8 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 22, 1999
Sexual assaults, aggression slam modern mosh pit scene
The Baltimore Sun
"Concerts get such a bad name,
because of the mosh pit and every-
thing like that," said Limp Bizkit gui-
tarist Wes Borland, as he sat in a quiet
cafe in his hometown of Jacksonville,
It was in late May, and Limp Bizkit
was still weeks away from releasing
its second album, "Significant Other."
But even as fans were anxiously
awaiting the disc, many of their par-
ents were harboring anxieties of a dif-
Borland understood. "I think a lot
of parents really freak out and get
afraid of it," he said, referring to the
surging sea of teen aggression on the
concert floor that constitutes a mosh
A fixture at concerts by aggressive,
hard-hitting bands, the mosh pit has
become a subject of concern to many
parents, as kids return from the pits
battered and bruised.
Sprains and broken bones resulting
from moshing (a violent form of
dance in which the participants careen
off one another like kernels in a pop-
corn popper) and crowd surfing (a
practice in which fans are passed
overhead by members of the crowd)
have been a fact of life for years at
concerts featuring the thrash-oriented
heavy metal of Metallica, or the lat-
ter-day punk of Green Day, or the
rock-rap fusion of Limp Bizkit.
Lately, though, a more disturbing
trend has developed in the pit. Young
women have reported being groped or
stripped while crowd surfing and
there have even been a few reports of
sexual assaults having taken place in
Not surprisingly, parents think it's
anarchy. "But as far as I can tell," says
Borland, "it's really safe (at concerts).
I mean, there's alcohol there, but
there's alcohol in a lot of places. I
would rather send my kids to a con-
cert, and have them there, because
there's so much security ... Concerts
are a place to have fun, not a place to
go and start riots."
That, however, was before
Woodstock '99. Fans did, in fact, riot
on Sunday, July 25, the final night of
that festival. They trashed vehicles,
looted vendor tents, and set fires until
finally being driven from the concert
grounds by helmeted riot police.
By the time the smoke had cleared,
New York State police had made 40
arrests, and were investigating 90
other reported crimes, including eight
sex offenses, one of which was an
alleged mosh pit rape during Limp
Bizkit's Saturday night set.
There was much hand-wringing in
the festival's aftermath, as baby
boomer commentators wondered how
the "peace and love" heritage of the
original Woodstock could have turned
into something so dark and destruc-
Many - including some of the
musicians who played Woodstock '99
- blamed the music, singling out
aggressive, in-your-face bands such
as Limp Bizkit, Korn and Metallica.
The mosh pit violence at Woodstock,
fumed the pundits, was just one more
example of how degraded popular
culture has become.
"The thing that I felt was unfair, in
the follow-up in the press, was the
demonization of a generation," said
guitarist Tom Morello of Rage
Against the Machine, the band that
followed Limp Bizkit at Woodstock
'99. "There was just this vilification
of a whole generation and the bands
that they like, based on this concert. I
think it's ridiculous."
However, Morello added, "The one
thing that is absolutely unforgivable
or unpardonable are the reported sex-
Morello agreed that sometimes the
action in the pit can get out of con-
trol. But, he argued, that sort of
excess is easily enough stopped.
"If we see anything like that from
the stage, Zack (De La Rocha, Rage's
singer) always stops the show," said
Morello. "Because we have a great
deal of respect for our audience, and
we demand that they respect one
another. The Rage pit is a place that
should be safe for anyone of any age
Coortesy of mterscope Recoids
Allegations of a mosh pit rape at Woodstock '99 occured during Limp Bizkit's set.
more charged-up, and the real, "hard-
core" fans tried to distance them-
sel es from insincere suburban
poseurs. IHluntington Beach, Calif., in
Orange County became one of the
first beachheads for this new, take-no- -
Later, hard-core begat thrash, a
harder, faster sound that boasted both
punk rock and heavy metal variants,
and fans began to shift to a dance
called the Huntington Beach Shuffle.
a variation of slam dancing that took
place in a large circle within the
Over time, as the practice spread
among metal fans, the shuffle began
to be referred to as "moshing," a term
most likely derived from the ska
expression "mash it up now." (In
Jamaican patois, the word "mash"
sounds like "mosh").
By the mid-'80s, mosh pits were a
standard feature at shows by bands
like Anthrax and Metallica. But as the
metal scene grew and moshing
became more widely known, the
physical release of banging into other
people began to take precedence over
the importance of brotherhood or
even the music itself.
Brazilian guitarist Max Cavalera.
of the metal bands Sepultura and
Soul Fly, remarked on the change as
early as 1994. Certain fans, he noted,
don't really care what a band is say-
ing, preferring instead to focus on
the energy the act generates. "There
are shows where it doesn't matter
who's playing, doesn't matter what's
playing," he said. "A band doesn't
even need to be onstage. It could just
be music from the P.A, and they go#
"But you know, I understand them,
too," he added. "I went through that
stage (where) I didn't care much
about what bands were playing. I was
going there to go crazy."
Understanding why young fans turn
the mosh pit into a problem area is
only half the battle, though. The musi--
cians themselves need to act responsi.
bly as well, not only stopping shows
when things get too rough, as Rage
Against the Machine does, but edu-
cating the fans as to proper behavior,.
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Trouble is, the amount of respect in
the average mosh pit has been in
decline in recent years --- so much so
that even the artists are beginning to
complain. Rapper Kid Rock believes
that the ugliness in the pit reflects a
growing lack of civility among con-
He cites the practice of women pulling
up their shirts to flash their breasts as an
example. "When they first started doing
that, years ago, it was great," said Rock.
"A girl would pull her shirt off, everyone
would look and cheer. 'Wow, it's wild
rock 'n' roll."'
"Now guys are grabbing the chicks.
I say, 'You can't do that ... 'I gotta tell
these guys, 'Look, if a girl pulls her
shirt up, don't be grabbing at her.'
Like, how stupid is that?"
Rock refers to the mosh pit in his
breakthrough hit, "Bawitdaba," when
he enjoins his fans to "Get in the pit
and try to love someone." Originally,
however, the song had him shouting,
"Get in the pit and try to kill some-
one" - a lyric he's now glad he
changed. "I don't want to be The Kid
(who does) the show where people are
dying," he said recently.
So Rock instead put a 180-degree
spin on the original line. " 'Get in the
pit and love someone' was great,
because that's technically how the pit
started out," he said. "It was like, you
fall down, someone helps you up. It's
showing some love."
"A lot of these young kids nowadays
don't understand that," he added.
"They're out there literally trying to beat
each other up. Which is stupid"
Slam dancing, an original form of
what is now moshing developed in
Southern California in 1978, was a
visceral and immediate reaction to the
anger and energy of the music - a
way for the audience to achieve
catharsis through sheer physical
activity. At the same time, it con-
tributed to the sense of group identity,
demonstrating to each person in the
pit that he or she was really with the
music and the scene.
But as the scene developed, both
the music and the dancing became
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