The Dance of Days...

Washington is frequently accused of not dancing at rock shows. I must admit this to be true, but as a native Washingtonian and a non-dancer, except when one is keeping score, I have never had a problem with this accusation. It is a sad state of affairs if you require me, or someone else, to be dancing in order to enjoy a rock concert.

I have never really thought about why D.C. doesn't dance, but someone offered an interesting hypothesis in J. Freedom du Lac's Post Chat yesterday. I'll quote the whole thing to save you the effort of finding it:

"The authority conundrum was quite graphically illustrated in D.C. during the early to mid-nineties when Fugazi started offering frat-guys their money back when mosh pits were created during their sets. Audience-members started seeing the disdain that violently thrashing about could elicit from an authoritative source (in this case, Ian). As time progressed, not only was violently moshing frowned upon, but so was dancing and later, any movement whatsoever-- to the point now at which the correct standard posture for a D.C. rock show is arms-folded, eyes straight ahead (I can't take credit for this thesis; this idea was first set forth in an excellent yet now-defunct online zine called the "Finley Breeze")."
The quote occurs in a larger context of the effect Pitchfork has on indie rock. I have no idea if this is true or not, but it at least seems plausible. Most of this process occurred before I started going to concerts, so I don't know if people use to dance in the pre-Dischord era. I do know that Fugazi would stop concerts if they saw a mosh pit, and Ian MacKaye's influence over this city's rock scene is undeniable.

Has anyone heard this hypothesis before? Does anyone have any other explanations as to why we don't "shake it?"


  1. Interesting idea -- but surely there's *some* movement at punk shows. Vigorous head-bobbing at least, right?

  2. I figure there must be some movement, and people were pretty energetic at Q and not U shows. I guess the claim is that at punk shows, there was a lot of moshing, and when Ian stopped that the crowd didn't know what to do next. Or that he just created an anti-dancing/movement atmosphere, so people stayed still. Again, I don't know if it is true, but it is interesting.

  3. Doing the standing still is hardly unique to DC. And yeah, Q and not U and Dismemberment Plan shows definetly used featured plenty of dancing. I think it is just that much of the music that characterizes the DC scene just isn't that conducive to dancing.

  4. DC Metro lifer here. . .DC is just a politically charged scene where everyone expects to hear a little preachin' at shows. Did anyone see the Q and not U concert at fort reno last summer? If you were there, you may remember the first act, a rapper who started his set with a song that seemed, to many, like one that spoke out against racial injustices. Well to make it short, the song ended, people clapped, and the dude said, "man, ya'll supposed to be booin'. . . Oh, we all said, and sheepishly muffled one hand in a pocket while beating ourselves with the other muttering, "stupid, stoopid white kid." I mean, come on!!!! I haven't ever boo'ed anyone off the stage., besides, the material didn't seem all that offensive to me. The point is that people don't want to miss the "message" of a song and look like a jack ass cheering, "play it again, play it again," when it's supposed to be a think piece speaking out against human trafficking of women and children in east timor for commercial sexual exploitation. . .oops

  5. On another note, I went to the Gogol Bordello show at the 9:30, and man, it fuckin' rocked and I have no idea what the hell those ukranian gypsy punkers said. All it needed was a bleeding and freakishly muscular frontman and it could have been a stooges gig. The reason I mention this is that I have never been in such a friendly mosh pit. I'm a feather weight at a buck fifty and was consequently knocked on my ass a few times. But regardless, people were almost eager to clear out and offer a hand. At 28 could they just sense that I am nearly a geriatric? And what the hell are they feeding kids these days? they are all frickin' monsterously huge! Eat organic!