Scene Sciences #0: Mosh-Rules: Hardcore Pit vs. Mosh Pit – Karate Kids vs. Friendly Pogo?!

It does not matter if you are part of the alternative music scene or not. There is a certain topic related to it that is frequently addressed. However, most people tend not to provide a differentiated opinion on the topic. This week, I will be talking about pits at hardcore shows.

When you watch a gig by a hardcore band on YouTube, there are often comments in which people make fun of the dance moves in a pit and call them karate or similar things. Depending on the band and its following, these comments can be followed by hate comments towards the people writing comments about slam dancing, throw-down or however you want to call it.

There is a similar tendency for videos by people who address the topic but appear not to be concerned with the scene. They often address the topic in a one-sided fashion and equate this type of dancing with assault. Under such videos, you can also find spiteful comments, in which people justify slam dancing in a bad way.

Therefore, in this post, I hope to provide a differentiated view on mosh pits in the hardcore scene and at mainstream shows in order to clarify some misunderstandings related to this topic.

This video by Show Me The Body shows what a pit at a hardcore show can look like in a good case. Every one is just enjoying themselves. It is staged but still shows what a kind pit can look like

What’s the Difference?

At hardcore shows, the pit is in front of the stage and you ONLY mosh in that area. Thus, it is up to you to decide, whether or not you want to mosh. If you choose to mosh, you hit the pit at your own risk. If you choose not to mosh, you keep your distance from the pit and preferably place yourself somewhere in the back or at the side of the crowd in order to enjoy the show.

At ‘normal’ or mainstream shows, there is no such rule. Often, the pits open up in the crowd somewhere towards the front of the stage but they can also pop up in the back of the crowd, which makes them less predictable than pits at hardcore shows. Therefore, at mainstream shows, you often do not really have a choice, as you are often dragged into a pit that opens up around you.

dance hardcore GIF
A pit at a hardcore show
Jump Around Hiphop GIF
A Mosh Pit

There is another essential difference between the two. Throw-down, dancing at hardcore shows, is a form of conscious dancing. In a mosh pit, people merely push each other and do not look out for others as much as in a hardcore pit. Thus, it is easier to prevent accidents at hardcore shows because you move consciously and not as erratically as in a mosh pit.

However, there is a phenomenon that I would like to address at this point, separately. That is crowd killing.

What’s Crowd Killing?

The Urban Dictionary offers two definitions of this phenomenon. The first of which is pretty accurate, while the second one is emotionally charged. However, it shows one of the major problems of crowd killing, mainly that someone may create a feeling of unease and frustration in others because of their behaviour.

1) When at a hardcore/metalcore show someone hardcore dances along the the boarder of the mosh pit with the intent of hitting the crowd

Regular Show Death Bear GIF
Crowd killers be like…

2) When a pseudo tough-guy with an ego complex punches a member of the crowd in the face (often as a sucka-punch)because it makes him feel like a man.

Crowd killing can happen at any show but it is easy to avoid, since you can stay away from the pit and its edge if you realise that the crowd is too rowdy for your liking. However, this does not mean that I condone crowd killing. On the contrary, I think it is just unnecessary.

A misconception about this is that people crowd kill at every show or that hardcore kids are all aggressive. Unfortunately, some people who do not seem to be that involved in the scene, do not differentiate between people who crowd kill and normal visitors of hardcore shows and based on cases of crowd killing, these people assume that throw-down is aggressive in general and that people aim to hurt others. However, this is not the case and there are plenty of people in the scene who dislike crowd killing and disrespectful behaviour at shows in general. If you mosh, you do it responsibly and in consideration of others. Of course, there are some people who do not mind others but one should not generalise this and assume that all people in the scene behave recklessly.

Crowd killing is not hardcore and it does not suit the values of the scene. In contrast, it destroys the safe space that a show provides for all sorts of people through unnecessary violence and gives the scene a bad representation in the process. – Crowd killing is for losers.

I’d take some nice twostep over it at any time!

The twostep is the basic dance move at hardcore shows. Its name stems from its form: it consists of just two steps

What are the Problems of Pits at Mainstream Shows?

As stated earlier, people at mosh pits act less consciously than people at hardcore shows. This increases the risk of accidents and injuries at main stream concerts and pits.

Surely, there are no statistics regarding this topic, since there are more important issues in the world. I do not like generalisations, so I would like to emphasise that the following is my personal view on the topic based on my experiences at shows.

