Mosh Pit Etiquette for Music Festivals

posted by Alyssa Buffenstein on July 02, 2014

FIDLAR festival crowd by Kelsey Stoulil

A mosh pit can be a scary place. Loud, aggressive music just does something unexplainable to its fans, prompting them to punch, kick, run in circles, and jump onstage, offstage, and on top of each other. Generally, mosh pits are contained within the walls of dark, dingy bars and basements, or to alternative, rock-centric festivals; but punk, metal, hardcore, and crowdsurf-inducing bands enter the mainstream festival circuit all the time, and with them come their rowdy audiences. And even if you’ve mastered the art of the mosh, a festival pit is a totally different monster. 
Slip-ups in the pit can easily end in injury, and since nobody wants to pay a visit to the medical tent during their festival weekend, we’ve compiled the five things you need to know before you get caught in a (festival) mosh, whether you’re used to chaotic punk shows or calm crowds.

1. Be aware 

by Jesse DeFlorio

So you’re in the audience for [insert band that incites mosh pits here], and you want to mosh. First of all, make sure what you want to do is appropriate. Are other people into the band that’s playing? Are they headbanging? Jumping around a bit? Wearing the band’s t-shirt? Congratulations, there’s probably going to be a mosh pit soon. But are you the only one singing along? Is everyone around you staring at their phones? Do you see more band merch for the artist that takes the stage next? Sorry, but you might want to hold back on the hardcore dancing.   

“Being aware of your surroundings” also applies to those who don’t want to mosh. If the only reason you caught Diarrhea Planet’s set was that you were intrigued by their band name, you may have been surprised by the people body-slamming each other and crowdsurfing. You don’t have to do these things to enjoy a punk band’s show, but you do have to accept that they might take place. If you don’t want to participate, find a spot, maybe towards the side of the stage or the back, that allows you to enjoy the music your own way. 

It can be difficult to predict when and where people will start moshing. Sometimes the heaviest bands have the chillest audiences, while other times the most easygoing music can make people rowdy. Just make sure you pay attention to what's happening around you, and to what type of dancing is appropriate.

2. Respect each other

by Oliver Correa

Since festivals are great opportunities to see bands you might not go out of your way to see otherwise, crowds for punk bands can be peppered with people who have never experienced a punk show before. It’s important that those who want to thrash around make sure not to involve those who would rather just bob their heads and tap their toes. Conversely, more reserved audience members shouldn’t raise a stink if a circle pit opens up next to them. Allow your peers to enjoy themselves, even if it’s not your idea of fun.

For those who do want to mosh, it’s imperative that you also respect others in the pit. If you’re new to the game, moshing may seem like unorganized chaos; but know that there are a few unspoken rules of courtesy that you should follow. If you can, help to hold up crowdsurfers so they don’t fall. If someone falls, help them up. If someone needs to tie their shoes, shield them so they don’t get plowed. If you find glasses, cell phones, wallets, or anything else that may have fallen out of someone’s pocket, hold it above your head between songs so the owner can find it. 

3. just ask

by Laura Baker-Finch

When everyone in the room is moshing, it might be easy to just grab on to a stranger’s shoulders and jump on top of the crowd. But at a festival, as we've established, not everyone in the audience is necessarily there for the band playing at that moment. The front row during Deafheaven’s set may very well comprise fans waiting for Chance the Rapper to play next (like at Gov Ball), so it’s not a good idea to hop onto just anyone’s shoulders. Watch where other crowdsurfers spring up, and ask the people who lifted them up to lift you. 

And before you find a muscular stranger to catapult you into the air, you’ll want to take note of where you’re going to end up when you get to the front of the crowd. At a smaller show, you’d probably be gently dropped onto the stage itself, but at a festival there is almost always going to be a space between the crowd and the stage - the photo pit. Usually, a security guard will be waiting for you, but in the rare case that nobody’s there to catch you, you should try to position yourself on your back, with your feet facing forward. That way, if you hit the ground, it won’t be with your head.

4. Respect Security

by Laura Baker-Finch

The security guards standing between you and the band are there, above all, to keep you safe while you have fun. Be grateful that security is letting you mosh and crowdsurf at all, and show them some respect as they prevent you from cracking your skull on the concrete. Yes, even if they tell you not to do it again, and yes, even if they restrain you before you get a chance to stage dive.

5. Ladies can mosh too

by Laura Baker-Finch

Too many times has this author received condescending comments towards her in the pit, for no reason other than her gender. Boys, you don’t have to apologize for slamming into a girl when she is willingly moshing with you. She wants to go crazy while watching this band, too, and is okay with walking away with a few bruises. Despite her flower crown, she’s not a delicate flower that needs to be protected, so treat her like an equal. 
While we’re talking girls in the pit, I should mention: a girl who crowdsurfs is not a girl who invites you to inappropriately touch or ogle at her body. Yeah, you might have no choice but to touch someone’s butt to keep them above your head, but there’s a difference between acting like a support column and acting like a creep. Don’t forget #2.   

All that might be a lot to remember in the heat of the moment when a circle pit opens up, so here’s a tl;dr: have fun enjoying music however you see fit, whether that means moshing or standing to the side. Respect those who make different choices, look out for each other, and everybody involved will have a good time.

See Also:

How to Get to the Barricade at a Music Festival, Without Being a Jerk
8 Punk and Alternative Festivals to Check Out in 2014
Northside 2014: Thee Oh Sees