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Gigs are no place for women

I’ve become embroiled in yet another Twitter ‘discussion’ with a band’s far-more-deserving-than-I fans about whether I should be allowed to go to gigs and stand where I can see. As Twitter isn’t really the easiest place to be eloquent, or even to make a clear point, I thought I’d dust the blog off and talk for a bit about what it’s like being a female who likes to go to rock shows. Lots of them.

I’ve worked out that since The Ledge and I first started this blog back in 2005 we’ve probably been to between 450-500 gigs. At those gigs, we’ve probably seen well over 1,000 sets by hundreds of different bands, and anyone who’s historically read the blog will know that my experience was marred at more than a few shows by the behavior of others.

I would like to postulate that the reason I’ve had such issue with aggressive and unpleasant behavior at gigs is because I’m both small and I’m female.

What it’s like being a girl at a gig

Let me step back a minute first – sometimes being a girl who goes to gigs is awesome. For starters, when I was single (which I haven’t been in a very long time) it was a great way to impress guys. Guys aren’t used to women who are into going to gigs. Most of the gigs guys go to are heavily attended by guys and the women who go are there with their boyfriends/spouses. This has also meant that on more than a few occasions I’ve been the recipient of a random act of kindness where someone has seen me struggling to see and told me to move in front of him, hoisted me on to his shoulders or protected me from the ravages of an over-enthusiastic crowd.

When I stand at the front of shows where I know there’s likely to be enthusiastic dancing, or full on moshing, I rely on rule #1 of the pit: Look out for your neighbors. I also rely on rule #2 of the pit: If you push someone, expect to get pushed back.

95% of the time this is fine. The people around me are aware of the fact I’m there; they’re careful. Normally if there’s lots of pushing I get lots of apologies. It’s generally pretty obvious when the people around you are being dragged along by the crowd and can’t help bumping you; it’s  generally pretty obvious when people are simply dancing and occasionally get knocked against you; it’s also generally pretty obvious when people are using the excuse of a dancing crowd to try and physically remove someone who has a better view or a spot on the barrier.

There are 2 types of gig-goer – usually male – who cause me, and most women who attend gigs regularly, some real problems. There’s the ones who truly believe that if they are at a gig they are a bigger fan than you and can do whatever they want to whomever they want in order to get closer to the band; and there’s the ones who get riproaring drunk and decide that as it’s a gig simply anything goes – including assault both physical and sexual.

  • As a woman my male friends impressed upon me the importance of never crowd surfing – men get carried above the crowd and cheered whereas women get groped.
  • As a woman I’ve had to endure having my chest groped at the barrier by a man who used sexual assault as a means of getting me to move so he could get closer to the band. In this instance, security came to my rescue and threatened to eject the man.
  • As a woman I’ve witnessed a friend being grabbed between the legs by a man who felt sexual assault was an appropriate means to get her to move so he could get closer to the band. In this instance we both had to use physical violence to get him to remove his hand, a fact which did not go unnoticed by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, as he was stood about half a foot from us on stage at the time. When Thom remarked on it, the guy finally moved. If anyone’s interested, I have this captured on an old bootleg cassette somewhere.
  • As a woman I’ve tried to stop another woman being kicked and pushed to the ground by a man twice her size who wanted that spot at the barrier for his own girlfriend; and then been subjected to the same man kicking and punching me and trying to push me to the ground. When I tried to push him off of me, he accused me of assaulting him. In this instance security again intervened and told the guy to leave me alone or else.
  • As a woman I’ve been regularly subjected to men singling me out at the front and using the excuse of a crowd or a mosh pit to elbow me repeatedly in the neck and head even after I politely asked them to stop because it was hurting me, shout at me when I finally had to resort to pushing back, and then scream at me, “It’s a gig! If you don’t want to get hit you don’t belong here.” Of course my response of, “If you don’t want to get pushed off of me, don’t hit me in the first place” just proves that I’m an aggressive bitch.
  • I’ve been told by tall men at the front I shouldn’t be there because I was too small and they shouldn’t have to worry about hurting me. I’ve then been told by men at the back who stood directly in front of me instead of one of my taller companions that I had no business standing at the back because I was too small and I should have to go to the front.
  • As a woman I’ve had men single me out at the barrier, lean in and tell me that I wouldn’t still be there at the end of the show because they were going to see to that.
  • As a woman I have, on countless occasions generally found myself the lucky person that theone aggressive, overenthusiastic loser chose to stand behind not because I was in a particularly prime spot – I usually stand near the speakers – but because everyone else was taller and male and they felt I was an easy target.

