to do at a concert.

Only time will tell how this develops.

Workingwithcrowds.com 21st July 2019