Dublin Fringe Festival 2023: Mosh
Mosh by Rachel Ní Bhraonáin. Image Richard Mooney and Luke Carparelli.
Metallica. A mayhem of recklessness. James Hetfield’s roar a clarion call for the lost and lonely, a summons to the wild and the damned. Head shakers scattering dandruff as drum beats explode and guitars soar. Of course, that was before Metallica took to regurgitative cameos on Billions, and sharing emotional cuddles with Elton John. Like U2. Whose lamentable love letter to Letterman disclosed them as shadows of their former selves. Lost in a Disney Dublin to promote once great songs repackaged as artistic washouts. Or Mosh. A dance work by Rachel Ní Bhraonáin. Serving up modest interrogations, with just a hint of celebration, of a craze and sub-culture within Metal. Another shadow of the real deal. Another not so great, rock ’n’ roll swindle.
For the uninitiated, moshing involves a tornado of bodies colliding in a controlled, exuberant frenzy to a cacophony of Metal. A swirling of sweat and muscle ricocheting towards a communal bacchanal of joy, release and connection. Fall, you get picked up. Cause someone intentional hurt, you’ll likely get floored. Afterwards, most embrace, smiling ear to ear whatever their bruises. Many believe it began with Motorhead. A progression from punk’s anarchic body slamming, minus the gobbing. Becoming one of Metal’s signature cultural traits, no gig worth remembering without the mosh pit.
Using snap soundbites, macro science and micro statistics, Mosh’s limiting insights arrive via the jargon of social anthropology. Its academic voyeurism pandering to the predictable via Vox pop declarations. Hitting its target with snippets of interviews, it often lands seriously wide of the mark. Dancers Emily Kilkenny Roddy, Ben Sullivan, Toon Theunissen, Jack Bain and Alex O’Neill suggesting Fight Club for deranged cowards. Metal’s safe unsafe riot sanitised and gentrified only to be conventionally sensationalised. The violence! The violence! If you cross the line you better be ready for it! Too many asinine, and not always accurate assumptions supported by some occasionally interesting choreography.
Established from physical cliches, solos are often deconstructed into signature phrases, recurring in brief tableaus with lots of running in circles to suggest the whirlwind. Group work varying from what looks like simulating a consensual orgy to a rehearsal for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, the former overplaying its hand to establish physical connectedness. Only when nearing the end, with the suggestion of a front man in a gimp mask and dreadlocks, half Predator, half Slipknot, is something deeper and relevant evoked. Similarly, the final, euphoric segment fuelled by communal, sweat soaked exhaustion. But by then it’s too late. Mosh having half made its points, never fully makes its case, despite John Gunning’s impressive lighting. The relationship of moshing to music hardly getting a serious look in. Compositions by Joe Love and Richard Durning serving up generic Metal derivatives interspersed with a moody sound design for a documentary special. Which, should you want one, Sam Dunn’s Metal:A Headbangers Journey serves up the anthropological, sociological and musical real deal.
Metal heads talk about memorable mosh pits like battlefields survived. Korn, supported by Static X at The Point. Killing Joke’s electrifying set at the Academy last year. Machine Head anytime, anywhere. Like listening to someone who heard about the gig talking like they’d been there, Mosh might shock the sheltered but it fails to get to grips with its subject matter. Less Master of Puppets so much as a second rate cover band trying to emulate the once upon a real deal, often reinforcing misplaced myths. It’s not just what’s not there, it's that what is there, artistically and thematically, isn't enough. Mosh never digging deeper than its facts. Skirting in the dark past its truths. Momentarily glimpsed, flickering in its shadows.
Mosh, by Rachel Ní Bhraonáin, runs at Project Arts Centre until Sept 17 as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2023.