Moshpits, Circlepits, Slamdance and the Wall of Death!

Mosh pits. Circle pits. Slam Dance. The Wall of Death. What is all this “needless” violence? This commentary is intended for those who want to understand what it means to slam others in a sense of friendly malice, but not excluding those who participated. I can’t speak for others but I can tell you my personal views, my experiences both good and bad, and simple fact, including psychological effects.

It is my personal theory that before fire was discovered, it was rhythm (music in primitive form) that was the cause and fire was the effect. Caveman strikes a rock to a metronome and it catches on. Another caveman grabs flint while none the wiser and bam! “I am the god of hellfire!” Back to how it all relates. With rhythm established, it begins to move people, causing a dance “effect” and in turn, what we consider to be tribal beginnings.  A favorite example of mine, and something I would like to learn is known as haka. Originating within the Maori culture, and still practiced with the New Zealand rugby team, this is to be the epitome of what it means to have aggression in relation to rhythm. Country has line dancing and square dancing. I hope I don’t have to explain rap, rave, and electro. Clogging, tap dance, waltz, ceili and the hora are not exactly “angry”. Aggressive music, creates an aggressive dance, but I will point out one thing further. While early tribal and traditional dances inspired structure for art and even sacristy, we as a modern, structured society, chose to step into a mosh pit and accept a form of anarchy willingly. There is however, a certain etiquette. Anyone who falls is picked up, enter at your own risk and ironically, no fighting. These are not really enforced but the primary rule of a person falling will always stand. I will say that it is unfortunate that there will be people who toss unwilling individuals to the wolves. I very much detest this action.

Let us define and explain the different “styles” in lack of a better term, for those who don’t know. A general mosh pit can be described as; while filled with aggression, people will lose control and simply become kinetic energy, flowing in the path of least resistance while constantly obeying Newton’s third law. This is just random jousting, some to a rhythm others not so much. Circle pits are as the name implies. Everyone just runs in one big circle. Off hand one could consider this a very simple and almost silly, but this can be just as brutal or even more dangerous. The wall of death is the most dramatic I have seen. This is normally done when the intro of a song has a large build up, and once the crescendo has climaxed,  the participating croud would have already split asunder within the duration, charges across the vacancy to simulate an ancient battle. One time and only one time, I have seen a game called “kill the carrier”. The band throws out a beach ball (or something as such), and offers the incentive that the last person holding the ball at the end of this song, will win a free shirt. This has to be the simplest way to create chaos. Lastly, slam dancing. This is something I honestly can’t explain. Of the few times I have witness this action, it seemed the furthest thing away from a mosh pit and closer to an armature martial arts demonstration. Rows of kids in plaid coats or “wife beaters”, swinging their arms and kicking high with enough space to play your Nintendo wii. You will have to outsource that one for more information.

“Why”, you may ask. This is the logical question anyone would ask. Why would a person willingly step into harms way? To save us all time, I asked my friend Izzy, who is studying psychology, her personal and semi-professional opinion on the subject. “Definitely the bonding and kinship. A sense of belonging and understanding from the other people in the pit, and is also a socially acceptable outlet for aggression (within reason of course)”. How can anyone argue that? Considering she has indeed participated. As for myself, I was the weird kid in school. I grew up with a sense of being ostracized and even at six feet tall at fourteen years old, I felt dwarfed with those who I called my best friends. My first mosh pit, I had been knocked over and trampled. I bruised my jugular and strained my breast plate.. I think..?. One has to keep in mind, I grew up in a town where there was hardly any history of live music. Mosh pit etiquette was not really established, hence my enlightening pain. After recovery, no person could keep me out of the pit. Even after one of the bouncers joining in and tossing me over a table, but I got up and jumped back in. On a separate occasion, my brother in law walked out for a smoke one time with blood flowing from his eye brow. He was met with praise and a series of devil horns or high-fives. Unfortunately, not everyone will have this jest. There were others, but the one situation that stand out in my mind is when I went to the bathroom at an Arch Enemy show. I walked in and I saw a guy nursing his bleeding nose. In good spirits, I pointed at him and said “You were in the pit”, while displaying a smile. The guy was aggressive and responded “Ya, I was. And they are lucky I wasn’t allowed to bring in a weapon”.

To sum this all up in a quick and simple to understand, strait forward manor. Mosh pits are a place for those who feel alone and angry. Make no mistake, these are brutal and dangerous when entering aware, so place caution to the oblivious. Fights have started, people have died, but let us be honest now. Can we say honestly anything different about sports or even crossing the street? And that is the hidden answer in my opinion. Aside from a place where those with stress can go, it is also a tested brush of our mortality. I am willing to bet, you will not find a participant with the notion that he can’t die.

Here is a TTK Fav Wall of Death!

18 seconds in …


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Filed Under: FeaturedCommentary / Editorials

About the Author: Started playing bass at 15. It was Danko Jones who inspired me to play at all, and in a small town I couldn't be picky on what I can get my hands on, so I bought a squire with pride. Obtained a B.C. Rich guitar months later. Moved to the city at 17. At 19 joined my first metal band as a bassist which ended at 20. Joined a bass heavy rock band, which I loved being in whole heartily. I now wait to venture into a new project. For the time being though, I am exploring my abilities as a writer.

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