(I can’t feel my legs today. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING)
Yesterday I saw Rise Against at the Brixton Academy, exactly three years and a day since I last saw them at the Brixton Academy, and now having filled both the roles of petrified scrawny fifteen year old in over their head, and enthusiastic eighteen year old in over their head but now with moshing, I feel in a position to give you folks advice on how to enjoy what actually amounts to little more than an eardrum-splitting clothed orgy, and how to not be hospitalised in the process.
1) Everyone is fair game
And by ‘everyone’ I mean ‘everyone around the mosh pit’. Generally, individual circles will develop in the crowd, within which the moshing occurs, and outside of these circles there are various concentric circles of people, starting with those about to mosh closest to the pits, and finishing with the significant others / parents dragged along to the gig at the very back. So don’t worry about bumping into people that might not want to be bumped into, anyone within five metres of a mosh pit, even if they’re not themselves flailing their arms around that that precise second, is probably up for it.
2) Be aggressive
Obviously, verbal communication is impossible when authority-smashing punk is being played right next to you, so you’ll have to shove people around to interact with them: if someone’s standing on your foot, give them a nudge; if you want to be crowd-surfed to the front to take a break, elbow someone and point upwards. Remember that they’ve chosen to be in a writhing mass of angry young bodies, so your elbowing and prodding won’t offend them; the usual conventions of society kinda go out the window in mosh pits.
3) Be up for things
Leading on from that, mosh pits provide a rather unique set of social rules and norms that are wonderfully liberating if you get over the first awkward step of jumping into a pit for the first time. Last night, a woman I didn’t know came up to me, gave me a hug, put me in a headlock, said something unintelligible and buggered off, and I never saw her again; and I was totally fine with all this because mosh pits are weird and unrestrained and fun like that, and I’d encourage you to be similarly relaxed.
Obviously don’t start making out with people you don’t know or anything too familiar, but I’d say putting your arm around a stranger for an acoustic song or leaning on them for a breather between songs is perfectly alright. But like all social situations, it’s as much about responding to the situation as it is learning the rules of it in advance, so it make take a gig or two for you to understand what’s cool.
4) Keep your arms up
Now we get into the technical aspects of moshing, which can be scary if you’re small or puny (and if you’re reading a post about how to mosh you’re probably at least one of those things – but it’s cool, I’m both). A good starting point is to keep your arms up, with your hands at head-height, so anyone crashing into you hits your arms, and not your chest, and so you won’t get winded, which can be dangerous in a mosh pit where there’s not a lot of space to go and have a sit down and catch your breath for five minutes.
Similarly, when jumping into other people, lead with your arms but not your elbows, so that your soft, fleshy upper arms and thudding painlessly into their soft, fleshy upper arms, and you’re not digging into them with pointy elbows, or exposing your ribs unnecessarily. This will get tiring, and your chest muscles will ache like a bitch the next day, but it’s worth it – chest and back injuries are much worse.
5) You’re going to lose a shoe, so get over it
I lost my right shoe in the second song last night, so spent the next hour and a half dancing with one socked foot. Honestly, it wasn’t so bad; keep an eye out for glass bottles if the lights are bright enough to see the floor, and try not to jump off one shoe-wearing foot for the rest of the show, because you’ll tire that leg out, and your, inevitably raised, knee on your other leg is both exposed to other people’s dancing, and is likely to be at the perfect height to catch someone square in the chest by accident.
If you lose a shoe, forget it, it’s gone; it’s not worth missing out on the band you’re paying to see by scrabbling around on the floor looking for it, and you’ll probably be trampled a bit. Any good venue will have a lost property section, which is where I found my missing shoe, and any good band will have awesome enough fans to hold up any wayward shoes they find, so if you lose yours, keep an eye above the pits to see if its being paraded in a helpful fashion; just don’t get your hopes up too much, because everyone loses shoes – I had about five false shoe alarms last night, and it was very sad.