Moshing at Local Shows and Safe Spaces

Consensual Mosh Action

Photo by Andrew Tan

When I go to local shows, I go for the purpose of enjoying the music and having a nice time – not to get hammered or to take out my aggression in the form of a moshpit in a crowd. Unfortunately, this seems to be the agenda of some at local shows.

No matter which venue (or even the musical genre of the band playing), this seems to be the case everywhere. Every time, I see smaller people (especially girls like me) having to step to the side when the band starts playing, and yet still have to deal with those people aggressively encroaching on not only the moshpit space, but also the meager amount of space left to people trying to actually see the band and enjoy the show.

This also still results in the high chance of me getting hit in the head or getting trampled or pushed down. This is a huge problem for me since I have recently just recovered from a concussion and I reckon it would also be a problem for others coping with physical or mental injuries.

This occurrence results in my friends not being able to go out to shows anymore due to the same anxieties I have about getting hurt, being hurt again or seeing someone else getting hurt.

“I think a lot of the annoyance for me comes from men aggressively asserting themselves into the space and literally taking up as much space as possible,” said one of my friends, speaking from her own personal experience at local shows.

“It’s always seemed bizarre to me that a small garage rock show can erupt into a very uncomfortable, unsafe space for a lot of people, and how quickly a few people dancing can turn into a sweaty mass of guys spilling beer all over everything.

“There is a lot of privilege in being able to do that. I’ve been groped at shows like that and I’ve been dragged from my seat to ‘dance’ (or, rather, thrown into a sweaty, tangled mess of limbs that I was purposefully trying to avoid). I don’t ‘mosh’ at shows for so many reasons – anxiety, claustrophobia, fibromyalgia making me physical exhausted, but it’s mostly because as a sober woman at an event, I want to stay as far away from rowdy aggressors as I can. I can’t humour them or brush their behaviour off the way I could when I was drinking, you know? I’m very alert and aware of what is happening around me and it makes me so uncomfortable to see guys forcing themselves into women’s spaces. Asserting this kind of masculine ‘bro’ energy into the room really affects the crowd,” my friend noted.

“When men perform aggressive masculinity, other men often want to act more aggressively as well. It’s totally a gross form of peacocking where men puff themselves up to be the biggest and most powerfully presence in the room. This also pushes others, especially women, to the sidelines. If you aren’t performing, you’re an audience member.”

My friend finally comments, “I like dancing but I love safe spaces more. I love being able to dance with my friends without worrying about getting assaulted or doused in beer.”

What I’m suggesting is a different approach to going to shows and enjoying them with others in a crowd. A moshpit is all about consent, just as any other activity where you are interacting directly with other people. A thing I’ve noticed at shows is that there is little consent when it comes to moshing, but it still happens. The only people who seem to be into it are bigger guys, and like I said, they seem to not care about the smaller people there.

It is especially crucial to be wary and respectful of others, and by being bigger and male, it is important to recognize both your privilege and your size at shows. There has been a history of women being marginalized in music (i.e. punk), at shows, and in almost any other social venue you can think of.

I’m not going to point fingers at only these people in the crowd that I am addressing. I also want bands to keep this in mind and take steps to approach this issue head-on. By being in a band, you hold the most power and control in the room. Take an example from post-hardcore bands like Fugazi or Unwound, who made sure to directly stop specific people in the crowd from moshing and hurting others at shows and asked for smaller people to come to the front.

There is a video on YouTube of post-hardcore band At The Drive-In, made right before they played a show, where vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala addresses the crowd and says,“The only way we’re gonna cooperate tonight is if all the guys, since I know it’s mostly guys – maybe it’s also girls – if you want to go do that karate kick and shit, please don’t do that at our show. When we write songs, we don’t intend it so that you guys can get out all your male aggression.”

This isn’t a plea for sympathy. It is just a point I believe people including bands and crowds at shows, especially men, should think of more often. Just because you’re at a show, rules of respect and mindfulness still and especially apply. By ignoring this, you are setting up an unsafe and scary space for others who genuinely want to be a part of the scene.