I was prepared to write a post this week discussing the new banners at Warped Tour telling the crowd to not mosh and crowd surf at the summer-long punk festival. However, in light of a troubling event that happened recently, I began to think about how this issued tied into the sad decline in respect in our music scene.
At the Tigers Jaw show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Wednesday, June 18 (a show I was hoping to attend before it sold out), a male fan got on stage after crowd surfing and, instead of diving off like you’re supposed to, forcibly kissed Pity Sex front-woman Britty Drake. Later that night, another crowd member (though some have stated it was the same guy) forcibly attempted to kiss Tigers Jaw keyboardist Brianna Collins, even going so far as to put his hands around her neck. The incident left both women visibly annoyed and led Brianna to address the matter in an impassioned and well-written statement the following day. She reiterated that you should NEVER touch someone who does not want to be touched; although she never uses the term “sexual assault”, that is exactly what this situation (and many other similar situations happening in venues across America) is.
This is not the first time touching has been the central focus at a music event. At a Texas show last year, The Story So Far front-man Parker Cannon took to twitter to voice his displeasure with a female fan who ran onto the stage and kissed him while he was performing. Many brushed aside his complaint as a sign that punk musicians are becoming soft (as said people yearned for the old days when musicians were tougher). This, aside from being blindly ignorant, is incredibly stupid. People want to attribute this to “social justice warriors” bitching about everything or being too soft and wimpy, but the fact of the matter is if a musician is uncomfortable with being touched or kissed without their consent, then we, as fans, have to show them that respect and lay off. They are doing everything they can to entertain us and help us have an enjoyable night, and doing stuff like this to them is disgusting. The counter-argument that it wouldn’t bother you if someone ran on stage and gave you a simple peck on the cheek is moot, because for these musicians it was clearly an annoyance and an invasion of their space.
The same principle goes for fans as well. I could write a college-length dissertation documenting the disturbingly high number of sexual assaults that happen at shows. Many of them go unmentioned for fear people won’t believe them or that nothing can be done to stop it, but bringing these issues to the forefront is important. At a recent festival in Kansas City, Staind front-man Aaron Lewis brought to light the growing issue of molestation at shows when a male audience member maliciously groped a female crowd surfer. Aaron stopped mid-song to berate the dope and lash out at this sort of action, which happens far too often. The tight confines of a crowd is unfortunately the perfect cover of darkness for some to grope, molest, and assault others without being noticed. Reading countless comments on message boards and articles across the internet brought many of these out into the open, sadly too late to expose the people who did them but still early enough to show how alarming and wide-spread this trend is.
On top of exposing a culture that continues to show a complete lack of understanding as to the nature of boundaries and unwanted sexual advances, it also shows a troubling trend that I have noticed at many shows that I go to: there is a clear lack of respect from many music fans toward their beloved musicians and fellow fans. As with all things, this is not to accuse all people who attend shows in the scene of being horrible. I have met my fair share of decent people who mosh/crowd surf respectively and do not harass or attack each other. But the sad truth is that there are far too many people who put their own sick sense of enjoyment ahead of everyone else’s.
The lack of consideration reaches far beyond unwanted touching at shows. Going back to the original topic I wanted to discuss, I have never been a fan of moshing, stage diving, and crowd surfing. I used to accept it and be fine with it happening, so long as the person taking part in the action wasn’t hurting anyone and kept to themselves; however, lately I have noticed that the act has become more malicious and, again, lacking in respect for the people around them. I am not going to win any cool points for saying this, but I would not care if these acts were banned from all venues. I know it’s impossible and venues only put signs up like the one at Warped Tour to escape liability in case of injury, but people who participate in these activities usually show a stunning lack of regard for the people around them. In the old days, punk mosh pits were just people pushing each other, but with the understanding that if someone falls you pick them back up. Today, it’s 200-plus pound boneheads flailing their arms around and punching and kicking anything and everything in their sight with no cares for other people’s safety.
I have seen helpless fans dragged into pits and pushed around, all while trying to get out. I myself have stood far on the edge of the pit, only to be rushed by a large meathead into the center because he wanted to get closer to the action. Stage divers and crowd surfers are no more respectful; many of them flail their legs and kick people’s faces to get higher up and show no regard for causing injury. While it is usually easier to avoid, or at least help up, a crowd surfer, stage diving is by far the most reckless act. People, many much larger than the audience members below them, somersault into the crowd and take out fans who were not prepared to carry them. Those close-up audience members are not willing participants, and are usually people who got to a show early to grab a good spot but now must weigh this against the risk of injury. At the “Pop Punk’s Not Dead” tour at Best Buy Theater in New York, someone actually got behind the barricade, climbed onto the stage, dove past the security guards, and grabbed my head, which caused it to slam into the metal barricade and gave me a bleeding lip (while just missing chipping my front teeth). At the same venue for the final Movielife show in August 2011, a different person again evaded security, climbed the stage, and dove. My girlfriend and I each moved out of the way, but this respect-less person grabbed her as she moved out of the way and dragged her to the ground with him.
I know I may sound like I’m whining, but things like this really can take away from the enjoyment of a show. Nobody should have to attend a show and fear that their boundaries or their idea of fun will be impeded by someone who will do anything they feel is right. The music scene is supposed to be a community of mutual respect and understanding, a place where all people can come to escape their often mundane everyday lives and enjoy their favorite band with hundreds or thousands of fellow fans. So it pains me to see the decline of respect from this community, replaced by selfishness and harsh recklessness. This isn’t an issue of “punk is dead” or people becoming pussies, like some have posted. This is the simple notion of respecting boundaries and showing other people the respect YOU would want to receive yourself. Please excuse the tired expression, but if I had a nickel for every person who whined that everyone else was complaining too much or had gone soft and “this is just rock and roll!” I’d have enough money to make Dave Grohl or Billie Joe Armstrong jealous.
The issue of women being inappropriately touched obviously goes beyond just lack of respect and is a greater societal problem, but an absence of respect for other people’s well-being and feelings is still encompassed in that.The lack of respect some exhibit people today is certainly alarming, but it can be resolved. To fix it would require an understanding that not everyone is comfortable with what you’re comfortable with and not everyone is going to like what you like or feel how you feel. A tonal shift of this nature takes time and, while it is difficult for every asshole at a show to change, a slow and steady shift would help rebuild that familial sense in our music scene.