How was your weekend? What did you get up to? Oh yeah? Cool. Enough with the chit chat. Look, you’re right, this is one of those letters and for someone who is relatively small in stature you’re damn right my pen will be mightier than the sword.
I’m writing this because I’m getting desperate. Because the crap you keep pulling is sending me insane and makes me long for 14 hour train trips to Melbourne to go and see shows. Don’t play dumb, ok – enough is enough. I left a gig a little early on Friday night, only so no one would notice that I was fighting an incredible fever and carrying a jar of Vicks VapoRub instead of a beer.
I thought yeah, good work Newcastle, finally, a show where everyone came to have a good time, respect each other and – oh, I dunno – maybe watch the band play? Especially a band as wonderful and humble as The Hard Aches who make such a point of reiterating that everyone respect each other and be kind to each other. Basic stuff yeah? Especially with Ben raising the fact that a girl left their show in Port Macquarie the previous night with a broken nose.
So yes, I left early. But I woke up to a Facebook post the next day, made by a good friend of mine, noting again, that the Newy crowd had unfortunately done what every single band that comes here now expects us to do: fuck it up.
I threw my phone across the room for about the 60th time this year. And you’re right, it’s not everyone. And I think it’s what’s really driving me to write this, because eventually, the bands will stop coming. Unfortunately, the only people it hurts, are the ones who are there to watch the bands play, and not jump up on stage like a twat, yell in the singer’s face “do a shoooeeeeyyyy mate!” whilst they are… I dunno… TRYING TO DO THEIR JOB.
It’s not just the gig on Friday. It’s happening all over Newcastle. I saw the Smith Street Band last year and came home with a ripped t-shirt and a black eye. Not an accidental black eye. I was punched in the face in the pit – and this is not the first time. Yes, I can hear it already: “If you don’t like the pit stay out of it”. No way. This is not at all about that. I have been front row at many a gig, and in the middle of many a mosh pit of much, MUCH heavier gigs than the ones I’m talking about.
Because the pit is where I choose to stand, and it’s where I belong, I love being there and that’s how I choose to enjoy a show. Standing toe to toe with Karina Utomo from High Tension whilst she literally screamed lyrics in my face and the pit raged around me is my absolute favourite gig memory. That genre of music makes me feel 10 foot tall and I will never ever ever stop going to those shows.
But this is not about coming home with a stray bruise or tired legs from having the best time ever at a gig. This is about the gig goers who have no respect for the safety of others. At a Luca Brasi gig earlier this year, I saw a girl get dragged into the pit only to be pulled out just in time before she was fly-kicked to the face. The same thing happened at the Pup gig earlier this year. I’ve seen groups of people at these gigs blatantly turn their back on whoever is performing on stage, to run at an unsuspecting punter fist-first – for what? For the sake of music? “It’s punk rock, man,” one guy told me as I pulled him off the floor, bloody-nosed, full cut. It’s not punk rock. It’s not even punk. It’s not even hardcore. You’re an idiot. And it’s definitely not cool.
The irony is so lost on this particular breed of punter as their apparent favourite band are trying to perform onstage, as they tune out messages from the bands that all say the same thing – “Look out for each other, have each others backs and be safe out there”. This isn’t some joke. This isn’t just something bands say to, as one guy puts it to me, “appear all new agey. The have to say that stuff now… Ya know, punk just isn’t punk anymore”. What? Who are you, and why are you even here?
Back to the Luca Brasi Gig. Why are we known as the town of the shoey? One punter ran past me knocking the guy in front of me over, to climb side of stage, pour his beer into his shoe and attempt to reach out to frontman Tyler “carn mate you’re in newy now you gotta do itttttt carrnnn”.
If you want to drink your beer out of your shoe man you go right ahead. Like I say, you do you. But don’t drag our town into it and paint us all with your bro brush. Don’t jump on unsuspecting punters. Don’t grope women just because they happen to be in the pit (FYI: Don’t grope women or anyone at all, ever!) Don’t yell “fucking Newy!” at the top of your lungs whilst you drag someone at the edge of the pit in. I mean, it’s not just happening at hardcore or punk bands shows either. At the Alex Lahey gig a month or so ago – after she had finished playing – not one but TWO fights broke out on the dance floor.
The definition of what exactly it means to be a Newy punk kid, or even a gig goer in Newcastle, or what it actually means to love and follow these bands seems to be lost on so many people.
Punk doesn’t mean getting in peoples’ faces who are clearly trying to just have a good time. Being a fan of hardcore music doesn’t mean you have to prove to each and every punter that you’re the most hardcore person at the show. That you’ll get so into the set that you’ll climb up on stage and attempt to grab the microphone from the lead singer, who again, is just trying to do their job. You’re not a hero mate. Going to gigs and jumping in the pit does not mean you own the entire space. It also doesn’t mean that you can grab hold of anyone around you and toss them around without their consent.
Have you checked the Facebook pages of the bands you apparently love the most lately? Every single time some idiot decides to behave like how they think a true punk lad is meant to behave, the bands comment. They do. And they will stop coming. They will stop coming here. How would you feel if you were on stage, playing the music you love, that you’ve worked really hard to make, that you’re touring endlessly just to honestly make ends meet only to find out someone was assaulted whilst you were playing?
One of my own personal experiences happened this year at a local venue, where a guy thought it appropriate to lift me up and physically remove me from the pit saying “Oh, darl, I’d just hate for you to get hurt, I mean this is a hardcore show after all,” he said. “The pit is for the blokes”. Thank you to my mate who had my back that night. I won’t name and shame the venue or the specific gig but to that dickhead: how about you learn how to pronounce the name of the band before you shove your fake chivalry in my face. Again. The pit is where I choose to stand.
If you have bothered to keep up with the social media of your favourite bands (Frenzal Rhomb, The Bennies, Camp Cope, Totally Unicorn, The Hard Aches, Clowns and Luca Brasi, amongst others) you may have noticed a really important video and the #ittakesone movement. Artists have had enough. Punters have had enough. Because it takes one dickhead to ruin a show. But… on the upside. It also takes one person to stand up for the safety of others at shows.
Can we stop putting Newcastle on the map for all the wrong reasons? Can we not be the town where artists stop coming because of the way we treat each other in the pit? I’m not standing here saying that we all need to tread on eggshells whilst at gigs, or start sitting down whilst bands like High Tension, Frenzal Rhomb or even the Bennies rip into a set.
Go and have a flipping good time! Dance around with your mates, enjoy the music and go and live every single minute of your life. But please. Stop punching people in the pit. Stop starting fights. Stop groping women. Stop assaulting people. Listen to the artists when they say “look after one another” and far out: stop being an idiot. Be that one person who chooses to stand up and say something. Let’s keep Newcastle on the touring map for the bands we all love.
And for God’s sake, don’t be a dickhead.
Photo: Getty / Ollie Millington.
This article was republished with permission from Newcastle Live.