A Critical Look at Mosh Pits at Rock Concerts

The people were everywhere. Too many were in such a small space. The crowd surged forward and back in one relentless wave. No one could help but to push and shove the others around. Someone was lifted into the air and tossed back by the mob. The noise was almost too much, too loud. Security guards and policemen formed a boundary around this group, but did nothing to stop the madness. They stood and watched, ready in case some serious accident should occur. For some strange reason, however, out of all this chaos there was no fear. The people were enjoying this! Then the song was over, and the people in the mosh pit stopped to applaud and cheer for the band on the stage.

It is not hard to understand why people actually enjoy participating in moshing activities. Why does a person go skydiving, rock climbing, or bungee jumping? There’s one common answer: the rush. It’s a complete rush to engage in an activity that could be potentially dangerous to one’s health. The danger sparks an interest and intrigue that draws one nearer, almost like the desire to eat cookies fresh from the oven, even though they are too hot to taste and will burn the tongue.

This past Saturday, I attended an all day concert event called ReSURGEnce: Bands, Bikes, and Boards. There were sixteen bands on two stages, skateboards on a ramp and bar course, and sport bikes on a dirt track complete with jumps. There were extreme sports all around…including some wild and crazy moshing. Perhaps the best mosh pit of the day was while my favorite band, Stroke 9, was playing.

Stroke 9’s newest hit, “Kick Some Ass,” was dedicated to Usama Bin Laden, and this drove the crowd wild. Everyone was letting out all of the aggressions that they had built up over the past few weeks and went nuts in the mosh pit. People were pushing, shoving, jumping, dancing, shouting, cheering, and the very bravest were crowd surfing. The security guards were trying to control the situation, but the people were going far beyond the guards’ power. The boundary for this mosh pit had been broken, and the action was no longer contained in a small area.

The crowd surfers were being tossed high and far, some were tossed so hard that they could not be caught. A few people lost shoes, and one girl’s shirt was ripped off of her body as the people tossed her along. Skinned knees and elbows, bruised limbs, and even one concussion were some of the injuries I witnessed during that song. My boyfriend was dropped while crowd surfing and he broke his elbow.

Inside the first aid station at the Pavilion, the EMTs are used to seeing all types of injuries. There is a large cabinet full of Band-Aids, dressings, antiseptics, and even splints and slings and it looked like the supply was starting to run low that day. One man had a compound leg fracture and was being wheeled out on a stretcher into an ambulance. A girl sitting in the waiting area was holding a bandage onto her head. I could see that it was soaked with blood. People with surface abrasions, mild contusions, or bruises occupied other chairs in the waiting room. Three police officers escorted a drunken man in handcuffs into the waiting room. Blood was pouring down his face. I listened to the man tell the receptionist that he was in a fight and had been bashed over the head with a beer bottle.

There has been an argument at some popular venues in the Pittsburgh area over whether or not moshing activities should be allowed to take place. The risk of injury and cost of insurance that comes along with moshing is too high. This is an action that promotes violence. However, this is something that the fans look forward to. This, other than the music, is the reason to go to concerts. Right now, all venues must post a warning stating that moshing activities may take place and all patrons of the facility must be careful and aware of their surroundings.

Should moshing be banned from alternative rock concerts? I don’t see why it should be. It’s a definitive part of alternative culture. The warnings are provided to make people aware of the conditions. It’s like the surgeon general’s warning on cigarettes: you can choose to accept or decline the warning. If a person accepts, and realizes that he may be injured if he partakes in moshing activities, then he should be permitted to take that risk.

If moshing is to be prohibited from alternative concerts, then head banging should be prohibited from heavy metal concerts, and teeny-boppers should be prohibited from pop concerts. For these are all essential parts of each genre of music. As a patron of alternative culture, I strongly defend my right to mosh. It’s an expression of the music that is being played. It is like ballet, only faster, stronger, and a bit more violent.

I’ve been dropped crowd surfing. I’ve had crowd surfers fall on my head. I’ve had beer spilled on me. I’ve been burned by a cigarette. That’s not going to stop me from having a good time at a concert. That’s like playing football and complaining about getting tackled. It’s something that is a part of the experience, a part that cannot be left out. An alternative rock concert without moshing could very well be as bleak as a sky without stars.

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