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Headbanger 101: Mosh Pit Etiquette and How to Make It out Alive

Last updated: June 29th, 2022 at 12:31 pm

No matter how far back you go, dancing has been engrained in all types of music. In electronic music particularly, there’s a whole swath of dances you’ll likely bear witness to.

From an outsider’s perspective, one of the scarier (and often banned in nightclubs) things to encounter is a mosh pit. What visually appears as absolute chaos full of mismanaged violence and aggression is at its root a form of emotional self-expression.

Although it’s a form of expression filled with pushing, shoving, and rage, there’s an unspoken code of conduct. Even if you don’t understand it, most pits are likely here to stay, so any time is as good as the present to learn the proper way to mosh. Who knows: maybe you’ll even enjoy it.

Rule 1: Pay attention if someone falls

Seriously, we can not stress this one enough. A mosh pit can be a dangerous place, especially for someone who’s fallen on the ground. When there’s a lot of shoving, unsteady footing can be almost guaranteed. Unfortunately, so can falls, especially if the ground is uneven or slippery.

The bottom line: pick someone up if they fall. Try to make enough room around them and give a hand to help them up. If they look seriously injured, get them out of the pit and assess if they need to go to the medical staff.

Rule 2: It’s not a fight

A mosh pit allows you to release some aggression because the music gets you hyped, not because you want to fight. It’s hard to not get a bit riled up when Throwin’ Elbows or Prison Riot get dropped, but you should still be aware of how you make contact with others.

Be conscious of your surroundings and your movements and avoid letting your limbs flail too much and potentially into someone’s face. If by some chance you catch a stray limb, don’t take it personally, chances are it was a mistake. If someone else catches a stray limb of yours, be sure to check on the person.

Generally people are pretty forgiving, so long as you’re not clearly trying to harm someone. Just be mindful of your hands.


Rule 3: Not everyone wants to be in the pit

Understanding that a pit isn’t for everyone also cannot be stressed enough. Much like a tornado, a mosh pit can spring up unexpectedly and take everything in its path with it.

Although sometimes it’s impossible to forecast, there are a few hints. The line “LET’S OPEN THIS SH*T UP” is a good indication. Even if you miss a classic signal like that, you’ll also start to see or hear people clearing out a big circle. When that happens, give people space to bow out.

If you don’t want anything to do with it, step back a few rows behind the edge. Try to get the mosh in front of you so can keep an eye on it and make sure you don’t get unsuspectingly swept in.

Rule 4: Take in only what you need

Although it’s a good practice in general at music festivals, keep your things secured to you especially when jumping into a pit. Buckle down backpacks, zip up your pockets, and take off jewelry or things that can dangle like perler necklaces. This is also a good way to avoid getting your valuables swiped, which has been an increasingly common problem at festivals.

If there’s one thing to avoid: bringing drinks into the pit. If you’ve got a plastic one in your hand, just hang onto it and don’t let go. But bringing glass or other drinks that could break and hurt someone is a no go. And definitely don’t throw anything: garbage, drinks, etc. are just a bad look.

Rule 5: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The governing body of a seemingly disorderly mosh pit is, unmistakably, respect. Everything we’ve covered up to this circles back to respecting either yourself, others, and even the venue. It’s key for both those in and out of the pit to respect both personal space and personal safety. Remembering that a mosh pit is not a place to cause people harm but a place to have some fun and let out a little rage.

This doesn’t mean they’re acceptable at all shows, so don’t be the person trying to start a pit during Above & Beyond. If you’re attending a bass show, know there’s a good chance a pit may break out and be prepared. We’ll be the first to say that there is no wrong or right way to go about enjoying yourself at a show. And whether that be “on rail,” in the pit, on the bleachers, or somewhere in between, everyone is there to enjoy themselves and have a good time.

Rule 6: Be aware of your safety

Also, keep in mind that many venues understand these general rules and will allow a mosh pit to go on and self-govern. However, it’s worth noting that many venues don’t allow mosh pits at all. If you don’t know the policy, but watch security break up every single one, we’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Understand security isn’t there to harsh your vibe, but if things are getting out of hand it is their job to regulate. Respect their request because choosing to ignore them is a great way to be thrown out. Their job is also to keep you safe.

After the Astroworld tragedy in 2021 where several people died in a crowd crush, it’s safe to say that many people are much more cognizant of overcrowding. You don’t have to keep that fear at the forefront of your mind (you should be enjoying the show!), but you should be aware when a mosh starts to feel so packed that you can’t breathe: it’s time to go.

Stay calm, get someone’s attention and ask for help, and make small movements without pushing directly against the wall of people.

Mosh pits: not for everyone, but everyone can stay safe

Regardless of how you may feel about mosh pits at shows, they’re here to stay; but, while they certainly have their place, not every show will have one. Know that if you’re attending any show with heavy bass there’s a good chance you’ll see one, so be prepared.

Mosh pits are not for everyone but neither is shuffling, kandi or hooping. The great thing about dancing is that it’s an expression of how music makes you feel. The pit is supposed to be a place where others can also get a little rowdy without the worry of being knocked out by some agro dingbat.

Ultimately, everyone came to the show to have fun and that fact should always be in the back of your mind. You don’t want to be responsible for ruining someone else’s night. So, have fun and be respectful. Following general mosh pit etiquette can go a long way to you enjoying yourself and making it out alive.


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Written By

Avid adventure, and full time wild thing. Lover of all types of music but hold those that make me want to shake my rumpus close to my heart.

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Important things happen in Pacific Northwest nightlife, and DMNW will send you alerts!

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Important things happen in Pacific Northwest nightlife, and DMNW will send you alerts!