Tag Archives: moshing

Mosh-pit culture at EDM raves and festivals

Main Piece

Interviewer: What are the rules of mosh-pitting?

Informant: If someone falls, you pick them up you do not trample them. You are not trying to intentionally hurt anyone, that is usually a golden rule. Sometimes there are also women-only moshpits, and it is pretty cool because it encourages women to mosh without worrying about the muscled-up guys that usually mosh. Every guy will let them just have their pit, it is always respected. 

There are different types of moshpits too. There is a circle where people just mosh in a big circle thing. And then there is a circle pit, basically you are just running in a circle, there’s no bumping or hitting it is just running. Sometimes people are inside the circle, and some of them can get huge like wall to wall at venues. That is a weird one haha.

There are also ones called Wall of Deaths–those are crazy, man. DJ’s usually start it by saying “Yo, this is my last song, I wanna see a Wall of Death in this Motherfucker. Lets’s Go!” 

Basically what happens is two lines open the middle of the venue, and people go to one of the sides. Once you have a big enough opening, the bass drops, and then both sides just run at each other. You collide with each other and then you just make this giant mosh pit. It is crazy. You’ll usually see this with EDM, pop-punk, heavy-metal. 


The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, who is currently a senior at USC studying Health and Human Sciences whose family is living in a town four hours outside of Denver, Colorado. Coming from a military family, the informant has lived in various areas, the most memorable for him was New Orleans. The informant is half Korean and half Caucasian, and is a sports fanatic having played soccer for most of his life. The informant is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to several festivals a year, originally beginning to attend in his senior year of high school. 


Being someone who attended a lot of Latinx punk shows in my hometown, I am a big fan of moshing. Last year my informant took me to my first rave, and explained the different styles of moshing and how to mosh in this scenario. Now, I have gone to a couple of more, and during our interview I asked hi to break down the rules and different types of moshpits. 


I think mosh-pits are a type of folk dance at certain venues where participants are able to act in a more aggressive and violent manner than how they’d act in everyday scenarios. Moshing gives a lot of individuals a chance to express any pent up anger or aggression, while still balancing the concept of PLUR (Peace, Love Unity, Respect) which many ravers follow. I believe that is why there are many types of mosh-pits and set rules to secure that people do not seriously injure themselves. 


About the Interviewed: Spencer is a former student of the George Washington University, now graduated and teaching English overseas. He describes his ethnic background as “Potpourri”, with his family having a mixture of Scottish-Polish origins with some Irish thrown in the mix. His family has lived in North America for generations, so he prefers to identify ethnically as just that. He is 22 years of age.

When I was a student at the George Washington University, my friend Spencer got really into Ska music.

Spencer: “Ska is a genre of music best described as a combo of Jamaican Reggae and [Western] rock music.” Spencer tells me. “It involves a combination of electric guitar and jazz instruments. It’s pretty uptempo.”

Spencer then tells me about a type of dancing unique to a “Ska” performance.

Spencer: “When you listen to Ska, you’ve gotta Skank. That’s just how you do it. When you Skank you’ve gotta just move to the music. You’ve gotta move to the beat.”

Spencer then gets up and gives me a small demonstration. He performs a sort-of hopping motion accompanied by a fist pump. He hops and jerks to the rhythm of a song I’m playing  on my ipod. As the music grows more uptempo, he begins to hop in a running-man pose. It’s important to note that his Skanking embodies a sort of lock-step movement. It’s a quick transition, and then a freeze; almost like a kind of rhythmic freeze-tag.

I ask him if he’s seen Skanking performed in other ways.

Spencer: “Yeah, people just go crazy. Ska is really loud so people just sort of let themselves go. Sometimes people shake around, they kick and stuff. I’ve seen crazy-ass stuff go down. I’ve seen people get hurt – they Skank so hard.”


Skanking is a form of dance closely associated with Ska music. It is accomapnied most often by Ska music, and it consists of bopping and/or running in place to the beat of a song.

Like Ska music itself, Skanking embodies something wild and free. Not unlike “moshing”, Skanking allows an audience to participate in the culture of the music they are receiving. Essentially, they’re taking the positive energy they receive from the music, and sending it right back to the performers in an epic loop of positive feedback.

Regrettably, by his request, I was unable to record Spencer’s Skanking demo, but I’ve found some videos that seems to capture the spirit of the dance pretty well.



(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,