It’s dark; the bodies in front of me are silhouetted against the dull light emanating from the stage. Some trashy Metalcore band that brings the hate mosh crowd with their breakdown barrage signal the beginning of their set with some ominous guitar chords. As the first thud of the bass bursts forth and the band launches into their first track, I feel it, a dull crack to the side of my head. I feel the familiar feeling of blood rushing from my nose as I move to plug my nostrils and squeeze out of the manic crowd. Thank fuck it’s dark…
When I first encountered the video of The Story so Far’s lead singer Parker Cannon giving some drunk girl the King Leonidas treatment off the stage, I regarded it with nothing but indifference. “This stuff happens at shows all the time” I thought, “Alt.Press are sharing this for a cheap laugh right? When’s the new letlive album dropping again anyway?”
I never thought I’d wake up the next morning to find the edgy frontman has been labelled public enemy number one. With condemnations from scene personalities like Jarrod Alonge and Funeral for a Friend and comments suggesting the singer had committed “assault”, the debate raged on every platform the video could be found. While I still think Parker’s actions were mostly harmless and this has all been blown out of proportion, it does indicate that it might be time to talk about the place violence has in live shows.
The first thing to clarify is that it usually take a specific kind of music to spur on a mosh pit. As rad as a circle pit at the next Adele gig would be, it’s not going to happen. The brands of Punk, Hip-Hop, Metal and more that illicit these kinds of reactions usually act as an outlet to release the pent up aggression and frustration that builds up from everything the world throws at us. In theory, the mosh pit is a beautiful thing, and perhaps one of the most carefree and human ways to really “experience” music there is. Look into the eyes of someone in the midst of the pit and you’ll see the kind of primal emotion usually reserved for sex or grieving.
The calculated acts of brutish violence I’ve witnessed in my time going to heavier shows is a direct contradiction to everything the mosh pit is supposed to be about.
During my high school days there was a period when my friends and I would frequent local “Core” shows on the weekends. For us, living in a city which is more suited to the quiet retiree than it is the restless alternative-leaning teen, heavy gigs were the ideal way to spend our off time. As much as we loved to be there, it was clear that some of those around us didn’t share our enthusiasm. I get it; sometimes I can’t hide my sneer when confronted by obnoxious teens bolting in and out of the venue and talking loudly amongst themselves, but then I remember I’m a grown man at a State Champs show and I really need to get my priorities straight. Back then we didn’t care about the glares we received from the older attendees anyway, but one of them wanted to take it a step further.
We had been warned about the guy; he towered over practically everyone in the venue, was tattooed head-to-toe and bore a distinctive mullet. He was the type of guy who’d look more at home at a White Pride rally than at a Deathcore gig. As I assumed my usual viewing position, from the outside looking in, the behemoth roughly barged through me into the middle of the room. As soon as the light dimmed it began, he rushed forward and brought his hulking fist down onto the unassuming heads of the people below him, darting back, and charging again like an enraged bull.
It continued like this for most of the shows we attended until me and nearly all of my friends had almost had their lights turned out by him at least once. Then one day, at a show I missed, he began his usual charging routine on one of my friends, prompting her to drive the sharp heel of her boot into his shin and sending him into a frenzy which resulted in him being kicked out.
It’s funny that the same people who can be found deriding the younger fans for not showing up to support local bands are often the same people who try to give these kids concussions when they work up the courage to do so. Moshing is a perfectly acceptable form of catharsis and can be a beautiful thing for both those inside and those outside who get to bear witness. You can take your anger out on those around you at any given time, but the mosh pit is one of the few places where it can flow out of you naturally and rewardingly. Neither the kids waving their fists in the air nor the Pop-Punk vocalists employing their own brand of crowd control has ever endangered my life at a gig, but the disgusting sense of entitlement shared among some of those who believe they own the scene has.
…I avoid the judgemental glare of the older guys gathered outside the stage area and grimace as their howls of laughter follow me into the bathroom. Vacant, hallelujah. Bending over a filthy sink I let the blood empty from my nose as I try to regain my composure. Once my nose finishes leaking, I splash my face with water and stare at my reflection in the mirror. “They don’t want you up there”, I think to myself, “but fuck’em” I say as I head back into the fray.
(Image Source: http://www.amandajanik.com/?tag=mosh-pit)