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Biological Engineers, Crowd Safety Consultants & Metal Musicians Explain Why People Mosh


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Hopesandfears.com tried to get to the bottom of just what people mosh at metal/hardcore concerts. There’s commentary from members of Ill Nino (Cristian Machado sees it as a “war dance”) and more, but the site also got word from some more intellectual folk as well, including the founder of safety consultant firm Crowd Management Strategies as well as Dr.’s and PhD candidates and the like from Harvard and such. There no definitive answer offered, but some interesting theories are shared. PhD candidate Chris Driver offers:

“At least in Hardcore, many moshers understand these experiences to afford them opportunities for becoming a particular kind of person (often linked to classed narratives of masculinity). Hardcore kids move in narratives of kinship, resilience, durability, and cultural solidarity. Doing mosh serves not only to construct a personal narrative that aligns our cultural histories with a commitment to particular social groups but to embed us within the value systems and ways of being that make us who we are and determine our socio-biographical trajectories.

There is even evidence to suggest that these kinds of self-making strategies may develop individuals so that their employability is increased in particular industries where the skills and abilities ‘learned’ in The Pit hold specific value.”

PhD student Gabby Riches stated:

“People mosh in order to be part of and actively involved in the raw, visceral experience of a live metal performance. This is expressed by one female fan who I interviewed in Leeds: “it’s almost like being part of the music you know it’s all going up and down with the beat and you’re bashing around and everything, it’s that big sense of communal energy.”

She also focused in particular on female mosh pit participants as part of her doctoral research, sharing:

“…A lot of the women I spoke with the moshpit was a freeing experience, a practice that allowed them to experience their bodies in different and subversive ways. Some of them thought moshing was an empowering practice because it challenges social and gender norms, and disrupts traditional understandings of femininity and what it means to ‘do’ female metal fandom. Moshing also heightens the live metal experience because it creates an electric energy, an atmosphere and through these intense, bodily encounters moshing becomes a contagious force that one cannot help but be absorbed by.

Throughout my research it became evident that the element of risk is an important motivating factor for female metal fans. Female fans explained that in their everyday lives, outside of the scene, they had little opportunities to engage in risky behaviors.”

Apologist drummer Josh Sushman‘s take will likely raise the most eyebrows however:

“Right off the top of my head I think it’s homoeroticism for sure. Definitely a lot of sexuality tied up in it in general since it’s typically performed in male-dominated spaces. But I think mutual violence and aggression within a theoretically safe space mirror the type of music it’s responding to. It’s cathartic to express those parts of yourself because they’re often repressed. Moshing is an act that values anger and violence as identity and forms of interaction, just like bondage, which is partly why I say it’s so sexual. But I think it’s become more commonplace outside of strict punk communities and is a little bit more normalized, which maybe generalizes the sexual aspects of whoever is participating.”

There’s a lot more to be read over at Hopesandfears.com.

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