On every single occasion when I or a female friend or a female in the vicinity has been subject to a situation like this, the man causing the problem has reacted in exactly the same way – acting outraged that his target dared fight back and with the utterly assinine remark “It’s a gig, you should just learn to live with it.”

At a gig (much like in the boardroom) if you are a woman and you stand up for yourself against the aggressive behavior of men around you then you are an unhinged bitch, rather than a person simply trying to avoid getting bullied, harassed and potentially injured.

Now, there’s many things I’ve learned to live with at gigs –

  • Poor sound
  • Revolting toilets
  • Overpriced, watered-down alcohol
  • Getting ignored by barmen
  • Other people’s sweat
  • Lack of personal space (this actually is an ongoing issue, but I’m not usually going to be an arse unless I’m feeling genuinely physically threatened)
  • Beer being thrown on me
  • Getting pushed, knocked and danced into
  • Drunk people shouting stupid things and generally behaving badly

One thing I feel I should NEVER have to live with is being assaulted, either physically or sexually, because some bloke thinks he has more of a right to see the band than I do.

Is it because I’m a girl?

I’m pointing out all of this in relation to my gender because these things have all happened to some degree or other to every woman I know who regularly goes to gigs and I regularly witness them happening to other women. Almost none of the men I know experience these problems except once in a blue moon.

The Ledge will attest to the fact that if we have problems at a  gig, 99% of the time it’s because someone has singled me out. Because I’m small, they probably think I’m an easy target and I won’t fight back. When I do, they get angry.

I’d like, as example, to tell the story of what happened to me and a friend last night.

Why Hold Steady gigs are no longer the best gigs in the world – in fact, they’ve become the worst

Last night, in a very excited state, we made certain to get down to the Academy 3 early to get to the front for the Hold Steady. We were there at doors. It was friendly. People around us were happy. Despite the gig being sold out, even when the band came on I wasn’t getting jostled like sometimes happens. I was relieved as the previous 2 Hold Steady gigs had been marred by the type of violence I’ve mentioned already.

When our friend W turned up, The Ledge moved back to stand with her 6’5″ partner so they wouldn’t be in the way of the 2 or 3 petite ladies stood behind me and W moved in next to me. The band came on. The first 4 or so songs were ace – then the violence started.

As soon as the dancing began I felt pushing behind me, hard and into the monitor, so I righted myself. He shoved back again, so I pushed up again. He started shouting in my ear. I’m not sure what he thought I was going to do – flatten myself against the monitor?  When it started to hurt and he clearly wasn’t trying to lessen the impact even though he could see I was in distress I elbowed him. Funnily enough that enabled him to move from behind me entirely even though he’d previously been saying he couldn’t help it. He moved behind my friend and started swearing at me.

Then he put his shoulder into her and started trying to push her over in order to get her to move so he could get to the front. He was screaming he couldn’t help it, but there was a noticeable gap behind him and he wasn’t  getting pushed at all. There was moshing – but it was not on top of us or him and the flow was going in the opposite direction to where he was pushing us.  W couldn’t right herself so I lent a hand, and pushed him backwards. He started calling me all sorts at that point. We told him he’d been hurting W and he needed to back off. He said to stop pushing him.

Why should we stop pushing him off W when he was hurting her if he was ok to push us in a way that hurt?

