Enter the Stage at your own risk. By Doug Walker.
Over the past few years, a lot of videos of performers assaulting fans for coming on stage have gone viral. It’s sparked a lot of discussion and there are a lot of opinions about it. Most of them are wrong. This is the right opinion.
The most recent gasp inducing video is of the seminal Afroman haymaker-smacking a diminutive white-girl party goer to the ground before staring her and her boyfriend down.
I won’t condone what he did, because it was pretty over the top and unecessary. However, there are a few things to consider in this video…she comes up from behind him and he doesn’t seem to notice her until she makes physical contact with him. There’s also a huge series of apologies he issued chock full of excuses ranging from having a bad day to larger anxiety problems. Long story short, a girl managed to get past security and onto the stage. She shouldn’t have been up there in the first place, and it was a failure on the part of the security. What he did was definitely too much, but that’s the risk you take when you get into a performers space.
Before everyone was up in arms over Afroman, NOFX and Fat Mike were in the hot seat. A drunk fan got on the stage in Australia and was knocked to the ground then kicked in the head by a combat-booted foot.
This is a different situation for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s a punk rock show where shitty attitude and antagonizing between the crowd and the band is kinda “the thing to do”. As the video shows, there are really good reasons for Fat Mike to be pissy in the first place. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the middle of trying to perform a song and gotten hit by a flying bottle hurled from the crowd…but It sucks. Beer bottles are worse than plastic water bottles, but it’s still not fun. Once again, the security failed by letting this guy on the stage. Once again there was a violent over reaction from the performer. The difference is, being a frontman for one of the largest punk bands in history, and the head of one of the most successful labels in punk rock history, Fat Mike understands PR and politics and made nice with the fan. They made lemonade out of lemons. That’s why everyone stopped talking about it.
A few years before that, Ben Weasel of Screeching Weasel was the talk of the internet for hitting some ladies at a Screeching Weasel show.
This was a big deal when it happened. It’s a much bigger deal when a male performer hits a female. I’m not going to get into the MRA or Feminist arguments because those aren’t the point. Long story short, 2 very drunk crowdgoers antagonized a frontman with a long documented history of being, we’ll say, “Salty”. Ben Weasel is the antithesis of Fat Mike, as his open letter to Fat Mike after the NOFX mishap displayed: http://exclaim.ca/Music/article/beefs_2014_ben_weasel_slams_nofxs_fat_mike_over_attack_on_stage_invader. Once again, the stage space was invaded, there was a failure in any type of security, and a fan/crowd member got assaulted.
There’s an overlying theme in all of these. It’s securities job to keep the crowd where the crowd belongs, and keep the band secure. This is as much to protect the band from the public as it is to protect the public from the band.
Let me explain that.
Many of these performers, especially the ones popular enough to get negative press over these incidents do what they do as a primary source of income, or in Ben Weasel’s case, a source of income. Most of them have been at it for decades. If you do anything often enough and for long enough, the fun and shininess wears off and it eventually becomes to feel like “work”, or Cthulu forbid, “A job.”
The ability to play 100+ shows a year and be happy and engaging every night despite personal issues, exhaustion, poor nutrition, and the general insecurities and instability that come from a life of extensive travel is not an easy thing to do. When these bands come through your town, it might be the first time you’ve seen them in a year or 2, or 10, or what have you…but It’s not the first show the band has played since you saw them last.
There’s a generally held attitude amongst people who don’t participate in the grind that playing music is fun and a party environment filled with hotel trashings, good drugs, and no physical and mental repercussions. That’s really just not the case. What these bands do is hard, grueling work. They don’t deserve to be martyred for what they do, because at the end of the day, it’s a lot more fun than making a career out of riding a cubicle into the boardroom’s sunset…but It definitely deserves more respect than being treated as a fun-and-games activity.
Bearing all this in mind, let’s say you go to your local bar on a Friday and tie one on. Let’s say, the bartenders seem like party people and engaging. If you decide you’re going to go behind the bar to wrap your arm around the bartender, how do you think it’s going to go for you? If you go into a restaurant and get drunk and walk into the kitchen to hug the chef, you’re going to get kicked out.
I get it though, a lot of people grew up in or after the 90s and grew up with images of stage diving and the general chaos that took place back then. Stage diving, honestly, isn’t that bad to deal with. At worst you see the blur of some person flying past you as they dive into the crowd. You might get nudged. No big deal. Getting up on the stage to join the band, uninvited, and physically interacting with them can be hazardous for your health. You don’t know the band, they don’t know you. Your intentions aren’t known. You could fuck up the gear on the stage. All in all, you’re being disruptive to the performers and disrespectful to the rest of the audience.
But most importantly of all, the world of bands being cool with strangers on their stage ended promptly here:
So, I’m not saying don’t ever get on a performers stage if that’s your thing, but understand what comes with the territory.
To see more by Doug Walker