Do circle pits have a place in dance music?
“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.”