Moshing or slamming refers to the activity in which audience members at live music performances aggressively push or slam into each other. Moshing is frequently accompanied by stage diving, crowd surfing, mic swinging, smashing instruments, and headbanging. It is commonly associated with concerts by hardcore punk, heavy metal, and rock artists in general.

Moshing primarily takes place at live shows, though it can be done to recorded music, too.[1] In the 2000s, many variations of moshing exist, such as "thrashing",[2] and the dance is practiced at concerts of many musical genres. Moshing is typically done in an area in front of the stage which is referred to as the mosh pit or simply pit.

While moshing is seen as a form of positive feedback or reflection of enjoyment from live audiences,[1][3] it has also drawn some controversy over its dangerous nature. However, it is generally agreed that moshers are not trying to harm one another[1] and follow an unwritten "moshing etiquette",[4][2][5] or pit hospitality, which promotes safety through behaviours such as immediately helping fallen audience members back to their feet to avoid their being trampled. Commonly the circumstances that lead to this act at a concert are only a few people starting it and creating a snowball effect in the crowd.

Some bands also glamorise the act in their songs, with Limp Bizkit being an example, while others have voiced protests against it, such as Smashing Pumpkins.


Origins of the term Edit

H.R. (Paul Hudson) of the Washington, D.C. area hardcore punk band Bad Brains, regarded as a band that "put moshing on the map",[6] were partly responsible for coining the term. Due to their affected Jamaican-accented pronunciation of the word mash in their lyrics and stage banter, fans in D.C. heard this as mosh instead.[7] During the emergence of the American hardcore scene, the dance was frequently spelled mash but pronounced mosh, as in the 1982 song "Total Mash" by the Washington D.C.-based hardcore group Scream. Later, the term began to appear in hardcore fanzines of the time with its current spelling. The term was made more popular in the mainstream due to East coast thrash metal band Anthrax's song Caught in a Mosh.[8]

Origins of the dance Edit

A precursor to moshing, called "slamdancing", can be traced back to 1970s punk rock shows[2] in the form of "the pogo" and was later developed into moshing by the hardcore punk subculture of the early 80s.[9][5] While many use the terms slamdancing and moshing interchangeably, distinctions can be made in that slamdancing is typically more frantic, with body movements such as arm-swinging, while moshing is slower and more exaggerated.[1]

Moshing is thought to have originated in Orange County, California during the first wave of American hardcore in the early eighties at the Cuckoos Nest.[10] Early moshing can be seen in the film Urban Struggle. Violence and physicality characterized aspects of the movement and were manifesting on the dancefloors of shows. Slamdancing began as an audience response to the bands of the L.A. scene such as Black Flag, Fear and The Circle Jerks, whose more rhythmic and heavy form of punk rock was being called "hardcore."

To match the intensity and aggressive nature of this new music, fans would move frantically and engage in stage diving. Beyond audience and band members slamming into one another and leaping from stages into the crowd, slamdancing was defined by "strutting around in a circle, swinging your arms around and hitting everyone within your reach."[11] This aspect of slamdancing was termed the "Huntington Beach Strut" (or "HB Strut") after the neighborhood of Orange County where it originated. Author Steven Blush writes of the HB Strut: "According to lore, Mike Marine, a former U.S. Marine and star of The Decline of Western Civilization, performed the first slamdance in 1979. Marine created a vicious version of punk dancing. He'd smash the fucking face of anyone who would get near him--especially some Hippie, who'd get pulverized." Marine and others in the Huntington Beach and Long Beach areas invented this violent dance and soon exported it to the San Francisco and Bay Area scene, where pogoing was still the prevalent form of dance. From there, it spread to the East Coast scenes through national acts such as Bad Brains and other D.C. area natives such as Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye who witnessed the HB Strut while traveling.[12]

Because the early American hardcore scene gave way to and coexisted with the burgeoning crossover thrash scene, it, too, became defined in part by slamdancing.

Crossover into mainstream musicEdit

By the end of the 1980s, the initial wave of American hardcore was over and had split off into other subcultures and movements. Of the many styles of music directly created by and indebted to hardcore, the Seattle based grunge movement was among them. In the early 1990s, the sound associated with bands such as The Melvins, Mudhoney, Nirvana, and the SubPop record label had crossed over into mainstream success, bringing with it the memes of the American hardcore culture.

Through the mainstream success of these acts, the dance and word mosh entered the popular American lexicon and spread to many other types of music. according to They Might Be Giants' John Linnell, it reached a point where "it didn’t matter what kind of music you were playing or what kind of band you were; everybody moshed to everything. It was just kind of the enforced rule of going to concerts."[13]

Controversy and anti-moshing stancesEdit

Among the first musicians to publicly take issue with moshing was longtime punk singer and songwriter Ian MacKaye, founder of Dischord Records, frontman for such seminal bands as Minor Threat, and early promoter of the straight edge lifestyle. Beginning in the late 1980s, during his time with Fugazi, MacKaye became well known for his opposition to "violent dancing" at shows.

In the 1990s, bands like The Smashing Pumpkins also took a stance against moshing, following some especially tragic incidents. At a 1996 Pumpkins show in Dublin, Ireland, 17-year-old Bernadette O'Brien was crushed by moshing crowd members and later died in the hospital, despite warnings from the band that people were getting hurt.[14] Singer Billy Corgan was heard at another time on stage saying on behalf of his band:[14] "I just want to say one thing to you, you young, college lughead-types. I've been watchin' people like you sluggin' around other people for seven years. And you know what? It's the same shit. I wish you'd understand that in an environment like this, and in a setting like this, it's fairly inappropriate and unfair to the rest of the people around you. I, and we, publicly take a stand against moshing!"