If you consider that people dance with less consideration and that there are less unwritten rules when it comes to moshing, you could assume that it is more likely for people to act violently at mosh pits. Also, I could often see that people who behave irresponsibly at mosh pits and are confronted because of that tend to shrug it off as ‘normal behaviour’ in a pit. You could interpret this as a tendency of toxic masculinity, using the mosh pit as a means to justify irresponsible (overly manly) behaviour. People doing this justify this by claiming that they ‘blow off some steam’ and thus excuse their behaviour, which can ruin a concert for others. This can happen at hardcore shows too but I mostly experienced this at bigger, mainstream shows.

This is eerily similar to crowd killing, since there does not seem to be a big difference between reckless moshers at a mosh pit and crowd killers at a hardcore show. Both act in inconsiderate ways and hurt others. While it is easy to avoid crowd killers by keeping your distance from the pit, it is more difficult to avoid reckless moshers, since mosh pits are less predictable and can appear quite suddenly.

What seems more dangerous to you?

pit mosh GIF


Mosh GIF
A Wall of Death

How does this matter in the time of Trump and Corona?

First, I hope it becomes clear that violence is not tolerated in the hardcore scene. Crowd killing sucks and it is not concerned with the values of hardcore whatsoever. Many people who attempt to criticise this, overextend their criticism to dancing at hardcore shows in general, which suggests that these people are not that involved in the scene and form their opinion without sound knowledge of it. Thus, they generalise based on their personal opinion, which results in an undifferentiated opinion.

This is a big problem apart from music, in ‘real life’. One should not form an opinion about a topic that one has not considered in detail. At the moment, we are living in a post-factual age, in which right-wing populists come to power all over the world by depicting wrong information as ‘facts’. This emphasises the importance of informing yourself before forming an opinion about a topic. At times like these, it is necessary to form a differentiated opinion that is based on facts instead of spreading half-truths or even wrong information. We see the consequences of being ill-informed in form of people emptying supermarkets and stocking food because of their panic due to Corona virus.

Because of that, I would like to remark something: Please act considerately and do not buy more than you need because there are people who cannot afford to buy things in advance. By buying too much in order to prepare yourself for the ‘impending doom’, you are being antisocial. Also consider how stressful the current situation is for people working at supermarkets, in health care and care in general. To support them, stay home if possible and do not contract or spread the virus by leaving the house for unnecessary things. And finally: Please do not spread false information about the virus and in general and inform yourself before forming and spreading your opinion.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is conclusion-word-formed-from-lettered-yellow-tiles-1888005-min.jpg
picture by Ann H on pexels:

My Conclusion:

  • it is necessary to differentiate between assault in form of crowd killing and the hardcore scene, since crowd killing is not representative of the scene
  • at HC shows, it is easier to avoid the pit and everything is a bit more orderly, even if the audience may appear to be aggressive at the first sight
  • mosh pits at mainstream shows are less predictable than pits at hardcore shows and you can get hurt more easily
  • there is less of a ‘mosh-etiquette’ in mosh pits, which again increases the risk of getting hurt in them

What should I take away from this post?

  • pits at hardcore shows and at mainstream shows differ. If you know that, you act accordingly and avoid getting hurt
  • especially at big concerts, people could act more mindfully, particularly because people at festivals may be drunk and more aggressive than at smaller shows
  • you should form a well-founded, differentiated opinion of things. This applies to all topics in life
  • be mindful of others, it makes everyone’s lives easier. This applies to shows and all of life

Again, I would like to emphasise that these are my personal experiences and that there are no academic sources to apply to this topic. Accordingly, this is not supposed to present a general truth but merely my view of the topic based on my experiences in the scene.

As always, thank you for reading and feel free to comment. Stay healthy and at the same time, do not let yourselves get spooked too much because of the corona virus. If you are at home at the moment, maybe try to use the spare time to do something you have always wanted to do. Most people seem to turn a blind eye to the situation at refugee camps on Greece islands in the Mediterranean Sea, so please stay informed about what’s going on in the world to make sure that other pressing issues of our time are not forgotten because of the current situation.


Next time on sovlpvnk: Crazy Lazy Vegan Recipes

Published by sovlpvnk

On this blog, I talk about the alternative music scene and its ethics as well as LGBTQIAP+ -related topics. I mostly write about asexuality, political issues and their representation in media. Expect content in English and German once per month. Book and film reviews on my goodreads and letterboxd accounts: sovlpvnkblog and sovlpvnk.

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