Mosh Pit Dynamics

If you have ever been to a rock show with a standing room only, there was a mosh pit. The mosh pit is a crowd dynamic used in place of dancing, which is what crowds do at most other types of shows. Mosh pits require a large group of strangers to participate, with dancing you can do just fine solo.

This causes a few problems, first of all is not everyone who ends up finding themselves in the pit wants to be there, so they will concede to a location further away from the stage than they were. Also, people who want to participate in the mosh pit all have different agendas, they all want to get something different out of it. If you have ever found yourself floundering in a crowd of riled-up concert goers, this post will help you understand the reasoning and etiquette of a mosh pit.

Let’s split up concert attendees into 3 basic groups, the hardcore fans, the moshers, and the passives.

Hardcore fans feel the need to be as close to the stage as possible. They will endure any amount of human contact and hearing loss to get a chance to be seen by the artist or even touch them in some cases. They get there early and stay the whole time and never leave their spot at the guard rail.

The moshers mill about behind the hardcore fans, sometimes the just nod along to the opening acts or more peaceful songs, other times they are bumping and grinding full force into the nearest adjacent person. Sometimes moshers form a circle of human meat shields to protect the hardcore fans and the passives, but other times it’s a free for all.

The passives are most of the crowd. Either they aren’t that interested in the current band playing, or they just want to enjoy the music without getting touched. They may be hardcore fans, they just don’t outwardly express their appreciation, aside from a casual headbanging along to their favorite grooves.

I’ve found myself to fall into any of these 3 groups depending on my mood, so I understand why a lot of people are turned off of metal shows. The passives have the majority of the populace, but are totally at the mercy of the moshers. The pit will expand and collapse on a moments notice, causing people outside of it to get hit or touched in ways that make them uncomfortable. This causes the riot shield stance, extending one of your arms so your forearm is at an angle and parallel to the ground. This sort of protects the rest of your body, but it requires a fair amount of physical exertion. Passives don’t want to have to do this, but I’ve seen them forced into this position too many times because of careless moshers. It’s also dangerous because a head on collision with an elbow is very possible.

The hardcore fans also have a danger, and theirs is even greater. Since they are all crammed into the front by the barrier, when a mosher gets flung towards the front into the mass of humanity, it causes pressure on the ones in the front without giving them any way to escape. Moshers aren’t likely to fling themselves towards the back where the crowd becomes more sparse, they will choose to charge forward so they are guaranteed a safe collision (for themselves) that will meet the expected amount of resistance to their impact.

So basically, the moshers aren’t considerate of the other peoples well-being. It’s hard to have a positive impact on such a large group of people, but there are some small things you can do to make your mosh pit safer and more fun.

The most important thing is to keep your arms as perpendicular to the ground as possible. The easiest thing to break is a finger, so keep a softly closed fist to protect your digits. Another tip is to keep your center of mass as low as possible, but don’t ever plant your feet.if your shoes get good traction on the floor and you take a hit high, you will fall over. Stay loose and aware.

As a mosher, you have to pick up on a lot of subtle social signals to get a read on who is going to be OK with getting shoved and who might shove back with a little more power than is safe. There is always that one guy, or a few guys, who just want to injure everyone around them. It may sound counter-intuitive, but go for that guy, as often as you can. The more time that person spends moving instead of pushing, the more tired they will get and the less frustrated they will become. Don’t let them push people who don’t want to be pushed, keep them in the middle and keep making contact so they don’t get to control the dynamic.

when you need to catch a breather, take a turn being a meatshield for the crowd outside of the pit. take a wide stance and put your arms in front of your body. Catch people who are going to fast and give others a light shove back into the middle to keep their momentum going.

If you are going to instigate a pit, wait for the correct timing with the music. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when someone tries to start stuff right at the peaceful instrumental interlude, and it looks stupid. well, more stupid than normal.

Make sure your shoes are tied tight with the laces tucked away.

Secure all the belongings in your pockets so that they will not come loose.

Bring your glasses case so you can put them away. People never plan on moshing or getting hit in the face, but if you are going to a standing room only metal show, expect it and be ready. Nobody is going to pay to fix your glasses but yourself.

Remove your stud jacket/belt if you can. I understand it is edgy to dress this way, but cutting people open because of studded accessories is not cool.

take the 1″ gauges out of your ears. You will lose them.

Don’t bring an open container into the pit. It will spill, which not only sucks for you, it sucks for the 10 people who will slip and fall because of the mess.

Lastly, follow the instructions of the front man. unless he asks for a circle pit…nobody likes circle pits anymore. Cry me a river core kids.


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