Friday, September 18, 2015

Speedy Hotline Update

Some of the staff of this website contributes to the band Speedy Ortiz.

About 10 days ago, we posted this missive on our band's Facebook page:

On August 28, we played Riot Fest Denver, Day 1. At this show, the audience and venue size unfortunately did not encourage mutual respect, and a couple members of our band felt uncomfortable and unsafe. The festival supplied us with our own little safe backstage retreat for this very purpose, but most concert attendees aren't afforded such a luxury. We wish the hotline had been available on that day, and it was this show that inspired the hotline's inception.

We didn't really expect a big reaction beyond social media comments and some mild trolling. But since the story involves a girl-fronted rock band and "social justice," it should have been obvious that it would get picked up by Pitchfork.

It didn't take long before the trolls arrived along with other public critique from within our own community. And we (the staff writers) have been kinda confused about why the hotline and its corresponding missive have generated such a strong reaction. We're not really advocating for any extreme differences from typical show experiences other than encouraging friendly inclusiveness.

But for whatever reason, the language is still perceived as challenging an aesthetic.

We're guessing the types of people who've decided to shit on us over the past two weeks are those who fall into one or more of the following categories:

- First, there are those who didn't care for Speedy's music to begin with and are searching for reasons to justify their dislike. "Shitty '90s derivative blah blah blah." Yeah, we get it. It's great. The stock critique of dismissing any modern band with loud guitars as "'90s derivative" is far more original.

- There's also the old school conservative punks who think we're somehow trying to alter their personal show experiences. We can't see how our hotline would affect this, since it's intended for emergencies only. There are similar prominently and strategically placed "rules" posted in many punk & DIY spaces all over the country. And it really does help when attendees can easily view these guidelines upon entering a space. Contrary to popular belief, dozens of other bands, venues, show spaces and festivals also have hotlines used for similar purposes. It's not like we invented this idea, and it certainly doesn't mean the audience can't jump around and have a good time if they feel so compelled. Just be courteous and respectful.

- There's also those who feel comfortable continuing to participate in passive hatred or discrimination. It's not like we expect hatred and narrow-mindedness to just one day disappear out of nowhere because of one magical Tweet that will suddenly change the entire world. But inclusiveness at shows entails lack of hatred. Who needs it? Life's too short to spread hate. We're requesting that it stay away from Speedy shows so that everyone can party together without having to feel like they don't belong.

- And finally, there seems to be a fixation on the usage of the term "microaggressions." Sure, it's a buzz-word, but it's not at all inappropriate here. Replace it with the word "discrimination" if you'd like.

We can see the messages written about us. And yes, many of the comments we've seen have been surprisingly really funny. Lots of goofy jokes. So we've pissed off some people, but at least we haven't received death threats (yet). So thanks to our trolls for displaying a bit more playfulness and friendliness than the ones rallying against GamerGate.

GamerGate mostly generated from reactions to a woman's completely valid perspective of common tropes over the past 30 years of gaming. She doesn't call out any of this as incorrect. She didn't expect to notice an immediate cultural shift based around the popularity of her video series. She's just simply stating a perspective and with a refreshing lack of condescension towards opposing viewpoints. And that's it. But after the series became popular, those who felt challenged were unable to view the videos as simply opening an area of discussion. Not long afterwards, the host of the series began receiving anonymous death threats - simply for discussing her perspective.

We're open to hearing opposing viewpoints, and we don't mind friendly discussion. Contrary to modern opinions, laughing at a non-PC joke isn't the worst thing in the entire universe. We're old enough to get that. Believe it or not, we're actually past the damaging and unhealthy narrow-minded liberal arts undergrad perspective that assumes the entire worldview will continue to be incorrect until it perfectly aligns with our own. We're far more inclusive than that, encouraged more by aligning with Andrew WK's "party" mantra. Partying is whatever you want it to be. Do your thing; let everyone else do their thing. Everyone deserves to have a fun time when they attend a show and party in any way they'd like. We're not opposed to moshing or dancing in any way, as long as it's respectful of people nearby. A lot of show-goers might really enjoy getting shoved unexpectedly, and just the same, others might hate it. Common sense.

