No matter how you feel about moshing -- whether you gawk from the civilian sidelines, or are guaranteed to tear your shirt off like a Hulkamaniac, scream "Let's tear this place apart!" and plunge headfirst into the melee -- there's no denying it is an integral (see also: unavoidable) component of the live music experience.
People can -- and will! -- mosh to anything!
Even today, right now, at this very moment, someone somewhere is moshing to Dubstep.
I have wasted a shameful amount of my life on live music. And as a young male in North America (not to mention the freak incubator that is Florida) with an interest in rock music, I must admit that I found myself, on more than one occasion, caught in a mosh.
Later, I would go on to write emo-anarchist zine articles about why the practice was part of hegemonic power structures and blahlahblah. These days, I still abstain, but have a thorough appreciation for the group theatrics and intense displays of physicality underlying the pit.
In keeping with this ability to appreciate Da Mosh from a distance, here are a bruised gaggle of entertaining memories from when I used to count being bashed and thrashed during live music exhibitions as a hobby.
Caught in a Christian Mosh
My first live music experience -- excluding a 1994 production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Jackie Gleason Theater, and a dress rehearsal for Gloria Estefan's New Year's Eve 1999 fiesta at the freshly erected American Airlines Arena -- was the Y2K edition of mall-punk summer festival-maximus, the Vans Warped Tour. I parked my double extra large JNCOs front at the heart of the crowd, waiting for Christian pop-punkers, MxPx, to take the stage. From the very first half-second of the first Protestant teen-angst anthem, I was swallowed whole by a furious push-pit, during which I was chewed-up-and-spit-out by the collective meaty might of hundreds of shirtless bros donning visors and studded belts ramming the ever-living-crap out of each other.
Hey, ya gotta start somewhere. It's not like the Earth Crisis Face was born with straight-edge sideburn tattoos and mad sick pit moves. Homey most definitely ink-scarred his primary jabrone zone (his face) one tat at a time, and spent all of his free-time reviewing the music video for Sick of It All's "Step Down."
Hardcore Dancing For Dummies
The first time I ever witnessed strapping young men dance to metalcore like cage fighting Kung Fu masters was when Until the End, Eulogy Records' flagship tough-guys, opened for post-Misfits Goth skate-punks AFI at Spanky's in the fall of 2000. My Dad drove the hour-plus to West Palm and hung out inside the bar while I gleefully allowed myself to be pummeled on the back patio by full-regalia Hot Topic punx and Palm Beach County weekend warrior skinheads. FYI, At this live music exhibition, I purchased an extra large AFI T-shirt that toted the pre-hipster ironic slogan, "I Hate Punk Rock."
Hell Hath No Fury Like Dorks Moshing to Emo
In 2002, when MTV News debuted their Social History of the Mosh Pit documentary, Green Day's Tré Cool described the average rock audience's lust for slam dancing whenever possible. He highlighted the band's sentimental hit-single, "When I Come Around," from 1994's Dookie, as a prime example of a mid-tempo ballad that dorks and doofuses alike fervently find a way to slam to and/or along with. I experienced a similar frustration when during the summer of that same year, I caught Jimmy Eat World, and had to endure endless shoving and constant near-trampling. Bitches definitely killed my Will to Vibe during the extended emo-gaze outro on "Goodbye Sky Harbor."
South Florida Hardcore vs. Boston's American Nightmare
2002 was a big year for formative pit experiences. At a Fort Lauderdale gig featuring South Florida mosh-emo legends, Poison The Well, and old school/new school hybrid act, American Nightmare, I noted more than one sweat soaked parpiticpant sporting mouthguards. And some kind of regional Florida versus New England beef resulted in the bloodthirsty crowd heckling the touring artists off the stage. Quote of the night was an XAnonymous BroX tastelessly heckling AN vocalist and future Cold Cave maestro, Wes Eisold, with the charge of being "a one-armed faggot."
Walking on Heads in West Kendall
The late '90s and early 2000s was the golden age of new school mosh metal and, subsequently, the golden age of a breed of gang-oriented violence distinct in nihilistic intensity from Hardcore's already uber-tough machismo. For example, when Bad Luck Riot 13 (a band with a notorious reputation for encouraging extremely violent behavior) performed at Hellfest 2004, the proceedings quickly devolved into an actual full-scale riot.
A less extreme example of the scene's suburban sadism, circa a decade ago, is a surge in the hardcore "dance move," headwalking. The step is a playful twist on boring ol' stagediving wherein the Diver does not dive but instead runs full speed ahead into the audience, leaping from head to head like a jolly toad skipping down a lovely row of lily pads.
Dropkicked During the Dropkick Murphys
Until I found likeminded geeks on the Internet, my Dad used to drive me to all of the shows I attended in early high school. And on the way home, I regaled him with stories of the ridiculous, often dangerous choreographed combat I witnessed and partook in, all in the name of live music appreciation.
After seeing the Dropkick Murphys at Spankys, I told him all about accidentally stagediving into a skinhead that rained piston-like blows upward upon my soft, exposed midsection. His punches kept me afloat, as though I were hopping on a trampoline. My pops was silent. And then asked, with earnest befuddlement, "Why does there have to be so much physical contact?" Parents just don't understand.
Actual Weapons #1: "Don't Taze Me, Straight Edge Bro!"
Club Q was a pure-sketch dive in a Davie with a greasy stripper pole and a reputation for hosting Ku Klux Klan circle jerks. When I was first getting into live music, fear was a big part of the game. I was usually on edge at Club Q. But there was nothing to be afraid of? Actually, there was: straight-edge kids in bandana kicking the shit out of you because you're into ska.
Picture this: A number of dinguses are "skanking" (a train of individual Rock'em Sock'em robot set loose in a circle). Black-and-white checkered sneakers are on their feet, wallet chains hang from their baggy jorts, and some manner of Ska Hat is upon every nog. Suddenly, menacing figures with bandanas over their faces and Bane hoodies adorning their upper torso, crash the pit with Bruce Lee shadowboxing. Inevitably, some punk-with-horns Muppet Baby gets clocked, tensions rise, and at the first hint of retribution, the anonymous assailants all swarm like metal shavings to a giant magnet, and present a hearty group beatdown to whichever Rude Boy/Girl was stupid enough to fight back. Oh yeah, and one time somebody got tazered!
Actual Weapons #2: Katana-Wielding Skinheads Occupy Agnostic Front Concert
I did not actually experience this first-hand, but my memory of the story and the outlandishness of its content more than justifies its inclusion. It goes a little something like this: Agnostic Front is inspiring mongos to bash each others heads in, when a contingent swarms the stage with a fucking Katana and declare, "We have taken over the show!" Please leave a comment if you know any more details, because, for real, that shit is cray.