Metal fans in the mosh pit during the set of Neara at Wacken Open Air 2013.

The Pit

October 31, 2015

Those who have been to a punk, metal or hardcore show before know what they are getting themselves into. When the music on stage is accelerating, so is everything else around it. Welcome to the moshpit! The ultimate place to exhibit passion for loud and brutal music. Here, music and rhythm are used as a projection platform for aggression which finds expression in wild, artistic movements. The pit is a dynamic space that arises from the movements of the densely packed concert audience and is constantly being reshaped by coexistence and conflict. It is an integral part of the subculture where headbanging, crowdsurfing and aggressive or even violent dancing is not just permitted, but expected.

Metal fan making a backflip in the mosh pit during the set of Walls of Jericho at Wacken Open Air 2009.

Walls of Jericho (Wacken Open Air 2009)

Metal fans in the mosh pit during the set of Walls of Jericho at Wacken Open Air 2009.

Walls of Jericho (Wacken Open Air 2009)

Metal fans in the mosh pit during the set of Job for a Cowboy at Wacken Open Air 2010.

Job for a Cowboy (Wacken Open Air 2010)

Chaos

Moshing, slam dancing or violent dancing are closely linked to the emerging punk scene of the late 1970s. Back then bands like Dead Kennedys or Black Flag started challenging the music industry establishment with simple song structures, distorted guitars and extremely fast pace. The provocative lyrics of their songs were aimed at social constraints and conservative politics. Their audience, mostly teenagers, responded by developing a matching form of dancing. Much like the music, their dancing style was equally rebellious, attacking any form of structure and order. In the mosh pit universal social behavior is not merely suspended but smashed mercilessly.

Metal fans in the mosh pit at Wacken Open Air 2010.

Job for a Cowboy (Wacken Open Air 2010)

Metal fans in the dusty mosh pit at Wacken Open Air.

Circle pit at Wacken Open Air 2014

Metal fan with dreadlocks in the mosh pit at Wacken Open Air 2013.

Metal Fan at Wacken Open Air 2013

A new order

However, a mosh pit is much more than just an indefinable mess. In fact it is a room full of binding rules and limitations. Out of the chaos a new social order coalesces, which includes ethical standards and codes of conduct. Although it will always remain a room full of expression of individuality, community is an essential, if not the most important aspect. The place of seemingly extreme freedom is regulated by an unambiguous code. It states: „you must pick up a falling mosher at all times“ „do not persist on your territory“ and especially „respect the other“. This creates a social order or even a new sense of justice where violations are punished by attentive co-moshers.

Metal fans in the circle pit at Wacken Open Air.

Wall of Death at Wacken Open Air

Metal fans in the mosh pit during the rainy set of Lamb of God at Wacken Open Air 2013.

Lamb of God (Wacken Open Air 2013)

Metal fans in the mosh pit during the set of Neara at Wacken Open Air 2013.

Neara (Wacken Open Air 2013)

Ritual

It has been a long time since the mosh pit was just a place for one specific group. Even if it is just for a short period of time, people from different backgrounds, age and sex cross paths in the pit. They take part in this ritual again and again. Joining in to free themselves from the frustration and stress of the daily grind. Once the music stops, they all return to their ordinary lives. What remains is the memory of a brief but intense feeling of freedom and belonging. Both at the same time.

Metal fans in the mosh pit during the set of Bring Me The Horizon at Wacken Open Air 2014.

Bring Me The Horizon (Wacken Open Air 2014)

Metal fans in the mosh pit during the set of August Burns Red at Wacken Open Air 2014.

August Burns Red (Wacken Open Air 2014)

Metal fans in the muddy mosh pit at Wacken Open Air 2015.

Wacken Open Air 2015

Book

Photobook: The Pit

"Ellerbrock sure has a way of beautifully framing raw intensity." - metalsucks.net

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