Rock shows are an environment that encourages drunk people to get very happy. And yes, many show-goers are looking to get laid when they attend rock shows. But not everyone enjoys having unprompted strangers place their hands or arms on them. Not everyone seems to have an understanding of phrases like "hands off please." Common sense? You might be surprised.

Here's an example of a happier instance. In June 2000, we attended Stroke 9 and Local H at the Webster Theater. You could hate or love either of these bands, but hear us out: Stroke 9 were a lot poppier and were basically touring on the success of a Top 40 hit from 6 months prior. Local H were slightly more album-based and significantly angrier, ultimately a one-hit-wonder from the viewpoint of Stroke 9's fans, although at least half of the crowd were clearly familiar with the bulk of As Good As Dead and Pack Up the Cats. There were a lot of white people and dudes in the audience but enough of a mix of genders & ethnicities that it made a lasting impression on us.

Local H played first, and half of the room exploded. Many show attendees who were unfamiliar with Local H decided to join the fans near the stage for one of the purest hour-long pogoing experiences we've ever had. Roughly 200 kids jumping in unison. It was kind of beautiful. Not everyone participated; the Webster has an elevated seating area near the bar for anyone who just wanted to chill and enjoy the rockage. But for those in the pit, it was amazing, and probably the closest we'll ever get to being in the crowd at a Nirvana club show circa-1992. After Local H was done, the crowd thinned out a bit and the remaining 2/3's of the room moved up for Stroke 9. There was no more pogoing. Different type of music. It's possible that the energy was expected to continue, but the highest energy of the night had passed. Stroke 9 were pretty good, but it was clearly a cool-down set. The show was one of the few refreshing instances within the Woodstock '99 era when we can recall such a diverse crowd losing its shit in unison while maintaining complete respect for one another.

A few years later, two friends of ours - a couple in their late-20s - told us about an experience they had at an Andrew WK show. They didn't realize that almost everyone at the venue would be significantly younger than them or full of so much energy. So they quietly hung out towards the back of the crowd and enjoyed being amazed at everything that was surrounding them. The crowd's energy and intensity could have powered a freight train. Towards the end of the show, Andrew announced that anyone who wanted to join him on stage was thereby invited. And so, every last person in the audience jumped on stage - everyone except for our two friends, who remained against the back wall in awe of what was happening in front of them.

These are instances when the style of music, the size of the venue, and the energy within the crowd kinda mesh together as a ying-yang, and everything seems pretty fucking harmonious. Everyone in those rooms were all lucky to have each other and be pulled together within that one amazing moment. We wouldn't give it up for anything.

On the opposite side of that coin, musical style, venue size and crowd energy can also result in a negative show experience.

The first punk show we ever attended was at a DIY all ages space at age 14. The teens and college-age punks were clearly unfamiliar with proper crowd response. After one of our friends was knocked to the floor, his head was actually trampled. It could have been a disastrous enough moment to have closed the venue permanently, but luckily he stood up a minute later - with a painful headache. After 20 minutes had passed, he claimed to have felt fine.

By the time we were old enough to attend arena-sized radio festivals, it had somehow become common for concert goers to attempt tearing the clothes off any girls who dared to crowdsurf. In many of those cases, the girls weren't crowdsurfing to be put on display, but rather in an effort to receive a breath of fresh oxygen and climb themselves out of the endless sweaty mass of humans. A handful of instances at the blistering and hedonistic Woodstock '99 resulted in more than a few crowdsurfing females having their clothes torn off entirely. In one instance, a girl only had the ring of her t-shirt around her neck by the time she had surfed to stage security.

By the end of the following decade, large quantities of tough bros began infiltrating club shows associated with less angry indie-rock like Of Montreal and MGMT. During a Sunset Rubdown show we attended towards the end of 2009, a 4-way fistfight erupted not far from where we were standing which more or less ruined our experience of the band's most popular song. It was a pretty unfortunate moment during a show where it seemed as though people might be compelled to keep to themselves and stay out of trouble. But this was not the case.

So really, shitty audience behavior can happen just about anywhere. We just wanna be able to help when it does strike at one of our own shows, and we know just as well as anyone else that stage security is not typically trained to help with these scenarios. But if necessary, we'll now be able to locate anyone in need of help and escort them to a safer area if necessary.

When people start getting hurt within the spirit of fun, the fun suddenly disappears. Rock shows should be for everyone. Let's have a good time out there!

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