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Monday, 17 January 2011

Dirty dancing: do the crusher!

I’m a big fan of twee (Twee As Fuck, as they say) and so I’m probably spectacularly unqualified to comment on the “moshpit tendency” in music, but that never stopped me before …

Euugh. This about sums up my reaction to blokeish careering around in front of a stage. As a spectacle it’s appalling (a bit like football terraces in the seventies and early eighties, just with extra drumbeats). Exhibitionism, homoerotic machismo, onlookers being challenged and deliberately brought into the maelstrom. Great fun!

Some of the smaller gigs can’t cope with it at all. Non-participants have nowhere to go and get pressed against the walls desperately trying to save their drinks. Even if the moshing is more or less non-injurious, you end up with a yawning hole as the top-dogs patrol their space and the atmosphere switches toward self-protection. The music’s just a half-forgotten backdrop by this stage. 

Or maybe I’m missing the pure euphoric joy of it all and I need to get in touch with my inner rugger player. Taken to an orchestrated extreme it assumes a crazed, kamikaze beauty: check out this orgy of slam-dancing, stage-diving and testosterone-fuelled rampaging (including, if my eyes don’t fail me, someone wearing a PiL t-shirt, those well-known exponents of extreme physicality). 

Going even further, some of the YouTube videos of gigantic moshpits resemble the crowds of Muslim pilgrims doing the Hajj - swirling masses of people looking more like concentric circles of shifting minerals than people on the move. Strangely beautiful. From a distance.

Back in the 80s I confess I may have indulged in a little Death Cult-related “chicken dancing”, but this was gentle goth stuff. No physical contact! When the barrel-chested, topless lads moved in I … er, moved out.

The excellent Armitage Shanks sum up the rancid machismo underlying all this with their timeless classic “Shirts off”. Do you want some fucking shirts off or fucking what?


  1. You know my feelings about this! We're not taking about stage diving, or exhuberent “moshing”, but this new machismo, violent, testosterone filled bullshit has invaded the straight edge and hard core scenes whose origins, despite the outwardly extreme nature of the grunting, was built on very ethical foundations of respect, inclusiveness, tolerance and non violent ethos! Yes am old enough to be most of their dad's, an no am not claiming to have been at the foundations of the “scene” from its mid 1980s beginnings, but i've been attending these shows and watching the various bands that make up this wide genre for neigh on 25 years and the last few years in particular have been mared by this phenomon.

    It's extremely sexist, those that partake are almost entirely male, with most hardcore/grindcore female devotees, of which there are often equal numbers (the point about inclusiveness of the music) pinned against the venues outer perimeters, straining to watch the band whist avoiding a punch in the face or crushed by total wankers who should no better!

    Bands, venue operators, sound desk operators, bar staff, security (delete according to venue) should stop this stuff dead in it's tracks and let the music shriek for itself!

    Shirts off or fucking what!

  2. Yes. While I can 'aestheticise' it from afar, I'm aware of how the 'wrecking crew' can quickly drag things down when you're at close range.

    As it happens, I think it's quite a complicated. It's not so much the Specials' 'Too much fighting on the dance floor', as the dancing being a ritualised form of fighting. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing and if the bouncers routinely stepped in at the first sign of a bit of jumping about it could get ridiculous. However, in practice, as you suggest, they - and everyone else including the bands - generally seem to do nothing, not matter how wild it is.

    In the end I think the bands themselves neeed to assert themselves, seeing the most excessive behaviour as a form of hostility directed at the audience members who don't join in. (By the way many in the audience are too indulgent, smiling like it's all 'hilarious', possibly fearing it would be 'uncool' to do otherwise).

    At a Public Enemy gig years ago the band made a big deal of stopping the show (Bum rush the show!) because a (real) fight had broken out in the crowd. Despite their childish Black Panther militarism, the PE had manifesto-like concern with 'stopping the violence' (possibly also b/c they didn't want all their gigs cancelled by nervous councils).

    Another example: the (excellent) Italian band Disco Drive were playing at a London gig about five years ago when a heated argument between two people in the audience broke out. The band were really bemused and kept stopping to check everything was OK. Perhaps the straight-edge/hardcore/grindcore musicians should show a similar level of concern for (all the members of) their audience ...