Editor’s Note: While Alex Lamont highlights the negative parts of gig crowd culture incredibly sensitively, trigger warnings for SA, ab*se in the music industry and harassment are in place here. If you have been affected by any themes raised in this article, please visit White Ribbon UK for support services here.
By Alex Lamont
Music, by all accounts, is a firmly established net positive. Of course, to many (such as us here at Robinson’s Records) music means a whole lot more. Yet the fact remains that a large section of the population lives blissfully indifferent to the sonic superpresence, tuning in and out of the world of radio more for the purpose of company and silence filling than for the musical content.
It would be a safe assumption that the aforementioned individual would be scarcely found attending live music events, and this article is in a way directed toward them. To shed light on the brewing conflict which has become an increasingly important consideration when attending a gig.
Music at its best is a safe space, whether enjoyed with a few drinks, a few mates, or through your headphones alone. It is an emotional manipulator, for better or worse equally effectively, yet the decision is always yours. If I throw on ‘No Son Of Mine’ by Genesis I know I’ll be crying for the next half hour, a sacrifice I am more than willing to make. Unfortunately for many, particularly women, the behaviour of an often-male heavy audience at live performances is a more effective dictator of the emotional memories they will be left with than the performance of the musicians.
This is a scary reality, and far from a new phenomenon. Incidents such as Woodstock ’99 and the rapidly spreading coverage of criminal behaviour at music festivals are readily available to the mainstream reader. Readers who may in turn be deterred from becoming involved in the musical world at large, and by extension rippling into financial detriment for those in the industry. BBC wrote in 2018 that ‘22% of all festival goers have faced assault or harassment, rising to 30% of women overall’.
The fact is that we are failing. As a community so rich of character we have the obligation to protect each other – and this return to live events is our opportunity to fulfil this obligation.
I went to my first gig back after two years last night (as I write this) and the room was full of all the magic I expected. The energy was buzzing from person to person, that old stuffy atmosphere I had missed so much was second only to a breath-taking performance by Devin Townsend Project, who played like they had never been gone despite impromptu personnel changes due to travel restrictions. My neck and head barely remained in line with my spine for longer than two seconds at a time for all but one song.
As guitars were changed during a quick water break, a suspect exchange between a small woman and taller man caught my eye. For the entirety of the following song my eyes didn’t leave the pair and I stood completely still, watching for any indication that she was in trouble.
As the song ended, the couple kissed each other and held hands.
Myself and everybody I could see around me left smiling, yet the thought will not budge that somebody else in that crowd may yet again have been failed.