More recently, on September 24, 2007, another fan died at a Smashing Pumpkins concert in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The man, aged 20, was dragged out of the mosh pit, unconscious, to be pronounced dead at St. Pauls' Hospital after first-aid specialists attempted to help him.[15][16][17]

In another incident, Jessica Michalik died of asphyxiation after being crushed in a mosh pit during the 2001 Australian Big Day Out music festival. The coroner's findings into her death criticized the crowd control measures in use at the time, and also criticized Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst for "alarming and inflammatory" comments during the rescue effort.[18]

At The Drive-In also began to speak out against slam dancing at their shows, and their frontman Cedric began to become famous for his anti-mosh rants at the Big Day Out 2001 incident in which he "bah'd" at the crowd as if they were sheep.[19]

Other bands have expressed varying degrees of disapproval regarding mosh pits. Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, in an interview published on his website, described mosh pits as a "problem":[20]

"I think our audience have become a little bit more attentive and less of that type of [mosh] mentality [...] I understand you want to release that energy... [but] once people start doing that during "Through Her Eyes" it gets ridiculous [...] So this time around we're consciously aiming at theaters that people can actually sit down and enjoy the show and be comfortable [...] without having to worry about their legs falling off or being kicked in the face by a Mosh Pit. So [that] will probably eliminate that problem anyway."

In fact, it appears that crowds attending various concerts have begun to reject moshing behavior. Instances where people have begun to push others in effort to begin the moshing environment have been shouted-down to stop such activity, and in some cases reported to security staff.

In popular cultureEdit

Moshing is seen or spoken of in various media. The dance is mentioned in a large number of songs by many acts, even directly in the song title as seen in "Caught in a Mosh" by Anthrax, "Milano Mosh" by Stormtroopers of Death, "Megamosh" by Hyades,"Long Live The Circle Pit" by Catheter, "Circle Pit" by Refused, "Thank You For Not Moshing" (Originally "In The Pit") by Reel Big Fish, and "Into the Pit" by Testament. Moshing has appeared in cartoons and television series such as South Park,[21] Futurama,[22] Metalocalypse,[23] Mighty Moshin' Emo Rangers, and The Awful Truth, as well as in video games such as World of Warcraft[24] and Mario Party 8.[25] In World Wrestling Entertainment, superstars Mosh and Thrasher named their tag-team "The Headbangers" and had finishing moves such as the "Stage dive" and "Mosh pit".

During the end sequence of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi Special Edition, the celebrants of Coruscant can be seen in a mosh-pit-like group body surfing an imperial stormtrooper across the crowd. [26] In the third Yubisaki Milk Tea special, Yoshinori Ikeda takes picutres of Sumika Kagami moshing, and both nearly get injured during an Aerosmith concert at the Tokyodome. Ikeda himself moshes on occasion.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Tsitsos, William (1999) Rules of Rebellion: Slamdancing, Moshing, and the American Alternative Scene Popular Music, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 397-414
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Nussbacher, Mike (2004) A Survivor’s Guide To The Mosh Pit. The Martlet.
  3. Pogrebin, Robin (May 9, 1996). "Hard-Core Threat to Health: Moshing at Rock Concerts". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-12-14.
  4. UpVenue's Moshpit Etiquette
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sacahroff, Reaz (1996) Music: Pit Etiquette. Tucson Weekly.
  6. "Bad Brains biography". From 2004's The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Rolling Stone (2004). Retrieved on 2007-05-14.
  7. "Bad Brains - History". (2002). Retrieved on 2007-05-14.
  8. Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal, by ian christie
  9. Irvine, Martha (1996) Moshing Exciting but dangerous. Associated Press. at
  11. Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History.
  12. Rachman, Paul (2006). American Hardcore: The History of American Punk Rock 1980-1986.
  13. The Gothamist, Interview with John Linnell of They Might Be Giants
  14. 14.0 14.1 Unknown (May 19, 1996). "Fan Crushed at Smashing Pumpkins Show". Retrieved on 2006-06-23.
  15. "Man dies in Smashing Pumpkins mosh pit". (2007). Retrieved on 2007-09-27.
  16. "Man Dies After 'Crowd-Surfing' At SMASHING PUMPKINS Show". BLABBERMOUTH.NET (2007). Retrieved on 2007-09-27.
  17. "B.C. man dies after crowd-surfing at rock show". (2007). Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved on 2007-09-27.
  18. Weir, Ian (2002-11-08). "Findings and Recommendations by the Coronial Inquest into the Death of Jessica Michalik" (PDF). Venue and Event Management Services Pty Ltd.. Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  20. John Kotzian (11 January 2002). "An Interview with Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy".
  21. "Clubhouses", South Park. Original airdate September 23, 1998. The character Kenny dies in a mosh pit at a party.
  22. "Hell Is Other Robots", Futurama. Original airdate May 18, 1999. Moshing to the song "Super Disco Breakin" is featured when Fry, Bender and Leela enter a mosh pit at a Beastie Boys concert. Leela hated it, and ended up using martial arts to violently knock nearby moshers unconscious.
  23. "Religionklok", Megatokyo, Metalocalypse. Original airdate November 19, 2006. Dethklok goes to a Christian rock concert featuring fictional band Prayer Bolt when Toki Wartooth starts a "Christian Rock mosh pit," killing Prayer Bolt's lead singer.
  24. World of Warcraft - Dancing - the undead male character model headbangs/moshes for its dance animation
  25. The videogame features a mini game called "Mosh Pit".

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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