(For the best presentation of the data collected for this entry on the folk dance form of Moshing, I have provided a transcription of my interview with the informant. Interviewer input/clarification is in brackets for the duration of the interview.)
“I guess [moshing] is the process of…of, like, uh, throwing yourself against other people in, like, kind of a dance that can look, sometimes, like it’s like fighting, but it’s more, like, just bumping up against each other, like, kinda hard. Usually associated with, like, uh, heavier music, so like uh punk or metal or hard rock or something like that. Although I’ve seen it happen at rap concerts too. Usually any kind of aggressive or loud music. I’ve seen it happen at a dubstep concert once, too, that was weird.
“[So what is generally the process for the formation of…] a mosh pit? Generally you need, like, one guy who is not afraid to be a little out there. Cause like you need one person to be a catalyst. No one wants to be the asshole who just starts pushing people around, you know? But someone who doesn’t mind being the asshol e will start, and then it’s kind of like uh, a space, and people will recognize the mosh pit, especially if it’s at a music venue, or like a uh, uh, type of music where like, it’s commonplace. And they’ll kind of see it, and they’ll kind of spread out in a circle and they’ll kinda like back everybody up, um, and then uh, and then it’s just kind of like a circle, I guess, and, people just come in from the sides of the circle, almost like a dance circle.
“There’s kind of two parts to the mosh pit, there’s the people who are inside the mosh pit, and then there’s the people on the edges who are still participating in it because they’re kinda like pushing people back in, like, people bump up against the side, and they’ll kinda push them back. Then there’s the people in the mosh pit, which is like…basically, there’s a direction around the circle, like they’ll be going around the circle like this (making a circular motion with hand) like against each other, and sometimes people will go the opposite way if they want to get beat up a little bit, like, more intensely. And then there’s different variations on it depending on what kind of show you’re going to.”
[What kind of variations would that be?]
“Well a big one is, um, skanking, which is, uh, you do at ska concerts, which is, uh, ska is a mix between, um, punk and reggae, but, skanking is basically like almost dancing but you’re kicking out your legs and kinda like throwing your head down a little bit and moving your arms around, but you’re also kinda bumping into people so it kinda looks like a mosh pit and feels like one, but it’s not as intense, usually. Then sometimes, uh, I don’t really have words, like a vocabulary for what these other ones are called, but, like…okay, there’s just your average one, which I guess is just called a circle pit, is what they call it, uh, and that’s people, like, running around a circle, and like pushing each other. That’s like what you’ll usually see. Sometimes in really, really crowded places it could be like a mass of people just, like, so, like, bumping up against each other. They’re just, like, swaying back and forth and like, because there’s no room to even have, start a circle pit. Um, and then…there’s other stuff too I’m not that familiar with. There’s like hardcore dancing, which is like, throwing your legs around and like, I don’t know. I don’t really know how to describe it. It looks very odd. Um, yeah, let’s see…that’s most of it. Sure, I guess.”
[So it seems like, from former experience, there are, like, rules to the mosh pit?]
“Yeah, there are definitely rules that are associated with it. A lot of it is like safety stuff, so, if somebody gets knocked down you definitely are gonna clear a space around them. Everybody in the mosh pit, like, they won’t necessarily stop but they’ll clear a space around them, and like, have people around the person, and then, uh, you’ll help them up too, I mean, it’s just common courtesy. And then, if there’s like a fight or something, they’ll try to break them up, unless it’s, kinda like a for fun fight, like that you can tell, but sometimes people get actually mad.”
[When would someone get mad?]
“Well, like, back in the day, like 1980s and shit when this stuff was like super intense, it’d be over like, almost like gangland stuff. So like, oh you’re not from, you know, my crew of like…this would happen mostly in like hardcore, especially in Los Angeles, so this is kinda specific, but, um, people get in fights over like not being in the right group of friends, or like, if you’re like associated with certain stuff. So let’s say you were, like, a Neo-Nazi or something like that, you’d probably get beat up by, you know, like anti-fascists or whatever. Um, or, uh, a lot of straightedge guys, back in the day, they’d use to, there were some straightedge militant groups that would beat up on people that were like drinking and stuff like that at shows. So there was like some stuff, but there was like regular stuff of like people just getting mad at each other, um, you know, like tensions could run high sometimes.
“Rules…well there kind of are, there’s like a structure to it, yeah, it’s just kind of funny cause like music associated with it, being just like an all-out melee but that doesn’t usually happen. I’ve never seen a total all-out melee at least. I dunno.”
