SEPTEMBER 2014 ~ Lessons from the Pit

I’ve wanted to write about moshing for awhile now.

I have a pretty wide range in my readership so I know that some of you know what moshing is and some of you may not.

So, before I talk about moshing, I should probably spend just a minute explaining what it is for those who don’t know.

Moshing is a type of dancing, but I am using that term very loosely. You will usually find moshing anywhere you find punk rock or heavy metal bands. Moshing is slam dancing. Basically the people in the crowd (or mosh pit) begin slamming into each other. Wikipedia says it’s “intended to be energetic and full body contact.” That’s putting it mildly. People in the mosh pit, jump around and indiscriminately throw themselves into each other. Mosh pits also include body surfing where you pass a participant over the top of the crowd, running around in circles and several other full-bodied, aggressive contact moves.

Now, I know I’m making this sound just awful, but people who enjoy moshing, like my children and sometimes my husband, find this to be an incredibly exhilarating, fun activity.

There’s lots of information on the internet, including YouTube videos, a Wikipedia write-up, a WikiHow, and even a page called Zen and the Art of the Mosh Pit, if you’re interested in knowing more about moshing.

In the 90’s my husband and I used to go to shows where there was moshing and now, we’re back. Our kids have a punk rock band and so I find myself back on the edges of the pit; which is actually what I want to write about.

I’ve been in the pit a few times, but honestly, I’m a pretty small woman and pits seem pretty violent and unsafe for me. However, I tend to find myself around the edges of the pit, and there’s some etiquette for this too. If you’re on the edges of a mosh pit, you’re sending out a few messages. The first is, “I do not really want to mosh, but I like being near the fun.” Now, for you the fun may be the moshing, but I just want to be as close to the music as I can safely be. Another message you are often inadvertently sending is, “I’m willing to be a support person for moshers.” If a willing and fully participating mosher gets slammed out of the circle, people on the edges just push them back in. If a mosher is tired or injured and trying to exit the pit, people on the edges try and make a space for them to leave and may even lend a hand if they are struggling. However, the thing that those of us on the edge do most is move. As the pit contracts, we move forward to get closer to the music, but as the pit expands; as it bursts with energy, the people on the edges simply move back to accommodate the pit.

All of us except that one guy. And I never understand this guy.

This is the person who stands near the front to hear the band. Maybe he’s not expecting the moshing, but when it starts he does not join in. He does not move to the edges. If he does eventually, angrily, move to the edge, he does not move forward or backward to accommodate the ever-changing shape and energy of the pit.

No, this guy stands rigidly with arms folded, glaring around, silently daring others to touch him or to otherwise invade his space. And in the course of this, this guy all but stops listening to the music he thinks he’s trying to enjoy.

Several years ago I discovered that when I become more flexible, the things that I thought would break me become less threatening. Never is this more true that in or near a mosh pit!

Strangely, even in its aggressive nature, there is much joy and comradery in and around a mosh pit and this guy completely misses it. In an effort to protect his own space, he misses out on the opportunity to participate in a larger activity, the moshing or the mosh support, the mood of the whole music/ audience experience. He seems unaware of the opportunity all around him to connect with this larger experience because he is so locked into his own defensive stance.

I am glad I understand this dynamic around the mosh pit, but I do have to wonder, as I walk away from the club and back into the world, where are the places I become this guy?

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