Mosh Pit Law: Why we need festival rules in real life

There is a bizarre feeling to being at a rock festival. There is a real sense of being home when you walk through the gates of Download festival at Donnington racetrack. There is an ease about the place, as though the stresses of the outside world have disappeared in that instant and all that is on your mind is survival.

Don’t approach this lightly, survival it is. I have woken up wet cold and hungover on more than one occasion and it doesn’t feel as though death is far off, much like when you are overheating on the Thursday before the inevitable three-day rainstorm descends as soon as the first note is struck on the Friday.

I am not naïve enough to assume that there is no trouble here. That there is no crime of any sort, but what I can say is that I have never seen anything that I would class as a ‘crime’ being committed. It is in this environment that the idea of ‘Mosh Pit law’ first came to me.

I had been thinking about writing a book, as I so often am. What struck me was that there was a real sense of community about the festival space and as a result everyone seemed a great deal more content. There was no selfish hoarding of beer, and to a lesser extent food. There exists a feeling that you can talk to anyone that is around and resources are often shared without having to be requested.

I have never seen a conscious effort for this to be the case, instead it seems like an immediate reversion to innate attributes and behaviours. Living outside with nothing but a tent between you and the elements will do that to you. There is a primal sense of serenity in a field with nothing but your tribe of people and disposable barbeques for company and heat. There is very little mobile phone signal, and even if there was there is the challenge of trying to make an iPhone battery last the weekend to consider. We haven’t run out of things to talk about yet.

Trying to describe a mosh pit to someone is more difficult than I had first thought. Again the feeling is tribal. You are leaping around, throwing your body all over the place in a reaction to the music that is booming out of the speakers in front of you. You flail in every direction, crashing into people around you and the movements of everyone seems to get more violent as the song winds on.

This is often combined with a ‘circle pit’ which is similar with everyone involved travelling in a circle. Both are great spectacles to watch from the outside, and strangely exhilarating to be a part of. But despite the bruises and personal danger of bodies careening about without regard for their own or anyone else’s safety there is a definite unspoken code of ethics.

This is where ‘Mosh Pit Law’ came from. If someone goes down in a mosh pit there is always someone there to pull them back up to their feet in case they get really hurt. The essence of ‘Mosh Pit Law’ is very simple, it is the same as most religions – “Don’t be an asshole.” Surprisingly this simple piece of logic is not shared by society at large but it should be.

People understand fairness and the principles of ‘Mosh Pit Law’ almost innately, everybody can recognise a ‘dick move’ when they see one, and calling someone out for it should be the standard we all live by. ‘Mosh Pit Law’ feeds into the primal feeling you get at a festival that was mentioned earlier. It comes from belonging to a tribe and recognising the tribe’s survival above that of an individual. There is no hierarchy in that campsite; everyone gets through the weekend together. To break ‘Mosh Pit Law’ is to be banished from the tribe, ostracised to a bleak patch of grass, often nearest to the toilets, or at the bottom of a hill where you’re guaranteed a flooded tent.

In our current social situation we have lost the sense of togetherness and community that makes ‘Mosh Pit Law’ so effective. It is possible to live an entire day now, if not longer without actually coming face to face with someone you have any real connection with. Surrounded as we are by strangers we lack any feeling of needing to pull together that is so important to the human experience. The feeling of community is so powerful that in ‘less developed’ countries the depression and suicide rate is a great deal smaller than in so called ‘civilised’ western society.

One thing I have never been able to find is data relating to crimes committed at festivals, but I would like to see them compared to a small town of 100,000 people and show just how powerful ‘Mosh Pit Law’ really is. Live and let live, know that there is no one better or worse than yourself. Be free to express yourself in dress, behaviour, activity, speech and any other way you can make it happen. Just make sure you follow ‘Mosh Pit Law’ and don’t be a dick, simple rule of life, surely.

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