[Now there’s obviously an element, of like, at least flirting with danger, would you say that’s a main draw to it?]
“Yeah, well like it’s a good release of energy. I know, like, at least for me, like once I started going to it, I kind of have to go every once in a while just to get rid of, like, any kind of tension I have. I dunno. I have this theory, this is gonna be really stupid. I have this theory that, like, it’s kind of related to, like, our primal need for like war-dancing and stuff like that because, um, well I was watching some stuff about, like Native American stuff, it’s just kinda like a similar kind of process. You need some way to get out aggression and stuff like that, like it’s a weird kind of way that would seem taboo, normally, but like, yeah, so that’s why people…I think that there’s something kind of primal about it, I guess. Yeah”
[So would you say this is tied to the music this is normally associated with it? Like does it spring from the music or is it more like applied to it?]
“Well it is, because the music is pure emotion. It’s definitely not, like, I mean, it’s not musicianship, that’s not why people go. It’s not like you’re like, a good-sounding show. People like it when it sounds, like, crappy or something sometimes. So it’s definitely about the energy of the moment, and the kind of emotional release it’s giving you. Um, but yeah. I don’t really know. I’m kind of bad with describing it, it just kinda feels like, you know, like a good release, I guess.”
[So, first show you ever went to, where you first saw moshing?]
“That I saw moshing? I think I went to, like, a Warped Tour with my friends, back in, like, sixth grade maybe. Fifth or sixth grade. And…oh, I remember what happened. So, it was the first show of the day, cause Warped Tour is set up, like, there’s like a bunch of bands or whatever, so first show of the day. Uh, my friends were more into this kind of stuff than I was, I was more into listening to stuff like industrial and stuff like that. I had like never really gone to shows because my parents had never really let me to. So this was the first show I was at, so this band called TSOL comes on, it was like this old-school punk band from like back in the day, and uh what happened was I was with my friends, and uh this humongous skinhead guy, like, uh comes over, grabs my friend by the neck, and like pulls him in as soon as the music starts playing, and there’s like this mass of people, and we were all like, ‘oh shit oh no, he has our friend’. Turns out my friend knew him, from like, it was like really weird to us so I didn’t even participate that first time I saw it. I didn’t participate until…I actually started out with doing, like, skanking and stuff first cause it’s a lot easier, like, and, in terms of getting over it, cause it looks more like dancing. And then I kind of moved into, I kinda go to like hardcore shows a lot and mosh.”
[When would you say you started getting into the more hardcore stuff?]
“Oh that was definitely when my brother, he was like always the person who, uh, who would be into the heavier music, so I think that was, like, around, let’s see…when I actually started going to hardcore shows and hardcore moshing was probably around, uh, eighth grade, ninth grade. Yeah.”
[Did you know about moshing before the first time you actually saw it?]
“Yeah, there was Youtube and stuff, so if you start off looking for your bands, you know some band or whatever on Youtube and you find some live show and you see what’s going on. It’s kinda just part of the vocabulary. I had already listened to punk music to so it was like, just like, I dunno when I first learned about it, but I’m sure it was pretty early.
“My friends were really into it, and also like the only two CDs I owned, my mom actually gave them to me, which was really funny, was like a Public Enemy CD and a Clash Greatest Hits CD, so you know I was just like listening to that kind of loud, aggressive music, I guess.
“I think it’s interesting that it’s not really limited to, like, just punk bands, it’s kind like funny when I saw it at a Dubstep thing, and then, um, I’ve seen it happen at Rap shows like twice now, and I don’t even go that often to those, so, it’s kind of funny to me.”
[Would you say there’s a kind of aspect to the music for when, like, a mosh pit usually starts?]
“Well, there’s definitely like, uh…usually it will start, like in the beginning or when they’ll do like their first little build-up. So like, okay, basically punk songs are like two minutes long so there’s not a lot of buildup but like you’ll hear a song start up and people just start going at it. But there’s usually just like some kind of um, oh I don’t know what the word it, uh some kind of, in the chorus like that they’ll usually speed up a certain part, just like ‘duh duh duh duh duh’ like that and that’s when, like, crazy, they start jumping off, like people will just start like jumping on the stage and jumping off, like doing backflips into the crowd and stuff.”
[So I guess a big thing is just, like, the emotion of the music which can kind of transcend genre.]
“It’s just fun, too, you know. Kinda just…I really don’t know why it’s fun. I have my theories, like I was saying, but it’s just, like, weird.”
Having sprung from Punk and Hardcore culture,