You walk into the Blackroom for a Tuesday night show. There’s a band playing. They’re loud. The crowd starts to move fast. Out of nowhere, you’re shoved. Then again. The whole room starts to move and pulsate as the crowd fights itself. This is the beginning of a mosh pit.
Even though GU doesn’t see them as often as they should, mosh pits are still a staple of punk, metal, and other kinds of aggressive music. To most, a mosh pit looks like a free-for-all boxing ring at the front of the stage. A mosh pit can be a fun but respectable amount of rough-housing, or flailing limbs and fist fights. Obviously, mosh pits didn’t start here in Greenville. So, who was the first person to look at a group of people during a concert and say, “Yeah, I think we could push each other around a bit”?
American hardcore (a fusion of metal and punk) music in the 80’s paved the way for the mosh pit to come alive. The aggressive, angry live shows provided the perfect atmosphere and energy to create what we know as the mosh pit. In Washington D.C., a flourishing hardcore punk scene fostered more and more aggressive music. Fans and bands began to call the dances done during these bands’ sets mashing. Bands like Bad Brains and Scream began encouraging crowds to mash as early as 1981. It was Bad Brains’ lead singer H.R. who changed the name to “mosh” rather than “mash” because of his Jamaican accent being misunderstood by fans. Bands like Minor Threat, Black Flag, and Fugazi were influenced by Bad Brains and began to spread the style to different genres and scenes. L.A., New York, and Seattle were notable cities with hardcore punk scenes that picked up the dance.
As the 80s moved on, hardcore music continued to develop and change, influencing the metal and punk around it. Thrash bands like Megadeath, Anthrax, and Slayer began to take the stage, with faster music that forces the audience to move; and to move quickly. Lyrically the bands talked mostly about death and destruction, which contributes to the aggressive mentality behind moshing. Anthrax even released a song titled “Caught In A Mosh” that led to moshing being accepted as normal, expected, and fun at live shows. Moshing became more mainstream and international.
Meanwhile, Seattle’s punk scene was also influenced by Fugazi and Bad Brains, developing their own brand of punk called grunge. Nirvana was the first to become mainstream, bringing moshing with them. What used to be a tiny subculture was now commonplace. Kurt Cobain, among others, began to hurl themselves off the stage and into a dense crowd of fans to be carried as they continue singing or playing guitar. Moshing became a fun way for the band to interact with huge audiences in a way never previously imagined outside of house shows, dive bars, and small theatres.
As music has continued to evolve, moshing continued through the times; now most prominent in metal, pop-punk, and hard-rock scenes. certain types of hip-hop music also prominently feature moshing. However, some bands began to speak out against moshing due to the violence behind it. Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins vocalist, once addressed the crowd and stated “I, and we, publically take a stand against moshing!” It’s no use trying to hide the fact that while moshing is fun, fans can still get hurt if others take it too seriously. Many bands today will even address small groups of fans individually to scold them for how they mosh. They see the show as a place for people to come and enjoy themselves, the fans shouldn’t have to worry about getting slugged in the face by some stranger during the show.
Luckily, GU’s injury count due to mosh pits is still zero (as far as I know). GU doesn’t have any true hardcore bands currently, but that doesn’t mean students couldn’t see a mosh pit at the next Blackroom concert. If a pit does form, feel free to jump in on the fun, and maybe the band will too.
Media by Brett Salyards.