SocioHeavyology Pt. 2 – Why Don’t We Dance?
In my previous entry of this hard-hitting pesudo-intellectual series on the behavior of audience members at live musical performances, I discussed how I believe that people (especially metal fans) need to learn to appreciate a piece of music in silence. In this piece, I will discuss my contrasting opinion, which is that people at metal shows need to stop being such fucking squares and learn how to shake their ass once in a while.
So that the source of my frustration can be clearly illustrated, I’d like to share an experience that a very talented and sharp musician friend of mine relayed to me recently.
My friend is a Watain fan and went to see them play in Minneapolis a few years ago. Like most others in attendance, he had long hair, boots, and wore mostly black. Probably had a band shirt on. Point is, he was clearly not an outsider. At the show, he was captivated and vibing with the energy that Watain puts out when they perform. They started playing a song he particularly enjoyed, and when it got to his favorite part he was moved emotionally. This led him to begin to move physically. Then, just as he was starting to really let loose and express himself, a heavy hand laid on his shoulder. He turned around to find this oppressive grip attached to a towering, grim figure who said to him pointedly, “No, dude; this is a black metal show.”
This man’s statement is confounding. They were watching Watain, for fuck’s sake. Watain are theistic Satanists who perform surrounded by severed, bloody pig heads and haven’t ever washed the foul smelling outfits they perform in every night because they consider their shows to be genuine rituals in tribute to the Southern Lord. Watain‘s performance was thoroughly fulfilling the founding spiritual motivation of the early black metal scene, a giant “FUCK YOU” to all of society’s rules and expectations. Meanwhile, their audience stood absolutely still during songs, sipped on beer, and politely clapped when they were done. After the show, most people in attendance probably got in nice cars, went home, put on some comfy pajamas, and went to bed. At least they didn’t have the audacity to dance in Satan’s hall, though. Way to stay grim, y’all.
In some cultures, listening to music, singing, and dancing are barely distinct elements of the same experience. Everyone participates in the sound and movement. Hardcore shows have some elements of this spirit, and it’s exhilarating. If you want to kick the air as the music gets heavy, it’s welcomed. If you know the words, you can grab the mic to yell your favorite line. If you want to add to the chaos in the room, you can get on the stage and leap atop of the crowd. If the appeal of hardcore has always been lost on you, see a live show sometime and see how much fun the crowd is having. It’s intended to exist as a live entity, and that’s where the energy of the music thrives.
From backwards in time as I’m writing this, I can hear you some of you readers yelling at your computer screen, “Okay, so no one moves at black metal or doom shows, but what about thrash and death metal? People mosh at those shows all the time, and that’s how we metalheads dance!”
During super-fast thrash riffs, circle pits are fun as hell. A good chaotic mosh can be intoxicating, but really, it’s a pretty mundane form of self-expression. My perspective is this; if music makes you move, it stands to reason that aggressive music would make you move aggressively. If you so happen to bump into other people and trade kinetic energy while you bang your head and move your body, so be it. However, it strikes me as inauthentically aggressive to simply function based on the thought “Oh, it’s a fast part! Who should I push first? Ok, now who should I push?” and so forth. It’s cathartic, but it’s not expressive.
So what to do then, if not moshing? When I see my favorite thrash bands play, I convulse my head erratically. Powerful d-beats make me do a full-torso snake dance that I’m pretty sure I stole from Serj Tankian (see above). When an especially heavy Gojira riff hits, I stomp and stomp and stomp in a futile effort to break the floor beneath me. Skronky math-core makes me flail mindlessly and spastically all around the venue. Or at least, I try to do these things, until I’m interrupted by some knuckle-dragger that sees any form of movement in the crowd and goes “Oh sweet, a mosh! I’m gonna push that guy!” To be clear, I also enjoy pushing people around a bit. If you see me moving aggressively, and part of your genuine expression of self is to shove me in response, I accept that and usually find it fun. However, I suspect that if you really moved in the way your body wanted to, there would be a lot more nuance to your interaction with me than to simply prove that Newton’s second law of motion still works.
The crowd in the first part of this music video = my wet dream for
what metal shows should be like, b-boys included.
Thanks for reading, folks, and I hope that at least a few of you have been convinced to try some new moves at the next show you attend. I realize that “dancing” is new territory for a lot of you, and in the public setting of a metal show you may be tempted to go back to your old and boring mosh-all-the-time ways rather than be embarrassed by trying something new, so get some practice in on your own time. Clear some space in your home when no one else is around, alter your state of consciousness with whatever chemicals you enjoy using, pump some jams, and just fucking boogie. We’ve even already made the perfect playlist for you to blast, the ToH PARTY HARD 2014 Spotify playlist I’ll embed below. Remember, the only wrong ways to dance are ways that harm someone or ways that are inauthentic. If you feel it, and you’re not being an asshole to those around you, just fucking go hard. You may think everyone is judging you, but they’re actually just jealous that you’re having more fun than them. Real shit.
This concludes the current run of the SocioHeavyology series, as these 2000 words have left me completely out of interesting things to say. Let’s hope I get ornery about some more inconsequential shit soon so I can keep ignoring work and writing opinion pieces to for you to flush down the filthy toilet of your non-existent attention span.