You might have heard about a recent incident involving Californian pop-punk frontman Parker Cannon, his band The Story So Far, and one young lady. With only one song left of the set, this lady took it upon herself to steal a moment to remember by climbing onstage and snapping a quick selfie. Cannon reacted by violently kicking the girl in the back, sending her lurching into the jaws of the crowd.
So what’s the problem? She climbed onstage, which is against the rules, and was punished for it. This incident shines a comically large spotlight on the the way women are treated in the live music community. But that’s not what I want to talk about right now. Namely because Emma Garland from Noisey has already valiantly cleared the table in that department, but also because it raises a question, not about arrogant frontmen and assault, but crowd-control. As a side note: the 21-year old girl was unscathed and is embracing the incident like a good sport.
As you can see from the footage of that fateful night, there’s basically no security present, which is a common occurrence at close-quarters shows like these. In any case, should the band be responsible for the safety of the crowd? It’s an old punk aphorism that if someone falls down, you help them back up. This unspoken kinship is what keeps aggression out of the pit and the catharsis accessible. But that’s not what happened at this show. This was one frontman’s decision to set an example for the way to treat others in live music situations.
United by the outsider brand, the respectful nature of punk shows isn’t myth. It’s alive today being embraced by bands like Joyce Manor who have no problem calling out entitled violence as proven with one situation where a larger man is called out for purposefully toppling over a group of smaller attendees. There was no aggressive control or egos steering how this situation was handled, it was a precautionary measure in lieu of proper stage management.
But ‘won’t somebody please think of the children?!’, oh, we are. And the outlook is bleak. One twitter user succinctly explained the knock-on effect of not just The Story So Far altercation, but the whole take-no-prisoners, vindictive pop-punk attitude in general. In his words ‘Pop punk needs to die because there’s no reason petty 30 year olds with grudges against their exes should teach teen boys how to treat women’. That said, this is an issue that stretches beyond the pop-punk community.
Having seen what they just saw, especially at an impressionable age, these kids won’t be regaling their half-awake Dads on the drive back from the venue with tales of encores and early onset tinnitus. Instead, they’re more likely to be making snide remarks about a ‘stupid girl’ that appeared to have taken the fun a little bit too far – except those won’t be the words they use to explain it.
With security absent and the ‘no-rules pop-punk’ agenda building momentum, it’s up to the musicians to draw the line in the sand between ‘just far enough’ and ‘too far’. In this instance, climbing onstage to take a picture was ‘too far’ – despite it being part of the experience from that girl’s perspective. Live music is meant to cultivate an environment of catharsis and fun, and, sometimes, fun means not getting assaulted for stepping marginally over unspoken boundaries.