When Woodstock ’94 happened, the San Diego Union-Tribute ran a front-page photo of a rain-drenched kid who looked about 12 in a muddy mosh pit. This little boy seemed to be caught in the act of being hurled like a discus by the meaty arm of a man twice his size.
The look on the kid’s face was pure joy, the kind of joy that comes just before you realize that the parachute is defective.
The frightened parents of the ’90s, like the frightened parents of every decade, were aghast at their own children. Kids these days, with their Spin Doctors and their Green Days (is that a reference to reefer?!?!), who had decided that the best way to “dance” to the noise they called “music” was to engage in an all-out fist fight.
If you haven’t been to a loud rock concert in a long time, moshing is still alive and well. It helps that, then as now, the consumers of loud rock tend not to be good dancers. They are also starved for affection and touch. In the absence of a hug, a shoulder-check to the soft belly is actually a better substitute than you might expect.
The mosh pit is a huggier experience than you expect, too. The adrenaline rush that comes from such a physical, unpredictable, and (yes) dangerous environment is hard to describe.
Sure, there’s significant aggression on display. It’s perfectly apropos in a mosh pit to shove the stranger next to you for no good reason, with no consideration as to whether said stranger winds up with his head above his feet or below them after the interaction.
It’s also apropos, if you’re on the edge of the mosh pit, to shove people back into it … or sometimes to just shove people not at all in the mosh pit into it. I always think that’s a dick move – I decide when and if I go into the pit. In my less Christ-like moments, I pull out a trick that only someone with a little dance practice can pull off. Instead of being pushed into the pit, I let the shoving hand push me into a Michael Jackson spot-spin. I have turned in a circle without changing positions, and usually come out with the grounding and momentum to grab the hand or shoulder of the kind soul who just tried to push into the pit without my consent, and I yank them into the pit. “No, you!” Like I said, the mosh pit doesn’t always bring out the best in people.
Except when it does. The thing outsiders don’t understand about the pit is that a good mosher takes responsibility for the safety of his fellow moshers. With bodies barreling around like agitated gas particles, colliding and slip-n-sliding on a floor lubricated with mud and beer, it’s no surprise that people fall down all the time. If you fall down, there’s a real danger of getting accidentally stepped on or fallen on by another mosher.
That horrible outcome rarely manifests, though, because if you fall down in the pit, half a dozen hands descend from nowhere and haul you back up to your feet. If you struggle, more hands appear. Someone lifts from beneath your shoulders. If you’re heavey, someone props themselves behind your back. It’s all-hands-on-deck to get the fallen mosher back on his or her feet. We leave no mosher behind.
I’ve been pulled back to my feet like this many times. It’s breathtaking, seeming to take no measurable time, and I’m light so I practically fly back to my feet, like when you’re little and Mom and Dad swing you into the air.
I’ve also seen people go down, and the response in me is fireman-like. When you see someone go down in the pit, you don’t hesitate – you go, you reach, you pull, you see-saw, you get them back up before they get hurt.
Bands are often proud of their most pits. “I see you guys taking care of each other!” I’ve seen many a lead singer praise. “Remember, if someone goes down in the pit, we help them get up.” Hey, look, a metaphor!
It really is a beautiful thing. Is it worth the risk of injury? I don’t know … something about making an omelet and breaking some eggs, I guess?
Do you think the need for camaraderie, release, and physical touch fulfilled by the mosh pit is worth the risk of injury?