Then his friend joined in. The friend got his shoulder in against W on her right side and started violently shoving her against me. She was holding onto the monitor to try and stay upright and I had to grab hold of her to stop her falling down. At one point I smacked him (lightly) in the head to try and get him to see what he was doing – he didn’t care. The first guy started screaming at me again at this point and crowding in against W. W started to step away, decided to stand her ground and pushed back again. The 2 men only started shoving her more violently.

Then the 2nd guy took out his phone and deliberately shoved it in front of W’s face so she couldn’t see.  W saw red at this point and grabbed the phone and a tussle ensued. While this was happening Guy #1 started screaming at me again – at this point all I was doing was bracing W so she didn’t get pushed to the ground. But apparently I was being violent. Then Craig Finn leaned over, pointed at Guy #2 and said quite clearly “Fuck off.”  They settled.

About 4 songs later the dancing erupted again. At this point there was a woman about my size standing behind me and she was suddenly shoved against me violently. She was definitely being pushed as she was struggling to stay upright. I asked her a couple of times if she was ok or if she needed help and she said she was fine. Then she suddenly wasn’t fine. She practically had to crawl out as a very drunk man had started battering her with his arms and knees and elbows. Once she moved he tried it with me. I brought my DM up against his shin to encourage him to stop.

The first guy then jumped in again and started screaming at me and told the guy I was a cunt and a knobhead.  The drunk guy in question decided it wasn’t worth the effort and moved. We were, after this, swarmed by a different group of men and amazingly the elbows and shoving stopped. It turned into actual dancing. I know it was dancing because instead of being shoved against a stage and having to fight to stay upright I was only being occasionally bumped as part of the ebb and flow of the crowd.

When we got out of the gig I tweeted a couple of times about the experience and went to bed.

W woke up with bruising down her right side and she’s told me she’s “in agony down the right side of my body.”

I woke up to the same two guys having left me a string of replies in which they not only tried to get Craig Finn involved and defending their behavior but in which they also suggested that I wasn’t a real fan because I wasn’t dancing (or in the internet fan club) – never mind the back problem which had me on painkillers last night, I couldn’t have danced if I’d wanted to as I was too busy gripping a monitor to stay upright. Even so – what law says I have to dance to be enjoying a gig? He clearly didn’t see both W and I singing along. Or he was trying to justify his aggression against two women half his size.

You can read the ongoing exchange:

Let me say here and now that in no way was Craig Finn’s admonishment directed at me – he wasn’t even looking in my direction – but because later on Craig Finn did make a comment about gigs being about contact (and the word ‘bump’ was used) these guys decided that this was a sign that their behavior was entirely appropriate. It’s a problem because surely it’s behavior bands should be discouraging – both the sense of entitlement and the idea that some fans are more worthy than others AND the idea that it’s ever acceptable in any situation, gig or not, to do something that you know is causing harm to others and to pretend it’s not your fault.

I have to ask – would any of this have happened if we were men? If we’d been 5’10” instead of 4’10” would those guys have persisted or would they have found some other small women to harass? I have to ask but I already know the answer. The answer is in what we said to The Ledge and M after the gig “Next time, however tall you feel, you’re staying put. When you 2 are behind us, we never end up in pain the next day.”

Bands, venues, fans – it’s up to you  guys to step in and discourage the behavior which says anything goes because it’s a gig, the casual acceptance of violence against women because they don’t deserve to be in a male space like an indie show, and the tolerance of seeing other people causing injury to those around you who need your help.

Posted by JustHipper on 8th May 2014 at 7:00 pm | comments (80)
File under Uncategorized.

The Manchester Gig Guide: 27th October – 2nd November 2008

Noah And The Whale have scored a quite surprising amount of chart success in recent months so it’s a surprise that they’re playing a vanue as small as the Academy 3 on Monday night. It’s not surprising that it’s sold out, though, and with Nitin Sawhney the Academy 2 on the same night it looks like the Academy is just a step too far at this point in their short career. On the same night, French ambient post-rockers M83 play the Ruby Lounge and Cheeky Cheeky and the Nosebleeds are on at the Roadhouse. I just looked at their Myspace and thought, “Hey, they look a bit like The Young Knives, but with more members”. Then I listened and lo and behold…

There’s an very good bill at the Deaf Institute on Tuesday where Drowned In Sound put on Wild Beasts with support from the excellent Cats In Paris and with members of the recently-split Long Blondes on the decks. On Wednesday we’ve got The Walkmen at the Academy 3, Jackie-O Moherfucker at the King’s Arms in Salford and Canadian country rockers The Sadies at the Night & Day.

