Monday, June 30, 2008

The Mosh Pit - Simon Armitage

I enjoyed reading Gig - the Life and Times of a Rock-star Fantasist by the poet Simon Armitage. A man whose 'definition of a good gig' is 'more legs in the air than arms', his experience at a gig by The Wedding Present at Holmfirth Picturedrome in Yorkshire causes him to reflect on the mosh pit:

'the mosh pit is a community within a community and has a structure of its own, with a hard core of participants forming the main nucleus and lighter or less stable elements towards its outer edge. I've sometimes imagined that at the very centre there's a kind of sweet spot, like the eye of the storm, around which everything else revolves, a position of almost Buddhist­like tranquillity. But if it exists I've never found it. The mosh pit is an energized entity fuelled by excitement and adrenalin, and not always a pleasant place to be, though most moshers appear to abide by an unwritten code of practice that might be described as a kind of gentlemen's anarchy. Stage-divers will always be caught, crowd-surfers will always be rolled, and anyone who slips or stumbles will always be hoisted back to their feet. I've also noticed a discreet form of gallantry in the mosh pit, whereby female moshers are allowed a few more centimetres of personal space to perform their gyrations and are man­handled with greater sensitivity.
A gap tends to open up around the mosh pit - a sort of dry moat or buffer zone - and in my experience, this arc of no-man's-land is the most dangerous area of any gig. A combination of both the ripple effect and chaos theory are at work here: as it radiates outwards, the knock-on effect of any disturbance becomes magnified and exagger­ated as it travels, so that a relatively innocuous push or shove within the tightly packed core can result in the slewing and spilling of several bodies at the circumference. It's also a zone inhabited by the unconfident or inexperi­enced mosher, who are a danger to both themselves and others. But the main peril comes from the people on the other side of the moat, those who henceforth shall be referred to as the firemen. The firemen like Proper Music, not this kind of stuff, but have come to the gig because the venue has a late licence and anyway they're on the day shifr so have been asleep all day and now want Something To Do. They've gravitated towards the front of the venue because they're Not Scared, and as well as being tough they're also big, because they Work Out, and they don't like people coming too close, let alone pushing past. So with their pints clasped against their chests and their girlfriends manfully protected beneath their sizable shoulders, they form a semicircular wall of muscular flesh, through which very few enter and very few leave. Moshers who are thrown across the moat in their direction can expect to be propelled back at twice the speed, because even though moshing looks violent it is not Proper Fighting'.


Rachel said...

I'm purchasing this book immediately.

Andrew Brown said...

He's good. I was only an occasional mosher, but recognise the experience.

I did once spend the whole of a Jesus Lizard gig at the front of the stage and afterwards felt like I'd had a heart attack. But perhaps that's less moshing and more being crushed.