I’m going to start off this blog post by telling you, reader, one of the darkest secrets from deep in my past. Not only is this secret embarrassing, but it also represents the most abysmal period I’ve ever experienced. Yes, I was a middle school punk kid. Looking at me now, one certainly wouldn’t suspect this two-year phase to have ever existed. Alas, I wore the dark eyeliner, Converse, and graphic hoodies. My hair color changed every week, alternating between blonde and red streaks in my already dark hair. I attended concerts frequently and became a regular at a local teen club called The Door (as did my mother, who sat in the lobby during every show… what a trooper). Finally and most importantly, I moshed. Little did I know that, while I was crowd-surfing, pushing people around, and jumping up and down, I was perpetuating what Ron Hale-Evans labels as a “self-reproducing idea.” Yes, dear reader, I was promoting a meme.
The genius behind moshing lies in the profound ease with which it reproduces. All one has to do is push another concert-goer, who will either push back or push someone else. Basically, the trend begins with a single shove that often produces an enormous circle of aggressive dancing and shoving, all inspired by the hardcore music played at the concert. While moshing might seem to purely consist of a behavioral component, the meme actually stems from a mindset, the rock concert mindset, that originates in shows from the 1970s-1980s. During this time, punk and hardcore music gained popularity, and its frontrunners encouraged their fans to react to the music not only for entertainment but for the message presented. Thus, the practice of moshing results from a mutual energy felt between bands and concertgoers, becoming an outlet for both to experience the music through multiple senses and express their own appreciation for the sound. For more information on the history of mosh, check out this extremely credible website.
Though the concept might seem simple, moshing has actually evolved quite a bit over time. It began as the “Punk Pogo,” in which fans would merely bob up and down during punk shows in the 1970s. With the introduction of thrash metal, however, the dancing took an aggressive turn to reflect the distinct differences between the music genres. From there, multiple variations appeared due to even more change in music styles (alternative, screamo, etc.) and trends such as circle pits and slam pits gained popularity. To the outsider, these practices might seem absurd, but to the rocker, they represent the concert-going mentality, or memeplex. There are just certain things one does at a concert that one wouldn’t dream of doing elsewhere. When I attend a concert, I wear outfits I’d never wear to any other event, use language/vocabulary only acceptable in this situation, and mosh, which I can’t exactly do at other group gatherings. There even exists a moshing memeplex, in which certain actions transmit differing messages. For example, if one is standing on the inner rim of a slam circle, one simply has to form a fist and stick out one’s arm to signal a lack of desire to participate.
So, why is this seemingly ridiculous practice so widely replicated? To begin, it’s just plain fun. Furthermore, when one enters a concert, one intends to lose inhibitions and appreciate the music. What better way than to directly respond to the song, interact with other fans, and find an outlet for all the energy with which one arrived?
Thus, the practice of moshing certainly represents a widespread meme that probably appears quite absurd to one who’s never attended a rock concert. In thinking on such practices, meme theory presents an exciting way to explain why people do the things they do. While some might argue that memeticism overanalyzes the natural human tendency to imitate, the theory still holds merit in that it recognizes commonalities in highly-replicated practices, such as moshing. That being said, I believe everyone should mosh at some point in his or her life; in fact, I miss my own days out in the slam pits. Maybe some day I’ll go back. I mean, let’s be honest, one never truly quits being a middle school punk rocker.