Christopher Gonzalez has seen people get thrown to the ground, slammed into and punched in the face.
“It’s somewhere between a fight, a riot and a party,” Gonzalez, a 19-year-old UF English sophomore, said. “A frantic, chaotic mess of insane smiles, whirling fists and feet, and a few good open-handed shoves.”
He’s not describing a riot. He’s describing a mosh pit, and some have it down to a science. Jesse Silverberg, a doctoral student at Cornell University, conducted a study on the topic.
Silverberg’s findings suggest moshing isn’t random acts of violence but, instead, a universal pattern. Participants in mosh pits behave like gas particles bouncing around in the air in unpredictable ways.
Jason Cain, a lecturer for UF’s Rock ‘n’ Roll and American Society class, said the study is believable.
“There is a precedent for things that we think are chaotic to sometimes have a pattern that we see over and over again,” he said.
Cain described moshing as controlled violence and a feeling of being out of control without actually being out of control.
Rob Paradise, a 23-year-old guitarist for the Gainesville punk band Heart Prevails, said it has a lot to do with escapism.
“Going to shows is a way for people to break up their daily routines and forget about their problems for awhile,” he said. “Moshing really helps immerse you in the experience.”
Moshing is about connecting with people, Paradise said, and not just pushing them around.
“While there is certainly an aggressive element to moshing, it isn’t supposed to be just unrestrained violence,” he said.
Imani Harris, a 21-year-old UF family, youth and community sciences junior, said she has suffered from a concussion and a bloody nose from being knocked and kicked around inside a pit.
And yet, a pit etiquette does exist.
Paradise, Gonzalez and Cain agree mosh pits usually have some order to help up the fallen and keep the “rules” of the pit.
In the study, Silverberg said, mosh pits could help professionals research what emergency situations are like by studying the actions inside of the pits themselves.
Cain said that during the massive pit at Rage Against the Machine at Lollapalooza in 1996, there were two people who helped keep the pit in order, similar to an emergency situation.
Whether mosh pits are scientific in nature, or are a glimpse into emergency situations remains uncertain. It is certain, however, that they allow people to escape.
“When people are in the pit, they’re just in a different world where nothing else matters,” Harris said. “They can just let loose and really connect with the music.”