Bangers and Mosh
Mosh pits are strange and misunderstood things.
To those that have never been involved in one it probably looks like a violent brawl set to a backdrop of equally violent music.
A hole opens up in the middle of a crowd, at the center of which usually stands a gorilla of a man covered in tattoos and breathing heavily.
People fling themselves around this hole in the crowd, bashing into one another with elbows and shoulders.
The people that line the circle act as bumpers, or a barrier, between the pit and the rest of the crowd, absorbing the impact from those in the pit and pushing them back for more.
That’s one type of pit.
There's another type called a 'circle pit', where people do much the same thing but do it while running around the edge of the hole in the crowd in a circular motion.
Hence the name.
It creates a weird vortex of bodies sort of effect.
Then there is something called the wall of death. Usually this happens when the band is about to play a song that is at first relatively calm and melodic but then bursts into a devastating onslaught of heaviness.
In more popular music this is what is usually called a 'beat drop'. In classical it would be called a crescendo.
For a wall of death a similar hole will open up in the crowd, but this time there is no one in the center. Instead, on either side of the hole there is a line of people just waiting for the 'drop' so that they can charge at each other.
Depending on the size of the pit this can end up looking pretty lame or like an epic scene from a weaponless medieval battle field.
I reckon the wall of death is one of the more dangerous incarnations of a pit…
Anyway, the energy in a pit is directly related to the energy of the music. The faster and heavier the music, the faster and heavier the pit.
They’re not unique to heavy metal either.
I've seen pits at punk shows, rock shows and electronic/dance shows (though the ones at rock and dance shows tend to be a lot more mellow than the ones at punk and metal shows).
At it's heart a pit is just a raw and pure form of expression.
It's like dancing but more primitive and a lot less coordinated.
You can't help but get completely absorbed in the moment when in one, and by the end you’re covered in sweat, breathing heavy and feeling an intense rush of endorphins.
Also, they aren't anywhere near as violent and destructive as they appear from the outside, in fact they are generally pretty friendly.
What does it all mean?
I recently went to Chicago to attend a heavy metal festival called the Chicago Open Air.
It was two days of non stop metal, drinking, smoking and moshing.
At 33 you might think that I'd be too old for moshing, but fuck you, don't judge me.
I've done it for years and will probably keep doing it, provided whoever is playing sparks the desire in me.
You see not everyone will just mosh to any song or band.
It's generally reserved for the bands/songs that manage to reach inside you and flick the release switch.
I guess that urge to dance/sing along that people get when they hear a song they like is a similar feeling. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but when you get it you know it instantly.
The big difference with moshing is that it usually involves a bunch of strangers and looks more like a fight than a dance.
However, no one goes into the pit with the intention of hurting people (unless they’re an asshole, but you get those everywhere - some people leave the house with the intention of hurting people).
There’s actually a real comradery in there.
If you get close to one you’ll probably find a bunch of happy looking heads bouncing around in there.
Just people just enjoying themselves.
Every now and again someone will fall. It's inevitable and the reaction is always the same.
As soon as someone hits the ground the people around that person will stop and form a sort of barrier around them. The number one priority becomes helping them off the ground.
The best thing to do when you hit the ground is to simply throw both your arms up because within seconds someone will be grabbing them and pulling you to your feet again.
Of course people have been hurt in mosh pits, but you can get hurt doing almost anything - and most physical things worth doing come with an increased likelihood of getting hurt.
I think mosh pits have a bad rep and should be understood and appreciated for what they are.
They're a release.
A way to harmonize physically with the energy that the music brings.
Ok maybe I'm overselling them now, but they are fun and a lot friendlier than you might think.