“I used to be with it. But then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary.”
It would be fair to say that in the 20 years I’ve been regularly going to metal shows, moshpit etiquette has changed substantially – and I’m not at all convinced its changed for the better.
Of course, things always change. That much can’t be stopped, and only a fool would try. Its also patently true that heavy music has got heavier. When Vulgar Display Of Power came out, it was the heaviest thing I’d ever heard. Compared to some bands now, however – you can choose your own examples – it sounds positively twee.
So I suppose it stands to reason that the way people physically respond to the music has correspondingly gotten more extreme. At some types of shows, the question I increasingly find myself asking, though, is has it gone too far?
For bands opening up shows in particular, getting early-bird punters to come towards the stage is a challenge at the best of times. Too often now, I have seen the best efforts of a band to get the crowd to move forwards totally undone by one or two sporadically flailing twats, so bands end up playing to an audience pinned to the walls of a venue, with the prime real estate left uncomfortably vacant, save for 15 second bursts of windmilling and spin-kicking at the pre-approved beat-down moments.
Call me old-fashioned – or even just plain old – but when I go out to have a good time, that rarely involves the very real possibility of catching a fist or a foot with my face. I don’t really understand how this has come to be acceptable behaviour.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not totally anti-moshing. I’ve done my time in the pit, and have the scars and cracked ribs to prove it, but we seem to have reached a point where standing close to the pit – which, in 100 capacity venues is pretty much anywhere – means making the choice between barely being able to see the band and running the risk of injury. This just doesn’t feel right to me.
At its ‘core’ (ho ho), hardcore dancing just strikes me as being inherently selfish. The undercurrent is one of “I’m going to do what the hell I like, and its up to everyone else to stay out of my way.” Not only do people have to stay out of the way, bit they have to actively pay attention to the whirling dinguses to avoid getting clobbered. Which, naturally takes their attention away from the band.
I go to shows to watch bands, not keep an eye out in case some self-absorbed half-wit chooses to show his appreciation for the music by planting his hands on the stage and kicking his feet out at head height. This, to me, is the worst practice of all. If you do it, you are an idiot. No question. If you really must be the centre of attention, pick up a microphone or a guitar and do something productive instead of preening about in front of a stage.
Of course, I understand freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but neither is completely free, and the world would be perfectly dreadful if they were. You are not free to walk up to somebody in the street and punch them in the face without recriminations. So why should it be acceptable if you are watching a deathcore band? It’s not okay to talk all the way through a movie in the cinema, its not okay to listen to music through a shitty little mobile phone speaker on the bus. Sure, people do it. Those people are twats. So why should the guys throwing their fists around be excused?
I obviously respect peoples’ freedoms, but I have long felt that this basic freedom is a pretty flimsy justification for doing or saying anything on its own. There must always be a greater purpose.
For me, the golden rule of moshpit etiquette stems from watching hardcore legends Shelter in the mid-nineties. The pit was overheating a little, so main man Ray Cappo stopped the band mid-song to address the crowd. His words have always stayed with me. He said:
“The pit is like a war zone, but the difference is we are all on the same side”
It may be a little trite, but the basic foundation is solid. The moshpit should be a mutually enjoyable experience, but the windmilling and donkey-kicking surely can’t be pleasurable for anyone other than the person doing it. Can it?
The other thing I completely fail to understand is how a style of dancing can develop that is only applicable for eight to twelve bars of the majority of songs, with participants basically just standing around in between, waiting for ‘that’ bit. It would make more sense if it happened, at least to some degree throughout the entire set, but no, it seems to be all or nothing.
And what does this mean? That the bands end up playing the majority of their set to a big empty space. And punters without surplus testosterone to burn off end up squashed together on the periphery. What jolly fun.
Perhaps I’m missing something. Perhaps some people really don’t mind dodging fists and feet. Perhaps some people are content with a style of dance that leaves them standing around gormlessly for 80% of the song. Can anyone explain it to me?
Of course, I can’t change the way people act. If that’s what they want to do, I can’t stop them. But, by the same token, they can’t stop me thinking that they are ridiculous looking, selfish twats. So I suppose that’s a fair trade.