Monday, February 27th, 2012 by steffmetal
A recent article on Metalsucks called for the death of mosh pits. Why? From the author, Kevin Stewart-Panko, “… there’s a fine line between the expression of excitement the way excitement used to be expressed and the way mosh pits have become the breeding ground for fucking idiots to put their heads down and charge into one another like big-horned rams. Mosh pits have devolved into nothing more than seething masses of drunken fuckwads blindly running into and/or body/shoulder checking each other completely out of time to any music being played in the building.”
The comments thread of this particular rant demonstrated just how contentious this diatribe is within the metal community. On the one hand, hundreds of readers piped up to echo the statements in the post. “It is strong, powerful and elevating music, but that shouldn’t mean it’s okay to clock one guy in the face, then go to town on the next. Metal isn’t about being a tyrannous bully.” one readers says. But many people expressed a belief that metal is primarily a “youth culture” and that all the people complaining about pits are “oldies” who are simply worried about losing their false teeth. “Stop having fun!” one commenter wrote sarcastically replied. “Musicians want to see people going crazy, not standing with their arms crossed,” said another.
Is metal a youth culture? Is this just old-timers complaining, or should mosh-pits be banned or otherwise controlled?
The truth is that most people discover metal in their youth. It’s strong, independent, powerful music that perfectly articulates the crazy emotions going through your head. Metal gives us an outlet for anger, aggression, rebellion, pain, loss, heartache and loneliness. It also gives us a sense of belonging, because the sense of community within the metal culture is strong, especially in tight-knit local scenes where bands support each other’s shows and fans look out for each other.
Many people discard metal – or it takes a backseat spot in their life – once they pass through the tumultuous teenage years. But those people that stick with it are metal fans for life – and they’re even more dedicated and brutal than the youth fans.
Me, crowd-surfing through a mosh pit at Wacken Open Air 2011.
At 27 years of age, I sit somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. I’ve been going to shows for about ten years, and I’ve been in some good pits, some appalling pits, and some downright terrifying pits. The difference between a good pit and a bad pit isn’t the genre of music or the age of the people involved, it’s whether the crowd is respectful of others and have come to the show to have a good time.
“Pit-Etiquette” is the basis for any good show. Pit-Etiquette is a bit like the Spartan warrior code – you look after your pit-mates. If someone falls over, you help him or her up. If someone is in trouble, you get him or her out. If people are having a good time and headbanging by themselves, you don’t drag them into some circle-pit punch up. You hug your pit buddies after the show. You get bruises, and it’s ok. You don’t take anything in the pit personally.
The pit can be wild, it can be crazy, but it should never be dangerous. It should never be about defending your life or saving your teeth or. In the bad pits I’ve been in I’ve been punched repeatedly in the face, I’ve been trampled. I’ve been shoved into and over speakers. I’ve been deliberately kicked and slammed into. I’ve been groped. I’ve had people drag me unwillingly in from the edges into those flailing, pushing, karate pits that I’m too small to be able to handle.
It’s not related to a specific genre or band. I’ve seen Iron Maiden play in three countries; twice I’ve been to the front. In England it was people jumping up and down, headbanging, having a great time. In New Zealand it was shoving, pulling, fists wailing, and so intense I fell over three times during one song, and no one was paying attention. If my friend Johnowar hadn’t been there, I would’ve been in a lot of trouble. But then, I’ve been in some amazing pits at New Zealand shows.
In a good pit, everyone’s there because they want to see the band, and they respect that fact that the people around them want to see too. In a good pit, everyone moves collectively, jumping, spinning, and seething forward and back or in great circle. People slam their fists in the air, they wrench their necks as their hair flies around, they stomp and shout and put their arms around people they’ve never met before. They move with the music, they become part of it. It’s tribal dancing on the purest level.
From my Corpsepaint Kitty webcomic.
I don’t believe mosh pits should be banned or controlled or any of that. The pit is an important part of the concert experience, whether you’re in the fray or not. I reckon each and every metalhead has a responsibility to make sure their actions at a show don’t detract from other people’s enjoyment. We’ve all come to the show for the same reason – to see a band we’re into, to have a good time, to meet new people, to bang our heads. So let’s practice a little pit etiquette – look out for your fellow metalheads, and don’t punch and kick and be an idiot. It’s pointless and contributes nothing to anyone’s concert experience.
Who am I? I’m Steff. Born in New Zealand, raised on a steady diet of metal and out-of-print archaeology books, I’m now a freelance writer, accessible formats producer, and full-time iron maiden.
You can keep up to date with all the metal madness at my Steff Metal blog. I update 4 times a week with reviews, articles, advice and silliness about living the metal lifestyle. And, for alternative biz owners, I run a creative business community for the dark side at Grymm & Epic.