Saturday, October 21, 2006

Even Moshing Has Rules

Sunday night in a little club in DeepEllum with my fifth or sixth badly mixed margarita in one hand and my purse in the other, I was on the edge of the mosh pit watching all of the guys and gals knock each other around while having the time of their lives. This is where I end up at every heavy metal show - by the mosh pit. Watching the band (for me at least) can be minimally exciting, but watching the moshers never fails to be a total blast. I am the north end of the magnet to the mosh pit's south end. I have the inability to be in the same room as one and not go watch it.

So here I was in my usual spot by the pit, slightly drunk with a big ol' goofy smile on my face when I suddenly went flying into the pit!


Anyone who knows me knows that while I immensely enjoy watching other people mosh, I myself refrain from joining in. I prefer to keep my balance if at all possible and I hate having people coming at me from all directions.

So when I suddenly found myself off balance with full hands in the middle of a very active mosh pit, I just about shit myself. The first thing I remember seeing was a mosher heading in my direction with me directly in his line of sight. Oh hell, I thought. I'm about to be given a personal introduction to the floor. Having no time to brace myself for the hit, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was about to experience some unpleasantness.

Then, just as quickly as I was pushed in, I was yanked back out by the hand of an old friend of mine, E. It took me no time at all to figure out who pushed me into the pit. As soon as E pulled me out she got into the face of the guy standing right behind me (the culprit had been following me around all night, flirting) and let out a string of curse words that any sailor would be proud of. He obviously didn't hear her over the music because he was laughing, so I grabbed him by the arm and yelled, "If you don't know the rules of the pit, stay away from it!"

"I do know the rules," he argued. Then, without skipping a beat, he pushed E in. I grabbed her arm and pulled her back out before she lost her balance, then turned to him and yelled, "NO YOU DON'T! Get away from here before you get someone hurt!" He obviously understood me that time and quickly disappeared to the back. Shortly thereafter, a staffer appeared by my side, nodding at me to let me know he was there to make sure I could enjoy watching the moshers without being forced to become one.

There are many people out there who have the misconception that mosh pits are basically bar fights, and they couldn't be more wrong. Moshing doesn't have to be dangerous. If it did, I'd have no part of it. A well run pit (with moshers who know the rules and staffers who are on the ball) resembles dancing more than fighting. Moshers aren't mad at each other. Hell, most of them are friends! It is basically a game of balance with heavy metal music as a soundtrack.

There are no written set of rules that I know of, but simply watching one for awhile will show anyone that there are indeed unwritten rules, such as:

1) Never under any circumstances do you throw a punch at or kick someone. In fact, it is better not to use your hands at all. Stick to using your forearms and shoulders, so as not to give the impression that you are trying to start a fight.

2) If someone hits the floor, it is up to everyone standing around him/her (including those of us not moshing) to get them back on their feet and, if need be, out of the pit.

3) If you want to enter a pit, walk (or stomp, as some people do) around the pit once to let everyone in there know you're fair game. Not everyone does this but a good many do, and that can help prevent people who got pushed in from getting hurt.

4) If you want to exit the pit, walk to the edge facing outward so that people like me who are only watching know to step aside and let you out. If you are in the pit and could use some extra momentum, go to get edge facing inward so that we know to give you a little push.

5) This one should be a given, but I learned the hard way the other night that it needs to be said just the same: Never push anyone into the pit! This just opens the door to injuries!

I've been attending shows where mosh pits can be found for over 10 years now and have only seen one serious injury, and that was self inflicted (a guy turned around, his knee didn't cooperate). I'm sure that there have been other injuries that can be attributed to moshing as well, but I've only seen the one. It can be wonderful entertainment, but one moment of stupidity can easily put some unsuspecting person in the line of fire. Those who are in the pit have already prepared themselves. Those of us on the side holding purses and badly mixed margaritas have not.

The vast majority of the pits I have witnessed have been fairly safe and absolutely fun. Let's keep it that way. Moshing already has a bad name with many people. There is no reason to make it worse.


  1. My first mosh pit was Lollapolooza II in Rosenberg, featuring Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, L7, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Ministry.

    I was 14.

    Luckily I survived. Since then I have moshed to such diverse acts as NIN and Lisa Loeb. Yes, a mosh pit for Lisa Loeb.

    You indentify the element of mosh pits that is most perplexing to my parent's generation: There is a rigid set of rules of etiquite and an odd sense of almost Communistic solidarity. So much violence, so little fear...

  2. Yeah, the mosh pits at the bigger shows (such as Lollapolooza) can be a lot harder to control, making the chances of getting injured go much higher. Most clubs that I go to these days have staffers whose sole job is to control the pits. I like that. It seems to make the moshers and their spectators a little more at ease knowing that there are people there to make sure things don't take a turn for the worse. I think the bigger shows could greatly benefit from hiring such staffers, but I can't force people to make the right choices...

    I know what you mean about the older generations having no clue about there being "rules" in mosh pits. My father was pleasantly surprised to find that out. But, like I said in the post, a good many of the moshers are already friends. The last thing they want to do is hurt one another! They just want to have a good time.


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