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Moshing is a type of dance characterized by jumping around and or pushing others to loud punk, hardcore, and heavy metal music. Moshing is popular with many, especially young, fans. Moshing is also gaining popularity in the Rap and Breakcore (a genre of extreme electronic dance music) scenes.

Moshing is typically done in a mosh pit or circle pit. Originally this was just a group of people typically directly in front of the stage who were engaged in this form of dancing. It is now more frequent that there are mosh or circle pits throughout the entire audience.

Mosh fashion relates to the music genre. Specifically, it began with wearing what one would wear to a concert where there would be a mosh pit.


Origins and History


The term "mosh" probably came from the term "mash" or dance (as in "monster mash"). In the early eighties, it was frequently spelled "mash", but pronounced "mosh", as in the 1982 song "Total Mash" by the Washington D.C. based hardcore group "Scream", on their "Still Screaming" album. Later, the term began to appear in fanzines of the time with it's current spelling. The Jamaican pronunciation is likely due to the influence of ska and reggae on punk rock, as in the song lyric "Mash it up in Zimbabwe" in the song "Zimbabwe" on Bob Marley's 1979 "Survival" album.

The term "mosh" has often been credited to Vinnie Stigma of the hardcore group Agnostic Front as an acronym for "March Of Skin Heads", but most authorities cite Darryl Jennifer, bass guitarist for Bad Brains as the term's originator, from his Jamaican-accented pronunciation of the word "mash", in "Mash down Babylon.", referring to the Rastafarian religious idea of the corrupt world-system. Many early punk scenes referred to this type of dance as 'thrashing', and the term 'moshing' term gradually gained significance during the hardcore metal crossover days.

This fusion was created by bands like DRI. Slam dancing originated in Southern California during the west coast second generation punk movement. It began as bands like Black Flag & The Circle Jerks started playing extreme hardcore punk. The kids from the beach cities began attending shows and took the pogo to the next level of physical contact.


Mosh pits (or Circle pits) appeared in 1981, if not earlier, at a number of punk rock concerts. The dance form later spread to the heavy metal music scene, where headbanging and crowd surfing were incorporated. In the mid-1980s, when thrash metal bands like Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax were still playing club venues, mosh pits were a regular part of the concert experience. By the time of the Woodstock 1999 music festival, moshing had been described as a full-scale riot. To solve these problems, venues that expect moshing now typically provide crowd control, including having concert rules, removing problem-causing audience members, and a "T-barricade" that separates the pit into two halves as well as from the band.

Nirvana's successful video "Smells Like Teen Spirit" brought mosh pits to a wide mainstream audience in 1991.

In May 1996, The Smashing Pumpkins played a gig in The Point Depot in Dublin, Ireland. The venue was over-crowded and despite the band's repeated requests for moshing to stop, a 17-year-old fan from Cork, Bernadette O'Brien, was crushed to death. The concert ended early and the following night's performance in Belfast was cancelled out of respect for her.

Michael Moore's The Awful Truth

In 2000, Michael Moore's The Awful Truth television show took a portable mosh pit across the United States to Iowa and challenged the candidates in the presidential primaries to dive into it. The premise was that the show would endorse any presidential hopeful crazy enough to do it. At one debate this mosh pit was called "the defining moment of the 2000 election" by New York Times columnist Gail Collins.

At a town hall event staged by Ronald Reagan's former ambassador to the United Nations' Economic and Social Council, Alan Keyes, aides went outside to investigate the commotion. When informed that Keyes could get the endorsement of "The Awful Truth with Michael Moore," Keyes' national field director dove into the pit, hoping that his actions would help win the endorsement. He then brought out another one of Keyes supporters, dressed as Uncle Sam, who also jumped in. Another supporter dressed as a shark jumped out off the stage onto a car, damaging it.

Alan Keyes, after several minutes of convincing by his daughter, dived into the mosh pit himself. He fell backwards into the screaming crowd of youths to the sound of Rage Against the Machine and surfed the crowd. After a couple of body slams with a young man from Ames High School, he left the pit with the show's endorsement.

Michael Moore said of the incident, "We knew Alan Keyes was insane. We just didn't know how insane until that moment." Details about this incident and the adventure of the portable mosh pit can be found on Mr. Moore's web site.

The only book on moshing is Moshpit Culture by Joe Ambrose, anarchist writer and collaborator with, amongst others, Iggy Pop, William Burroughs, Lydia Lunch, Sol Melendez, and Richard Hell. Ambrose's book contains a history of moshing and first hand reports from a variety of mosh subcultures, plus interviews with young moshers and members of Slipknot, Sepultura, Trail of Dead, Soulfly, and Bullet For My Valentine.

Types of Moshing

Moshing is a catch-all term for any dance performed in a mosh pit or circle pit at a party or dance . Certain moves are seen with certain passages of music (for example the "two-step" for floor-tom breakdowns).

It has always been mosh etiquette to help up those who fall down. Also, moshers generally try to avoid tripping others, therefore avoiding the entire falling 'incident'.

Moshing can be referred to by several different names, depending upon the subculture in which it is found: hardcore dancing, throwdown, mashing, or most simply, moshing. Slam dancing is characterized by its aggressive nature: the movements consist of violent contact with other dancers - pushing and shoving other dancers and body-slamming, or throwing your body into another dancer are the normal forms of slamdancing.

