The Most Respectful Mosh: An Emo Story

The Utah pendulum swings to the other side. A night full of mosh-induced expression brought to you by Gap Year, And One, and Catalyst.

The Most Respectful Mosh: An Emo Story

The Utah pendulum swings to the other side. A night full of mosh-induced expression brought to you by Gap Year, And One, and Catalyst.

May 31, 2023
Words By Norm Schoff News

Gap Year Concert

Black Lung Society, SLC, UT

Utah is a pendulum. It swings to the extremes. The Republican Senate, House, and Governor are a product of the conservative religious ideals that outdate the state. That is one side. On the other is everything else, everything that swings to the other side of the pendulum. It’s us. There’s the need for free expression and exploration that are a guaranteed byproduct of any oppressive control. If the Utah establishment is made up of elected officials, anti-abortion activists, soakers, and God, then it only makes sense that our end of the spectrum is made up of jibbers, smokers, artists, and the ultimate deity, rockstars. So begins our descent into hearing loss.  

The ultimate jibber band | Photo: Tommy Towns

The Black Lung Society was the venue, and presumably gets its name from what the inside resembles. The main floor is a windowless box painted black. The stage up front is only big enough for a lone drum set, so, if you’re not the drummer, you’re out on the main floor with everyone else. There were two beautiful chandeliers hanging from the tall ceiling. Whether they were placed there ironically or in an attempt to use juxtaposition to accentuate some sort of beauty is unclear. But they were there. 

The headliners | Photo: Tommy Towns

The flyer said the show would start at seven, but, considering people in our demographic usually take time more as a suggestion than a proclamation, it was closer to eight. The early arrivals congregated out in the parking lot, talking shop and trying to sneak beers all while getting yelled at that it was a dry venue. The boarders started to arrive. Why wouldn’t they? Gap Year is, after all, the brainchild of a jibber collective. Keyan Adams, Ethan Guertler, and Justin Phipps are Gap Year. They’re also each unrivaled on a board in their own right. Catalyst PVD might be the big headliner, but if you asked any boarder in the crowd they’d tell you they came to see Gap Year. 

The official And One debut | Photo: Tommy Towns

But, before Catalyst and Gap Year, there was And One. And One is a Salt Lake emocore hodgepodge, seeing as Jake and Parviz are from World Worst and Koshe, two other SLC bands. We all heard the music outside and rushed in. Shoulder to shoulder, we patiently awaited what was And One’s first show. They did not disappoint. The switch flip from no mosh to mosh was astounding. At the snap of a finger—or in this case the tapping of two drumsticks and a call for Salt Lake to “fuck this shit up”—the room broke out into a collective seizure. There was no control. Each body was at the mercy of the one next to it. From above it probably looked like we were the balls in Hungry Hungry Hippos, just bouncing off each other with no clear idea of where we want to go but knowing we don’t want to go towards the edges. “I think I broke my nose last night during And One,” Squid mused to me over the phone the next day while driving up to Brighton. Fuck yeah Squidyman!

Let's fuck this shit up | Photo: Tommy Towns

I think dinner is an appropriate analogy here. And One, with a four song EP and a cover, were quick but well needed. They were the appetizer. They got the tastebuds, and our bodies, warmed up. After a quick outdoor intermission, we came back into a room that can only be described as muggy. The air smelled of sweat and wafted in cigarette smoke. We could see Gap Year getting ready, screaming “CHECK” into the mic. Keyan, in an emo-punk Rick Roll, started playing Everlong over the speakers to both laughs and boos from the crowd. After a final check, the lights dimmed, the crowd got close, and we started to see what so many of us came for. 

Ethan on the bass | Photo: Tommy Towns

It was JP’s 21st birthday about a week ago. I mention this because he said something that night that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. In an attempt to calm Katie Kennedy’s fears of being trampled in the mosh, Phipps said, “nah, everyone’s hella respectful in a Gap Year mosh pit.” He wasn’t wrong. Any time I saw a homie go down there was one right behind them to get them off the ground. This happened quite a bit during Gap Year because people were trying to crowd surf. Some went successfully, being carried around like heroes or celebrities. Some, however, were unsuccessful. There were a few stage divers who shared the same doomed fate as Jack Black in the beginning of School of Rock, where the crowd parts like the Red Sea leaving only the ground as cushion. I also want to note that at one point I looked over and saw Keegan, fresh from playing nine holes, polo shirt moshing in a crowd of eyeliner and black painted fingernails. That was a highlight. 

Unbreakable concentration | Photo: Tommy Towns

None of the commotion, not the crowd surfers or the mosh, seemed to break Gap Year’s concentration. They were trancelike. It was amazing. I believe, whether we know it or not, so many of us have a feeling of reverence when we watch our homies do something like this, something outside of snowboarding. There’s an awe and a little voice saying, we might be ok, that comes with watching people fully thrive in a different element than the one you know them from. And they were thriving, that’s what made it all so special. It sounded like Ethan and Phipps were singing with an honesty that can only be found in the deepest part of a person’s chest cavity. I’m neither a musician nor can I speak to the meaning of Gap Year’s lyrics, but I can imagine that to play emo music, and to play it well, requires a person to tap into all that is both painful and poetically just, like the familiar scent of an ex-lover that refuses to leave your pillow a week after they’ve left. That level of vulnerability is admirable to say the least. It was beautiful.

Gap Year ended their set by playing a live sample, something they’ve never done before. The timing needed to be perfect. The YouTube video started playing and people lost their shit. I was standing next to Leo who looked at me and screamed, “THE FUCKING SAMPLE!” before running into the mosh. 

By the time Gap Year finished we were all hot. There wasn’t a soul in the venue who wasn’t covered in sweat. We rushed outside for a second intermission, talking about the show we just saw. “I headbutted like five people,” Goop said when talking about the pit. There was a dude by the front door of the venue in full tactical gear, a Ukrainian flag patch on his arm, with what looked like a corncob pipe and a table full of vintage gas masks. He was selling them, that much I know, but other than that I couldn’t tell you anything. I think I overheard Cooper ask for his Instagram, so I’ll direct all further inquiries to him.  

OJ side project | Photo: Tommy Towns

This is where I abandon the metaphor. To stick with the formula would require me to call Catalyst–the quahog hardcore headliners–dessert, or even that cup of decaf after the meal. I cannot do that. It’d be a disservice to them. They may not be “hometown heroes,” as And One called Gap Year, but they’re fucking legends. They knew exactly what they were doing. Their presence onstage could be felt throughout the audience. With Gap Year and And One, the mosh existed, but there were a good amount of people on the fringes, not moshing but rather bopping their heads in unison like it was a Wii waiting room. With Catalyst, everyone was moshing. Open water bottles were being thrown. The room was soaked. There was a pillow that people were throwing up at the chandeliers and I kept expecting a Phantom of the Opera style crash to mark the occasion. 

Quahog rockstar | Photo: Tommy Towns

The chandelier stayed put but when the lights finally turned on, following an encore of course, everybody was dripping. Most of it was sweat, some of it water, but nobody was mad. Every hug was followed by an apology, “sorry, I’m wet,” we’d all say. It was fine. No one cared. It was what we came for. We came to see rockstars and that’s what we got. Here’s to our side of the pendulum. Cheers on a great show everyone.