It's "Punk Week" over at Consequence of Sound, so writer Paolo Ragusa composed a wonderful sociological look at the history of mosh pits, tracing the slam dance's evolution from simple "pogoing" into the era of late 90s alt-rock tragedy.
I'm not a fan of the hyper-violent mosh pits that non-consensually recruit every audience member into a massive shove-along. But I've always gotten a kick out of mosh pit dance moves, and I love a good circle pit (where everyone just runs around in a circle, not fighting but picking each other up when they fall). In addition to the fun anthropological exercise at play in the Consequence of Sound piece, it also captures the joy of the event in a really articulate way:
At its best, moshing is a visceral and collective experience, a physical way to match the energy of the music you're witnessing with the feeling it gives you. When done right (and safely), there is a willful exchange of bodily autonomy in the mosh pit — it's a relinquishing of a certain amount of control of where your body goes and moves, a step into chaos, a pushing and pulling motion that mirrors the intensity of what's happening on stage. At its best, there should be a feeling of respect in the pit; everyone is there for a similar reason: to enjoy live music in a visceral and cathartic way.
Also: this article taught me the excruciating poetic irony of the etymology of the word "mosh" — which, like a lot of things in rock and roll history, derived from a bastardization of some Black culture (in this case, Bad Brains).
Moshing: The Art and Consequences of One of the Most Celebrated Concert Dance Forms [Paolo Ragusa / Consequence of Sound]
Image: Colm Callanan / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)