Elbow return to the Apollo due to popular demand on Thursday while WOTGODFORGOT put on A.R.E. Weapons (remember them? thought not) at Big Hands on Oxford Road. Also at the Apollo on Saturday are Hot Chip which will probably be a far more satisfactory experience than the Icicle Works karaoke that Ian McNabb will no doubt be bringing to the Academy 3 for a mere £15 a head.

Posted by The Ledge on 26th October 2008 at 9:00 am | comments (5)
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The Indie Cred Manchester Gig Guide: 7th-13th July 2008

Summer In The Park Festival
We’re saving all our gig-going energies for T In The Park next weekend but there’s much going on in Manchester this week with plenty of bands on the T bill doing the rounds.

On Tuesday, Interpol, who were a massive disappointment the last time we saw them at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool, hit the Apollo with Ladytron in tow, while on Wednesday, Cardiff indie poppers The School play the Night & Day with an excellent support bill, including local bands Amida and the much-touted Cats In Paris, as well as the excellent Rosie Taylor Project. I’ve never heard of The School before but, from what I can hear on their Myspace page, they sound like they know their way around a Belle And Sebastian record or two. Also on Wednesday, Austin, Texas garage rockers-du-jour White Denim play the Roadhouse.

At the Roadhouse on Thursday are the excellent Jaguar Love, whose Take Me To The Sea album is an absolute joy to behold. Unfortunately we’ll be on our way up to Scotland by then so we’ll also miss the Transgressive Hot Summer Tour at the Night & Day on the same night which features Jeremy Warmsley, Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man and Liam Finn, among others. If neither of those tickle your fancy then get yourselves down to the King’s Arms in Salford for Simon Connor‘s EP launch party which features support from The Bangs, who we highly recommend, and only costs £3 to get in to.

On Saturday and Sunday the inaugural Summer In The Park festival takes place at Platt Fields. Manchester needs a new festival to fill the considerable void left by the disappearance of D:Percussion from the schedules and Summer In The Park looks like it might just fit the bill. It’s billed as a food and drink festival so while there’s an excellent music line-up, including I Am Kloot, The Earlies, Magic Arm, Liam Frost, Stephen Fretwell, Lucy And The Caterpillar, The Bottomfeeders and Gideon Conn, some of the city’s finest eating establishments will be setting up shop for the weekend, including Grill On The Alley, MosoMoso, The Northern Quarter Restaurant, Tampopo, Evuna, Chaophraya and Carluccio’s, to name but a few. It’s £9 for a day ticket and £17 for a weekend pass and it almost makes me wish that we weren’t heading up to Scotland this weekend. Let’s just hope the weather holds out for all of us.

Posted by The Ledge on 6th July 2008 at 10:47 pm | comments (3)
File under gig guide,gigs,interpol,manchester gigs,simon connor,summer in the park,the bangs,Uncategorized.

Video: The National play “Green Gloves” at Manchester Academy 2, 4th November 2007

This was over a week ago so it’s a bit too late for a full review but here’s a video I shot of The National playing “Green Gloves” at the Academy 2 a week last Sunday, with support act St. Vincent on backing vocals.

The National @ Manchester Academy 2It was a great gig with St. Vincent going down very well and impressing with her brilliant (and quite unique) guitar playing, her excellent use of the looping pedal and her wonderful vocals. The National were on spellbinding form. After opening with “Start A War”, followed by “Mistaken For Strangers” and “Secret Meeting”, I simply lost track of events, so wrapped up was I in the proceedings. The Boxer material sounded especially good, with much of it escaping the confines of the dark and muted atmosphere of the album to blossom into dynamic rock masterpieces while still retaining that dark heart, thanks to Matt Beringer’s unholy croon. The National: great on record, even better live.

St. Vincent – Marry Me

The National – Wasp Nest

Posted by The Ledge on 16th November 2007 at 6:58 pm | comments (3)
File under manchester academy 2,st. vincent,the national,Uncategorized,video,youtube.

Gig Review: Joanna Newsom & Northern Sinfonia at Manchester Bridgewater Hall, January 15, 2007

On Sunday night I was upstairs checking my email. As I started to cross from one room into another, to turn off all the excess lights, I heard what I thought was our cat making a horrible noise – I thought he might be in pain. I started down the stairs when little Cosmo ran up them, fleeing from the kitchen but otherwise fine. I could still hear the noise. Halfway down I realised that The Ledge was in the kitchen listening to The Milk-Eyed Mender. ‘Aha!’ I thought, ‘My first impression of Joanna Newsom really was not so off-base, she really does sound like an injured cat yowling.’ But that’s a bit unfair really. Although her voice is, shall we say, unusual, it has its own character and I’ve actually grown quite fond of its unusual tone since The Ledge first tied me down and forced me to listen to “Bridges and Balloons.”

Since then, we’ve seen her live twice: once at the Academy 2 where even The Ledge struggled to see her over the heads of the giant men who turned out in support, and once at All Tomorrow’s Parties where her set was plagued by drunkards talking so loudly it was difficult to hear her during the quieter bits of the songs. Needless to say, we were ecstatic about the prospect of seeing her in an appropriate setting! No worries about the acoustics and lack of visibility in the Academy 2. No fears of drunken chatter drowning out her vocals. Just the amazing acoustics of the Bridgewater Hall, Joanna, her harp and a classical orchestra. We missed out on the opening act as we were having a drink in the bar, and as we filed into the hall we were surprised and pleased to note that signs indicated she would play with the orchestra for an hour, take a 20 minute break and then perform another 40 minutes unaccompanied.

First emerged the orchestra, tuning their violins and cellos. Then she emerged, all smiles, looking dwarfed by the conductor and two further musicians, a drummer/backing vocalist, and a guitarist who also played banjo and bazouki throughout the course of the evening. She then proceeded to launch into a breathtaking and exhilirating run through her second album, Ys, from start to finish. She was, despite the numerous musicians behind her, very much the centre of attention and while The Ledge tells me he was fascinated by all the different musicians playing their different parts, I couldn’t take my eyes off her hands up and down the harp, wondering how she managed to play so perfectly and sing such complex and skillfull poetry so sincerely at the same time. The first two numbers, “Emily” and “Monkey and Bear” despite their length, flew past. I was surprised to hear a male voice, before I realised the percussionist was singing harmonies. It worked very well. Then the orchestra put their instruments down and watched as Joanna performed “Sawdust and Diamonds” by herself, the most moving part of the first half of show. They picked their instruments back up as she concluded with “Only Skin” and “Cosmia,” giving many kudos to the orchestra between songs and gushing and smiling at the audience reaction. Then she exited for the interval.

When she re-emerged, along, she immediately leapt into “Bridges and Balloons” which sounded magnificent, her fingers flying up and down the strings of the harp, mesmerising. She then performed what she called an old Scottish folk song as well as a new track, accompanied by the bazouki player and the singing percussionist. She also did a startling version of “Book of Right On” and the highlight of the set, the tender “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie” before finishing with “Peach, Plum Pear,” the latter half only broken by more praise for Northern Sinfonia and a brief exit while the crowd bayed for her return. When she finished and the lights went up, the young woman sat behind me had tears in her eyes. While I wasn’t quite moved to tears myself, it was a remarkable performance and I’m looking forward to her ATP performance in April, even if I have to endure more infuriating talking and a lack of concert hall acoustics.

Joanna Newsom – Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie

Joanna Newsom – Monkey And Bear

Posted by JustHipper on 16th January 2007 at 11:38 pm | comments (7)
File under Gig Reviews,mp3,Reviews,Uncategorized.