Just like the urge to kiss, the urge to dance and the urge to scream on a rollercoaster, mosh pits are a strange, yet weirdly natural phenomenon. Something about heavy riffs and pummelling drums makes us want to barrel and smash into other people, like human bumper cars or gas particles. In any other situation – like trying to get on a tube, or being in a supermarket – mosh pits would be hell on earth. But at a metal show, or at Download Festival this weekend specifically, they turn into something else entirely.
For a good two years or so, during the pandemic, mosh pits were illegal. And even when they weren’t illegal, they weren’t exactly happening regularly. Festivals and gigs are only just hitting their stride again this summer, with people finally relaxing enough to be able to thrash their heads about and crowd surf. All of this is important: Moshing makes people feel free and connected. Some have even claimed that mosh pits should be used as a therapeutic activity, thanks to their stress-reducing qualities.At Download, there was obviously a lot of moshing. Like ancient tribes during an initiation dance, people go to Download specifically to get feelings out of their system via moshing. And so, VICE photographer Chris Bethell went in the middle of mosh pits during sets by Bury Tomorrow, Dying Fetus, Creeper, Funeral For a Friend, Skindred and more to take some pics of the ritual.