It’s been a rough week for the art of moshing. For the first time in what seems like an eternity, serious journalists from both the metal and indie fraternity have come out against the long-standing gig ritual.
Firstly Metal Review’s Doug Moore risked having his “metal card” revoked when he attacked the age old traditional. He labeled moshing a distraction that takes up too much space and restricts everyone’s view. Former NME editor Tim Jonze quickly jumped on the bandwagon, admitting he’s always been a bit of wimp, before defiantly pointing out: “I still don’t see how having someone’s elbows ricocheting against your ribs is an integral part of a night out”.
In truth it’s hard point to answer. Mosh pits full of windmilling arms, cheap shots to the unexpecting, and fly kicks (seriously fly kicks?) add nothing to the atmosphere of a gig. At best they’re pitifully transparent displays of machismo that reek of overcompensating (and erh….sweaty sticky armpits), and at worst they express boredom and disengagement. Honestly, how disinterested must you be to concentrate more on hurting your fellow human beings than actually watching the show?
Despite all this, I’m still a fan of mosh pits. There is, after all, more than one way to mosh. The best pits are expressions of joy and engagement that reflect the exact character and mood of music that provoked them: great surges and stops greet Refused and Rage Against The Machine, bouncing and flexing explodes during “Niggas In Paris”, and flying bodies and brief burst of intensity are the trademarks of a hardcore Pit.
Sometimes when the intensity ramps up, there is a visceral urge within us all, to entirely give ourselves over to the music and find the nearest pit. It can be bruising and brutal at a metal show, but it can be gleeful and free at a hip hop night. A true pit should be a direct reaction to, and reflection of, the music itself, not a distraction from it.
Over the course of the year I’ve developed a golden rule when it comes to pits:
It’s a great pit if everyone stops to bellow key lines of track, or if the momentum changes in time with music itself.
So using “Orchestra Of Wolves” as an example, if everyone stops dead in place to scream “My Name Is Cassonova” you know you’re in a good pit with people who genuinely care about the music. If everyone simply carries on, and whacks you in the back of the head when you stop to sing-along, you know your dealing with a bunch of knobs who simply don’t care about the music or their fellow gig goers.
Mosh pits are a mixed bag, but the best ones genuinely add something to the experience of a gig. So for the time being, they have my blessing. David Hayter