The swirling whirl of flying elbows, lofted knees and whipping necks encountered in a mosh pit might look like utter chaos to an innocent bystander, a mini-riot sanctioned by the band on stage and whatever venue is hosting.
Step inside the maelstrom, though, and even the most turbulent dance-floor frenzy reveals organization among the madness — codes to live by, rules that are true to surviving and thriving in pits in Spokane and beyond, at any show featuring some music that thrives on a full-contact audience experience.
Help up anyone who falls down. No cheap shots to the back or head with a needlessly aggressive elbow. Any clothes that fly off during a spin around the pit — hats, T-shirts, shoes — typically get returned to their rightful owner. Don't spill your beverage on the floor. In a nutshell: Take care of each other.
I've spent more than a few nights engaging with pits, from different angles and in various roles.
As a teenager, I jumped into the mayhem with delight at shows by Circle Jerks and G.B.H. and NoMeansNo, managing to give myself a concussion with one ill-timed (but artfully arced) stage dive. In college, I worked as a bouncer tasked with throwing wannabe stage divers back into the pit in front of the stage. And as an adult, I kept right on going to the shows, although my participation is generally limited to pushes around the edge rather than full-blown moshing.
Sometimes the action is fueled by booze, a little liquid courage giving encouragement to someone who might otherwise stand around the periphery, too shy and concerned for safety to really cut loose. Sometimes the energy and aggression of the music is all it takes to whip up a good round of slam-dancing.
You find all types in a pit in 2015.
There's the young, aggressive kid who spends the whole show — every show — spinning through the circle and working up a dripping sweat. Run into him enough times and you'll go home soaked in his perspiration.
There's the slightly tentative first-timer who eases their way in after a couple of songs and keeps away from most violent collisions.
There are the older punks and metalheads — now moms and dads, professionals and even Republicans — who just can't resist the action, remembering their more energetic days with a couple spins around the circuit before a cranky knee and shortness of breath sends them back to the beer line for another pop.
There are the "goalies" gathered on the edges of the pit, pushing lost-satellite moshers back into the action when they fly out of their orbit toward innocent bystanders trying to watch the stage instead of their back.
And then there are groups like one spied at a recent metal show at Spokane Arena. A bunch of guys wearing "Mosh Pit Militia" T-shirts spent a significant amount of time jumping back and forth between actively moshing and playing goalie for the whole pit. Nicknames stenciled on the backs of their shirts — "Viking," "Joker," "Pinball," "Moose," "Sarge" and the like — were the only way for strangers to differentiate between the enthusiastic "militia" members.
They were a niche community within the already-niche mosh scene on the Arena floor, energized by beer and the thrash-metal pouring from the stage. And they were having the time of their lives. ♦
Try out your moshing skills at Volume, the Inlander's music festival, on Friday and Saturday at various downtown venues. Details at volume.inlander.com