Moshing means different things within different genres of music:

  • Breakcore, a genre of extreme electronic dance music, attracts many ex-punkers or metal heads and also their mosh-pits.
  • Grindcore also has its own style of dancing, often referred to as the grind (not to be confused with the urban dance style), which resembles a blend of skanking and more of a slower mosh.
  • Wall of Death where the crowd is divided into two halfs, the music is built up into a crescendo and then as it reaches fever pitch a signal is given by the band and the two sides run at each other and the intro breaks into the song proper. It results in moshing and fighting.
  • Metal performances are known for having large mosh pits fueled by the genre's popularity and large venue bookings. Due to the rapid tempo of Metal music, the tempo of dance elevates to a fevered pitch. This frantic moshing, known as a Speed Pit or Speed Mosh, is commonly practiced during shows of such bands as Iced Earth and Slayer. The faster the metal is, the crazier it will get. Additionally, metal shows are typical for having the largest people and most brutal pits imaginable, as this is the fan base the music attracts. It's thought that thrash metal was the first heavy metal subgenre that had pits, due to the nature of Punk rockers to like the thrash metal sound. Metal moshing generally consists of pushing, a variety of shoulder and body checks, Irish whips (a wreslting move that involves taking a person by the arm and launching them in a direction) and a contest in which two moshers lock hands and spin at a frantic pace, seeing who can hold on the longest. The loser is usually sent flying into a crowd.
  • Punk rock moshing generally involves slam dancing (aimless slamming into one another), the pogo (jumping up and down into other people, invented by Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols according to hearsay, but this is a myth), and circle pitting, and is generally much less violent and dramatic than found at hardcore punk shows. However, with punk/hardcore, the moshing is generally much faster than at metal shows seeing as the music's beat is much quicker. Punk was where the mosh pit was invented.
    • Hardcore: Hardcore dancing is much faster and formulaic. It also includes people windmilling, moves resembling aggressive breakdancing, and solitary martial arts maneuvers. These are often frowned upon by other dancers, especially if attempted at a non-hardcore concert. This is often due to the fact that harcore dancers can be reckless, and pose an unnecessary threat to those who wish to Speed Mosh. Another form of hardcore dancing which involves the whole mosh pit is the circle pit, in which people skank at running speed around the circumference of the pit. It can include two-steps, windmills, and swinging the arms and legs violently. In some venues large pillars in the middle of the pit form a nucleus to charge around, such as The Underworld in Camden, U.K. Whilst other forms of moshing promote camaraderie and friendship between dancers, Hardcore Dancing is criticized for it's lack of camaraderie and more alienating overtone.
  • Hip hop related
    • The Gangsta walk, originally called the "buck jump," is circling the dance floor as quick and wild as you possibly can. First commonly seen at rap shows in the Memphis, Tennessee area.
  • Skank slam dancing is now seen in ska or ska-core shows.
  • Industrial shows, especially Industrial-Metal or Industrial-Rock, will have mosh pits similar to that of metal. Industrial pits combine conventional moshing found at either punk or metal shows with dancing similar to that found in a club playing EBM or Industrial music. Due to the clockwork nature of Industrial's rhythm, fans also like to stomp their feet on the ground (which generates a huge vibration since boots are a popular footwear choice) as well.

Risks, criticism and precautions

Although most participants consider moshing fun, minor injuries can occur and there is a risk of serious injury.

Supporters of moshing agree that there is some physical risk associated with the activity. Supporters argue that slam dancing can establish friendship and camaraderie, that reports of death or serious injury relate to crowd surfing or stage diving, completely different activities. And despite the fact that injury can occur in a moshpit, no one is forced to go into one - those that do make the choice themselves, and are well aware of the risks.

Critics have charged slam dancing with inciting or condoning violence. Violence on the concert floor inevitably leads to some injuries. It is argued that an escalating cycle of violence can be observed. These charges are reflected in media reports.

To many, moshing is a kind of extreme sport. Many people in the pit do believe in stimulating friendship and camaraderie. Violence is usually directed against others in the pit, and often only escalates when it is badly received by someone who is outside or not used to the pit. The pit is meant to be fun. If a participant falls they risk being trampled, but someone nearby will always help a fallen person to their feet.

There tends to be some conflation between the actual dangers of moshing and the types of behavior which critics say it causes.

There are definite risks for those participating in moshing or approaching too close to the mosh pit. Many supporters actually believe that the point of moshing is its physicality and that its risks can be compared to the risks of any physically challenging sport. Some suggest there is a desire to be bruised fulfilled by mosh pits, as a form of basic stress relief.

It may be suggested that moshing reflects a modern "rite-of-passage trial" where young people choose to test their courage and strength among friends and/or strangers in an unpredictable situation teetering on the edge of chaos.

In many Western cultures, there are very few outlets for a youth's natural inclination toward violence and the moshpit is an excellent excuse to let off steam. As it is meant to be, it is a sort of battle between consenting adults, and outside the pit there is no battle, often good friendships are struck up between "true hardcores". Violence escalates mainly when this concept is misunderstood whether it is inside or outside the pit.

Even though moshing is done to the aforementioned music genres, heavy metal and similar genres are not completely subject to danceability standards since people started dancing to house music and genres similar to that; since house music is what people commonly refer to as "dance music" compared to the genres moshing is dedicated to.


  • "Moshing"
    • A short video clip of a crowd engaging in the act of "Moshing." (6.55MB, ogg/Theora format)

External links

See also

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