There is no purer expression of enjoying music than engaging in a mosh pit.
Well, okay, some amendments to that bold statement are necessary. If you’re not into physicality at all, whether it’s sports or exercise, it’s not for you. Germophobes need not apply. People who sincerely and wholly need to fold their arms and watch a concert from a distance to enjoy it, they can keep doing that. But for everyone else – everyone who has ever been so moved by the energy of music and needed to physically express it in some way – it doesn’t get purer than a good mosh pit.
Dancing, crumping, skanking, that thing they do at hardcore shows, it’s all cultural alternatives of the same primal urge to have a physical sensation paired with an aural one. In the case of a pit, it’s something about the awakening affect of good-natured bodily pain. It was at a Japandroids concert earlier in the month when it occurred to me that there is no better circumstance at a concert than a pit that is at once active, enthusiastic, passionate and safe.
Every other form of concert body movement requires some self-awareness, and for many people that leads to self-consciousness. It requires either knowledge or natural talent with coordinating the awkwardness of your body to rhythms, or decisions on how to move that best match up with everyone else. That’s always fun in its own way, but the beauty of the mosh pit is that the choice isn’t in your hands. You are simply swept along. For those who struggle with even a modicum of self-consciousness, or indecision about what to do with themselves at a show, the mosh pit is a savior. You surrender to it, and then you try to keep your shoes on.
The specter of self-consciousness is powerful. Even at a Los Campesinos! concert, whose fame comes from a song about being fearlessly bad at dancing, you will find a contingent in the audience that is fearful anyway. You see it in their attempts to wiggle, the sudden evaporation of their nerve, and the way they look at everyone else while getting down. It’s not their fault. We all have our own terrifying social hang-ups. But the mosh pit is the equalizer that brings extroverts and introverts together. It’s a leveled playing field where we can all just enjoy the visceral sensation of a good beat, a thrashing guitar or a driving bass line.
And it’s good, too, that we have developed a form of enjoyment that even novices can participate in. The point of it all varies among the different personality types that go into the stew, but for me it’s always been directly related to why I listen to music in the first place. At the Japandroids show, I started out tired from another 8-hour day at the office and ended up buzzing with awareness of my life. I saw two guys suddenly hug in between songs. I woke up with a sore neck and a mysterious bruise on my knee. Like music, the emotion and pain wakes us up from the mundane haze of our lives, and forces us into the moment. It’s physically painful at its best, but when paired with great live music, it’s just a reminder that you’re only young once, and this is why it matters.