6 of the Most Gnarly Festival Mosh Pits

Article by: Evan Sakrison

Thu September 14, 2017 | 13:30 PM

Some people at live shows like to wave Bic lighters – or their cell phones – during moving power ballads. Others spazz out when the beat drops. And then there’s moshing, a manic form of self-expression dating back to the hardcore punk scene of the 1970s. While often observed at metal and punk shows and, on a much larger scale, at festivals of those same genres, it's not uncommon for this brand of vicious energy to crop up at hip-hop and even EDM festivals. Like raves, mosh pits rely on group participation to produce a positive experience. In other words, collective mayhem can be good for the soul.

If you want video evidence, look no further than the following swarm of heshers going nuts at festivals all over the world.

Dagoba at HellFest, 2014

At HellFest, testosterone- and riff-fueled adrenaline runs rampant. This legendary metal festival is one of the biggest in Europe, and its mosh pits induce more brain damage than Metallica’s St. Anger on a continuous loop. Here, French groove metal band Dagoba triggers a classic example of the Wall of Death, a ritual that involves splitting the mosh pit into two sides who then charge towards each other and epically clash in the middle. It’s essentially a metalhead’s version of natural selection, and who better than lead vocalist Pierre “Shawter” Maille to set it in motion? His strong, growling vocals inject so much raw energy into the crowd that one guy (at 0:19, wearing a white t-shirt) gets off to a false start. This Trojan War reenactment was even brutal enough to summon a random balloon out of nowhere.

Bring Me The Horizon at Leeds Festival, 2011

After a countdown of three, controversial frontman Oliver Sykes shrieks his way into madness at the iconic Leeds Festival in England. The audio is completely shot, but all that matters is the chaos that ensues within the phallus-shaped gap before the stage. This is an unorthodox Wall of Death formation because there aren’t two solid walls of bodies; people just dart from all corners of the pit. Sykes punctuates the whole thing with an “Ohhhhh shit!” before it turns into an enthusiastic dance party towards the end.

Avenged Sevenfold at Orion Music + More, 2012

Despite The Rev’s untimely death in 2009, Avenged Sevenfold remains hellbent on kicking ass. Their performance at the Orion Music + More (a now-defunct fest created by Metallica) provoked an epic whirlpool of human flesh called a circle pit when the band requested the six pits in the crowd combine into one, and it’s every bit as gratifying as it is exhausting. People skip around, flail their limbs, and mash into each other while running in a counterclockwise fashion. You can tell how winded they are just forty seconds in when everyone slows down to catch their breath and throw up devil horns. The flashy pyrotechnics on stage jumpstart the pit again for another twenty seconds of pure metal cardio.

Exodus at Wacken Open Air, 2010

“I want you to kill everyone over there. And I want you to kill everybody over there. And nobody goes until I say,” commands Rob Dukes, former vocalist of Bay Area-based Exodus. One can only dream to have this level of authority over a sea of testosterone-fueled fans. If his American flag swim trunks weren’t enough indication of his dominance, his loud, raspy voice should convince you otherwise. You can practically hear the yowls of pain once these meatbags slam into each other. Then again, Wacken Open Air is notorious for its cutthroat action, and that’s exactly what you’re getting here.

Attika 7 at Mayhem Festival, 2013

Attika 7 is the kind of band you listen to when you’re shooting pool at a neighborhood biker bar. Nevertheless, this deleted scene from Mean Girls features a ragtag group of females moshing to “Devil’s Daughter” at the now-defunct Mayhem Festival. There are two main highlights from this video: 1) Whoever falls down gets right back up. No matter how intense a mosh pit gets, metalheads always have your back and will pick your ass up. 2) The girl in the white top and black shorts at 1:36 suddenly going psycho after standing idly by with folded arms. Giving no fucks at all, she starts throwing haymakers and stiff-arming any weakling who gets in her way.

Callejon at With Full Force Festival, 2014

This video has everything: a German metalcore band, some dude in a kilt mooning the band, and two people in the center holding up some rope. The incoming Wall of Death annihilates the couple holding the rope and the poor soul who thought it was a good idea to do the limbo at a metal festival. This is bone-crushing material, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.