Circumventing Circle Pits: Circle Pit 101 With Punk Professor, Cole Querry
By: Cole Querry
The lights draw. The DJ with a cheeky name and pension for superficially underground tracks on a playlist he or she designed…of other people’s music…has ceased entertaining the impatient (and sometimes chanting) crowd. Whether it be an introductory sound clip sampling a cult-classic movie, a fundamentally formative piece of public speaking, and/or samples from the history of the artist signaling to the heterogeneous mixture of music lovers that shit is about to go and circle pits may form.
It would be a hasty conclusion to think that all circle pits are heterogeneous in nature. It would, also, be a hasty conclusion to think that because an individual enjoys a specific genre of music that may entice some to dance violently yet harmoniously within the confines of a 360O plane that such person has ever nor will ever participate in a circle pit.
Aside from the generalizations and arguments for or against them, there are things to look out for prior to embarking on a sanctimonious dancing ritual at punk rock, rock, metal, and/or hardcore shows.
Circle pits, like gyms or nightclubs, can attract a lot of assholes that are there to establish their physical dominance over other groups of people or select individuals. Those cats tend to move against the normal flow, taking on the barrage of physical force coming at them like someone trying to look cool as sets of waves crash into them from ankle-deep water. These non-conformists usually have their shirts off too.
Some other situations to look out for are the applications of martial arts and gymnastics. Hardcore shows are/can be synonymous with fans showing off their best “Blood Sport” moves as if they are Jean-Claude Van Damme or some shit. Some can do no-hands cartwheels in the middle of the dance floor too…looks cool in a floor exercise at regionals, but at a show? Big whoop.
Regardless, watch out for the flying hammer fists, elbows, and high-kicks at the types of shows that do have circle pits and note that all participating fans are susceptible to these things as shows are not the most efficient ways to introduce yourself and make long-lasting relationships–fans are there to dance.
Dancing is a public good though –rarely rivalrous, non-exclusive, and susceptible to both positive and negative externalities and overcrowding. Dickheads that want to act tough can always show up, which is a negative externality. Getting kicked, hit, and/or spit and sweat on are also negative externalities, but there are positive externalities too.
One of those externalities is/could be the excitement of double-knotting your shoes in anticipation of running around getting lost in the music with no inhibitions. Another could be having so much angst and frustration associated with the typical 9-5 habitual rat-race that getting shoved, hit in the face, or feel the connection of sweat shared by you can be a constructive release valve so you do not lash out against the bourgeoisie.
It is within the nuances of a circle pit that really drive this form of dancing into having transcendental properties though such as people around you offering to pick you up if you fall and others separating around you to ensure you do not get run over or injured while others dance. Another is the loss of articles of clothing. If you lose a shoe, a hat, or the shirt you just picked up from the merchandise table, you can bet on someone hanging it over their head offering to return it to its original owner.
Circle pits, as is the case with free markets according to Adam Smith, have an invisible hand in the form of music guiding participants to a venue in which exchanges are facilitated with little governmental interference. And as mentioned before, when the artist signals that the music is about to begin, a heterogeneous mixture of consumers provided with their own use-value and exchange-value applied to and choose how to express themselves with what is being presented to them.