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I've been looking for some time into the matter, but did never run into a proper conclusion: who actually invented circle pits?

I know it's a metal fans phenomenon, but I also ran into people circle pitting at non-metal, barely rock, concerts and I was wondering how widespread it was.

For those who never heard the term, it consists of freeing a circle, 10 meters (30 feet) wide, inside a crowd to then close it up by running into each other. It's a mosh-pit, but it opens up at random points into the audience and yes it's extremely annoying and probably might be even dangerous.

It certainly looks a lot like "the wall of death" a similar audience shenanigan where the crowd is instructed to part in two, like the waters of the red sea, and then mosh together at a command from the stage, at the start of a song with a long intro, or when the music gets louder. Walls of death were extremely popularized by Lamb of God and Exodus fans, though they were invented by the HC punk band Sick Of It All.

I was wondering how, when, and where they became circular and if that was bound to a specific band fanbase.

Also, yeah, as I already pointed out, those circle pits are annoying as hell because you cannot plan in advance to avoid them, and also because the people that start them work in groups like a self-appointed order service and I find people auto-investing themselves of pretend-authority pretty bothering.

Also this circle-starting group thing is interesting to look into: how do they organize, how in advance do they plan those circle starts, and do they come to the concerts with the express purpose of ruining the frution for many?

So. I'm looking into this stuff from an historical point of view. Any pointers?

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  • is there any reason for the weird anti-pit screed at the end to be part of the question? (frankly, "people auto-investing themselves of pretend-authority", "working in groups like a self-appointed order service" to start pits doesn't match my experience with them at all -- most pits I've seen have started when the band requested them, which is, sure, not a "real" authority either, but eh. i'm talking mostly from a metalcore/other extreme metal genres perspective here). very interesting history question though.
    – Esther
    Jun 20 at 18:45
  • Sigh, @Esther, it's explicitly stated: it's "because you cannot plan in advance to avoid them". A moshpit under the stage is easily avoidable. A circle pit is a fucking trap. There are people that actually go to concerts to listen to the performance without being forced to punch a sweaty hormone-overwhelmed kid in the face.
    – ZJR
    Jun 20 at 23:38
  • sure, you're allowed to not like them lol, but the historical question "who invented circle pits" doesn't really have anything to do with your dislike of them, or your anecdotal account of how you think they form.
    – Esther
    Jun 21 at 7:24
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Mosh pits and circle pits are the same thing, with the only real distinction being the particular motion of the people within them at any given point in time. It's quite common for a pit to switch back and forth between random moshing and circular motion throughout a show. There is no difference in how or where they form within a crowd.

Moshing evolved (more so in terminology than actual function) from the slam and pogo dancing that primarily originated in the southern California punk and hardcore scenes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A circular motion was a feature of these pits from the onset, as described in this video.

The high-stepping, arm-swinging stride typically seen in these "circle pits" became known as the HB Strut due to its origins in Huntington Beach, CA. It was described as "strutting around in a circle, swinging your arms around and hitting everyone within your reach".

The dance style would later be generally dubbed as "moshing", a term attributed to HR from the band Bad Brains.

So, "circle pits" aren't really a distinct creation other than in name. They have been an inherent feature of moshing since its inception.

Slamming/moshing would later become part of the heavy metal scene with the punk/hardcore influence on metal sub-genres like Crossover and Thrash, then eventually become more widespread/mainstream thanks to the rise in popularity of heavier music like Grunge (also heavily influenced by hardcore/punk), Metallica, etc. in the early 90s.

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