Moshin’ and a-rollin’

September 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

This summer, I attended two different day long music festivals.  One was Warped Tour, the other was the Sonic Boom Festival.  Both were in Edmonton and set up at Northlands.

I’ve been going to concerts and outdoor shows much like these two for over a decade. It was odd watching the shows through my nearly thirty something eyes.  I looked at the young kids at the shows and remembered what I thought of people my age when I was their age.

“Oh my god they’re so old. I’m never coming to a show like this when I’m that old, they’re so out-of-place.  Don’t they know they’re too OLD?”

The perspective was based out of what nearly 30 somethings are supposed to be doing.  When you’re this age you should be married and settled down, possibly with a couple of kids, a steady job and a house.  People who have those don’t go to punk or rock shows.  Once life starts, you aren’t allowed to have any more fun.

And I suppose there are a group of people who actually do live that way, after all, the stereotype had to come from somewhere.  And yet there I was, with other nearly 30 somethings, and some over 30 somethings, at each show.  Hanging out.  Enjoying the music.

Mosh Pit Warped Tour 2005

There is one major difference in how I participate in the shows though.  The mosh pit.  That’s right, back in the good old days I was right smack dab in the middle of it.  I’d mosh all day and emerge from the pit, my hair a mess, and smelling like only a kid in a mosh pit could smell… the odour of other people’s sweat mixed with my own, perhaps the fumes of somebody’s joint or cigarette mixed in.  Oh yes, somehow that was a desirable state to leave a concert in.  These days, I appreciate the music from afar.  I enjoy being able to see and hear what’s going on over attempting to support a crowd of body surfers above me while holding my own in a gnarled pit of other teenagers there to jump around while pushing and shoving one another in a mild form of chaos.

The rock show pit is much like I remembered it.  Disorderly, unruly.  Some moshers were watching out for their felling pitters, but many had no regard for those around them.  They would jump, push, shove, whatever they wanted to break through a crowd, trampling any in their way.  Experiencing it first hand at Edmonton’s Sonic Boom Festival reminded me of why I quit trying to be in the centre of that crowd.

Warped Tour was a different story.  Find yourself a pit at Warped Tour, and you’re more likely to encounter what is known as the circle pit.  I have no idea where this concept originated, but it is the most orderly mosh pit I have ever seen.

Everyone knows what to do in a circle pit, when one starts to form, the crowd that wishes not to participate backs up to make room.  As soon as the space is there, participants start to run around in a great big circle.  Yes, they run.  And they’re all going in the same direction.  There’s no body surfing in a circle pit, because there aren’t enough people to support body surfing.

Watching one particular pit, there was a point where many of the moshers stopped running around in a circle, and then started to do the same moves.  It looked like they could have been kick boxing.  It didn’t look like most of them knew each other, and yet they all knew the same pattern of moves.  Had they been close together, they surely would have hit one another.  And yet, in the confines of the circle pit, they had enough room and nobody got hurt.

Ten years ago, the pits at both shows probably would have been very similar.  I find it intriguing now to see the subculture that’s morphed over the years into the different scenes I saw before me at these two shows.  And it surprises me that those at the punk/metal show appear to have developed more regard for one another at their events than those at the rock show.  They seem more harsh on the outside, but what I’ve observed tells me differently.  What I see here is more community than we’d ever get from the mainstream.

I’m no anthropologist. But how this subculture developed is of interest to me.  Did it have anything to do with a stronger sense of identity for the Warped Tour crowd?  Or was it all just one big coincidence?  And on a sidenote, if I were growing up in today’s youth, I wonder which group I’d identify with more?

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