Thursday, December 27, 2012

Death to Stage Diving

"You want to get onstage, get your own band."
--Lemmy, putting a stage diver in his place.

You can do this if you're in the band.

A few weeks ago, I saw Titus Andronicus at Webster Hall. They put on a dynamic show, one that could make you believe that punk can survive in heartland rock, but every song was interrupted by attendees climbing onstage, most of whom would block the band, sing along or motion commands to the audience before diving back into the crowd. The musicians, visibly annoyed but surely aware of the communal, punk ethos of stage diving, tolerated the nuisance and carried on like the professionals  that they clearly are. 

There's an idea in punk rock that cool bands let their fans stage dive, since we're all really fans sharing the experience together. But if that experience includes some heavyweight whom I didn't pay to see blocking the band with his dance moves before crashing, boots first, onto the heads of the front row, I don't want to be a part of it. It's not communal if the act is fun for exactly one person in the venue. The rest of us will be united in exasperation at your jackassery, but I'd hardly call that community.

This February, Lamb of God's Randy Blythe is going to trial for involuntary manslaughter, after a stage diver whom he pushed off stage died from brain trauma weeks after the incident. My condolences to the late diver's family, but everything that I've read and seen about the case indicates that Blythe did nothing wrong. Maybe he was thinking of what a pain stage diving is for the band and the audience, or maybe he was thinking of metal's most famous stage-crashing, wherein Dimebag Darrell was killed by a mentally ill stalker whose mom had given him a gun. Whatever the case, stage divers should expect to be pushed back or kicked out. If things get too rough, it's perfectly acceptable for the band to stop playing.

The idea that we do this because it's a punk tradition is ridiculous. Punk rock supposedly eschews tradition, and it's gotten by fine without stage diving for decades. Can you imagine crashing a Sex Pistols performance? Johnny Rotten would eviscerate you. And no one would blame him.

Unless you're in a band, or if you're one of the rare, super-communal artists who invites people up en masse (meaning only Iggy Pop or Andrew W.K.), stage diving should be reserved for the comfort of your own home, where you're not in anyone's way and the only person you can hurt is yourself.

No comments: