Filler Pit Etiquette

How to behave when you're havin' a rave.

By Reaz Sacharoff 

MOSHING (FORMERLY KNOWN as slam dancing) has been around in various forms for several decades. It's only now that it's gone mainstream that people are getting hurt because they don't know the rules, let alone the culture that spawned it.

Music When a 17-year-old girl had a heart attack after being crushed by the crowd at a Smashing Pumpkins concert in Dublin last spring, the media attributed her death to "moshing madness." Ever since, the pop culture police have been up in arms about this latest counter-cultural threat to society.

As someone who's been slam dancing regularly for a decade, here's my version of moshing history.

My grandparents danced in ballrooms. My parents got stoned at modernized "folk" concerts and couldn't dance at all. Then came that strange generation of punks before me, who came of age in the late '70s and practiced a precursor of slam dancing called the pogo--jumping up and down to the beat while flapping your arms out and lunging forward with your chin.

Next came the '80s and the evolution of hardcore: music so fast, loud, political and abrasive as to be virtually unmarketable. If the mood was good at a hardcore show, the rabble didn't mind being jostled about, like at Carnival in Mexico or the festival of the Juggernaut in India (high-energy mass spectacles that also feature regular casualties).

This, I think, was the beginning of slam dancing. Heshers--who had long hair and listened to death metal and speed metal--developed a similar dance, more galloping-like, which was called "moshing." Due to speed metal's commercial success, this was the term that came to the attention of the dominant culture when the arena-going crowd starting bumping into each other on purpose.

Today, the "alternative music" enthusiasts who used to look at me dumbfounded when I'd break into a slam dance want to mosh to every syrupy pop ballad the guitarist plays through his distortion pedal.

If novices must mosh, here are some ground rules to keep the rough-and-tumble all about fun:

1) No gladiator spikes on the sleeves. Although I don't mind a few puncture wounds, "It's all fun and games 'til someone puts an eye out."

2) No personal vendettas. Slamming is a great way of transcending personal ego, getting a bash on the back of the head and returning it with a smile. If you want to get personal, that's a fight, not a dance. Take it down the block where you won't get the show shut down.

3) Always keep an eye out for a comrade who's fallen. First, brace yourself nearby with your knees spread out wide so they won't get trampled. Next, offer a hand or a yank on the shoulder. This is a bonding ritual.

4) No slam dancing to pop songs! The slam is to show the band they're rocking hardcore. If they slap out a ballad, no matter how loud it is, they're probably not even trying to work the crowd in that way. Pull out your lighter or something.

5) Don't be a careless idiot. Being an idiot is great, but if you get yourself injured you're just admitting, "I need supervision."

Slam dancing does have its dangers, but let's get a little perspective. With thousands of people moshing to every song at every show by every band that plays music heavier than Mariah Carey, it's amazing we don't see more than a few hundred injuries a year. It's safe to say more people die driving to shows than dancing at them.

--Reaz Sacharoff TW

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