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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | October 17, 2021

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The New Culture at Australian Gigs and Festivals

The New Culture at Australian Gigs and Festivals
Taylor Furby

Recently it seems assaults and live music go hand-in-hand with an increasing rate of violence and unsafe behaviour at gigs and festivals.

CONTENT WARNING: The following article discussed sexual assault.

Whether it’s seeing people being flung around while crowd surfing, people jumping from balconies or being touched inappropriately. For some reason, Australians have just accepted that this is the way it is now.

We continuously see reports of abuse and sexual harassment with every festival around the country. But why are these few people still getting into live music events and ruining them for the rest of the people there. This has been publicised by The Smith Street Band this week as Wil, the lead singer, has addressed this issue.

Embarking on a huge national tour with over 30 shows, most sold out, Smith Street have been on the road since mid-March. If you’ve ever been to a Smith Street show, you know the atmosphere and they are honestly some of the best shows I’ve been to. But it seems that with Smith Street playing bigger shows, there’s room for more fans and unfortunately more dickheads.

Earlier in April, when Smith Street played The Spotted Cow in Toowoomba, Wil called out a group of people for being too rough and eventually walked off stage and finished the show early because they didn’t settle.

Apparently similar behaviour was displayed throughout the rest of the tour. After an under 18s show, they heard of an arrest made because someone allegedly groping another person in the crowd, the band chose to cancel their sold out Castlemaine show the following day. Smith Street have had to address the issue through a statement released on their social medias.

Without going into specific detail, Wil highlights the unsafe behaviour that he is consistently seeing at shows. Feeling hopeless as he sees no change when he calls out inappropriate behaviour when he’s on stage. He has taken responsibility for what happens and blames himself stating that “… after ten years it feels like every fight in the crowd, every groping, every one of these ‘incidents’ stacks up on my conscience creating a weight I am now unable to carry.” Despite this not being the bands’ fault, you can’t help but sympathise with them as they stand helplessly on stage while their fans are potentially put in unsafe situations.

Though it’s not just Smith Street that has to put up with this, even Drake had to call out a fan in Sydney last year after seeing a man grope a woman in the crowd.

Wil finished off the post with “I’m gonna keep making music, nothing is ever gonna stop me doing that, but it might be a while before I feel comfortable on stage again.” With one show left on the tour, there’s no news whether this weekend’s show at Thornbury will go ahead.

With social media campaigns like #MeToo, you’d expect people to learn from what’s happened and keep their hands to themselves however the issue persists. According to the ABC, there is basically no research on sexual violence at music festivals or live music events but this needs to change. For people to listen, people need to be presented with the facts. There is so much more that can be done.

I’ve personally seen people land on their heads after crowd surfing, my friend has been trapped under people’s feet and walked out a show limping and I’ve been touched inappropriately on multiple occasions. It’s heartbreaking that people who enjoy live music are scared of going to gigs and festivals out of fear that they’re going to walk away hurt.

Why aren’t these people being blacklisted from venues and festivals? Why are they being let off on minor charges when they’ve groped someone? Why is this what gig culture is in Australia?

The Smith Street Band’s full statement is here.

If you need help, call 1800 RESPECT, the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service.

Image Credit: Ian Laidlaw