Imagine yourself being stuck in an unbearably hot room. There are tons of people all around you, the volume is ear-shattering, a few yards from where you're standing a furious punk band beats the crap out of their instruments, the drummer is pounding his kit to pieces, the singer yells his lyrics in agony, the guitarist and bass player blast out their riffs in ways that make them feel they physically enter your body, all around you the rest of the audience is going completely berserk, time and again you're inches away from being hit by a boot or a clenched fist, you must constantly be on the lookout for crowdsurfers coming up on you from behind, and sometimes in between songs you're only able - if you're lucky - to get a few seconds rest.
This goes on for more than an hour, and if that's not tough enough, you've even agreed to pay money to be there.
Sounds appealing? If not, then think closely before rejecting the entire phenomenon, because all the world there are people finding this very scenario to be paradise on Earth. And Joe Ambrose's Moshpit is all about these people, who they are and why they do what they do, and how experiencing a truly mind-boggling concert really feels.
Ambrose himself is one of these people. He's simply a music fanatic, and much of the book is basically summaries of different shows he's attended, the feelings he's experienced while moshing, the people he's met, and the bands he's seen. Not everything is about live shows and moshing, though, and Ambrose writes extensively about music and music history, especially punk and metal. Once in a while the reader is treated with an interview, and it's obviously very interesting to hear what the musicians themselves think about all the crazy moshing taking place right in front of them.
And speaking of bands, Ambrose's own taste in music isn't very difficult to figure out, talking as he does about "LA metal loser Guns 'n Roses" (pg.40), and referring to Linkin Park as "perfect MTV fodder for kids who know no better." (pg.204).
The last few years several serious accidents - some of the fatal - have happened during large shows, for instance during the Roskilde Festival in 1999 and Big Day Out in Australia the years after. Ambrose pays close attention to these tragic accidents, and it's definitely interesting to hear how the members of Pearl Jam reacted after the infamous Roskilde gig, and regardless of one's personal opinion about Pearl Jam and their music it still becomes quite moving to learn of how singer Eddie Vedder cried openly on stage.
Compared to Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, who - judging from the text - mostly got pissed off when their gig had to be stopped due to the utter chaos in the crowd. I'm not sure this portrayal is intentional or not, but it could at least be possible that that's the case, considering what Ambrose thinks about the band:
"In fact they are a very plastic and derivative combination of Kid Rock and The Beastie Boys without the creativity of one and the humour of the other. Ill-educated white trash kids are inclined to say that Limp Bizkit speak for them, are them. There is something lumpen and vulgar about the band's onstage assault on the audience." (pg.218)
I've never been a big fan of live shows myself, and because of this it's difficult to really understand and relate to Ambrose when he praises the divine bliss that in his world is a good moshpit. Either you love it or you don't; I don't think it's possible to "sort of" love going to concerts. And that's why this can be an interesting read. Because if you don't love moshpits you're likely to hate them, and because of this it can be a great treat to read about something others love while you personally hate what these people passionately love.