Do circle pits have a place in dance music?

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“Metal shows are all hate, like, ‘I’m going to fuck you up in the mosh pit.’ Electronic shows are all peace and love. They rage harder than metal fans. I played a show in New York and then watched Nero who sold out Webster Hall. That crowd went ten times harder than any metal crowd I’ve seen in my life.”

That’s Jonathan Davis speaking, frontman for your 14-year-old self’s favourite band, Korn. With Korn’s most successful hour, Follow the Leader, confined to 1998, Davis – who apparently once wiled away his hours working at a mortuary by listening to Kraftwerk – is now heavily wedded to ‘EDM’. Specifically the kind that makes you “rage hard”.

The minds behind Nero are equally enthused about the effect they’re having on dancefloors. “Everywhere we play it’s just people going crazy and moshing,” one half of the duo Daniel Stephens marvelled to inthemix last year. “Dubstep has almost become the new rock.”

If you’ve ventured into one of these dancefloor moshes lately (hopefully not clutching a freshly-poured drink), you might’ve also thrown yourself around in one of the impromptu circle pits; sweat-slicked bodies pogo-ing off each other in time with the shuddering drops.

Of course, dance music and moshing aren’t just recent acquaintances. If you’ve ever been to see The Prodigy, the crowd isn’t blissing out and shoulder-shimmying on the spot. Bodies are in a constant whirlpool; wide-eyed and riled-up. (The last time I saw The Prodigy, someone actually asked me for a ‘leg-up’; a practice I thought I’d left behind at my last Grinspoon concert.) At their Warrior’s Dance Festival at Milton Keynes Bowl Arena back in 2010, The Prodigy incited some truly heavy-duty circle pits, as anyone who owns the World’s On Fire DVD will well know.

But what about on your local dancefloor? Does wading into a circle pit still classify as ‘dancing’? And is it good those “peace and love” vibes? Two divergent strains of dance music, and the rituals that go with them, seem to be fuelling plenty of banter at the moment. At one end, there’s the fervour around ‘low-slung house’, which has people bemoaning the anaemic dancefloors inspired by cookie-cutter, slo-mo four-four.

A much-shared article written by Tom Armstrong for the fanzine Faith titled Dancefloors Against Ketamine puts the movement hand-in-hand with “expressionless zombies” bumping horse tranquiliser. The music, in turn, reflects that woozy, weightless mind-state. He writes of a warehouse party in London’s hipster hub Hackney: “Halfway through the night I looked out onto a stagnant crowd and watched the room sink further and further into a k-hole until the beats were at walking pace and the dancefloor had no more vivacity than a wave of un-coordinated nodding heads.”

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angy said on the 27th Apr, 2012

That's hilarious - I never thought I'd see the day we'd be talking about "circle pits" in dance music. The "BPM" argument might have something to it, but stil not sure if I buy it. You don't see people moshing at DnB gigs do you? ;)


grattan said on the 27th Apr, 2012

Can't wait for the brostep stage at Soundwave next year.


mitchpk said on the 27th Apr, 2012

At shows like Chase and Status, or the Prodigy, and even Skrillex and Nero - I've had a whole lot of fun in the 'mosh.' And even at metal and punk shows, the mosh is actually surprisingly friendly: you get knocked over, someone picks you up - some guy smacks you in the face, he'll come over and check on you at the end of the set. I'm sure not all are like this, but I think if the appropriate music and venue calls for it, then why not? The people who hate this kind of music shouldn't even be at these gigs so why do they care in the first place?

Tim D

Tim D said on the 27th Apr, 2012

Interesting topic JackieT


Heist9000 said on the 27th Apr, 2012

Is this the further de-volution of personal space at dance gigs?


sarahanne said on the 27th Apr, 2012

If Guetta remixed Lamb Of God I think this could happen.


C-Yee said on the 27th Apr, 2012

Interesting and cool.


Yeahmate said on the 27th Apr, 2012

lack of MDMA and increase in amphetamines in pills is the answer... People are wired at festivals Now


Killfile said on the 27th Apr, 2012

I actually did see some idiots start to mosh when ShockOne was playing at Villa last week. Bouncers shut that crap down quick smart.


xeonfuze said on the 27th Apr, 2012

As a metalhead, this goes out to all fans of electronic music: Stick to your culture, and we'll stick to ours. Circle pits do not work well with your kind of music. They're both entirely different in how they evoke emotion, hence the reason why you respond differently (physically speaking). This idea is ridiculous, and it's not even a valid question. It's not even a matter of opinion, it's a matter of what works and what doesn't. Fair enough if you want to be a stupid fucking hipster and refuse to conform, but consider the phrase "the nail that sticks up gets hit with the hammer".


BMoney said on the 27th Apr, 2012

pffft, show me a mnml circle pit and I'll consider it a thing.


thechunk said on the 27th Apr, 2012

the word 'dance' music is getting pretty broad these days

i doubt its the BPM and more so the crowd that once listen to 'x' music now is dabbling in 'dance' music.
one thing is for certain, id like to see them keep up a moshpit at true dance event(9pm-6am) over these rock dance events (7:30-11pm)


sonicc said on the 27th Apr, 2012

I prefer his mix of Cannibal Corpse Vs Bob Sinclar - Love Genocide (Fuck Me Im Brainless Mix)



angy said on the 28th Apr, 2012

As a metal fan in my youth (and still today), I reckon a lot of the US style dubstep has a lot in common, in terms of its energy, with metal and hard rock. So I don't think your comments are entirely valid xeonfuze, I'd never wanna fucking mosh at a dance gig, but it's not totally hard for me to understand.


Morecowbell said on the 29th Apr, 2012

I feel like the 'festivalisation' of dance music has contributed to this. Bunches of near-naked, 'roided-out sweaty dudes getting heavy handed with each other. It's as bad as it sounds. This is why I love deep and tech house and techno. People instinctively know how to dance to it. Your personal space is respected accordingly.


consensualrapist said on the 30th Apr, 2012

Couldn't agree more with what james blake had to say about bro-step, but it's not the music's fault for the way people react. At the end of the day people are shitty at people, because people are shitty.


anneliese123 said on the 30th Apr, 2012

Watching UKF's live stream of Noisia right now, this article is all too relevant. Interesting phenomenon...


Royal said on the 30th Apr, 2012

Perhaps you should remind your metal bretheren whom seem to think they can now make electronic dance music to go back to where they came from then.

Anyway, moshing is for people who have no rhythm and can't dance.


Twizard said on the 1st May, 2012

I think it depends on the genre of the dance music. Like at the dubstep stages you can definitely see some people head banging and jumping around. I always love the mosh and even at dance festivals when you get deep enough in people are moshing, getting into it and that's a really good energy to be around.

Don't think they will be starting any walls of death at ASOT though.


polite_society said on the 1st May, 2012

Heavy music is heavy music, doesn't matter if it's guitars or a square wave.

Also I think people are EDM gigs (especially since the mdma was cut off) are generally ruder and more agressive than metal gigs. Just sayin'.

Three Paper

Three Paper said on the 1st May, 2012

Its not fun for more than a little while but when you love the music heavy or not you got to get in there. Stuff what anyone else thinks.


Phesath said on the 1st May, 2012

I tend to agree with polite_society. From my experience, people at EDM concerts are a lot ruder/agressive than a metal gig.


talinacruz said on the 2nd May, 2012

Mosh pits are one of the great joys of life. Any where, any time the music and crowd takes you there. Watching that clip sends shivers down my spine reminding me of some epic mosh pit circle moments in my life. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than a static, fucked up crowd staring at the DJ and not interacting with anyone else. Mosh pits bring people together and produce an electrifying energy, totally fitting to any genre of music that evokes it.


clemyobon said on the 3rd May, 2012

At FMF 12 in Sydney there was a few circle pits throughout Zane lowe, knife party and porter robinson. they were fuckin awesome haha.


Bokhead said on the 4th May, 2012

LOL Dubstep is about anger and hate and is more like metal than other EDM? Well then I am just gonna stop playing Dutch Hardcore and Terrorcore and jump right on the bandwagon :P


rdalt13 said on the 5th May, 2012

Usually Im fine with tight packed dance events, because everyone is supposed to be there for their love of music. But these days edm has attracted way too many mainstreamers.

I was in a fucking crazy mosh at skrillex at future (not a circle though), and being a small girl, i and every other girl was focusing on not getting crushed to death rather than having a good time. The men were all too off their face to even notice that people were getting hit. Whatever happened to PLUR


Johbremat said on the 6th May, 2012

Is the cost of entry to a "circle pit" a wad of tissues in each pocket?


RunningWithScissors said on the 8th May, 2012

what the fuck is a circle pit


B_e_de said on the 8th May, 2012

How are you meant to 'mosh' in time to Brostep exactly?