WARNING: This article discusses sexual assault at live shows. If you need to speak to someone, or you’re worried about a mate, you can chat to the lovely folks over at Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the National Sexual Assault Hotline on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).
After an under-18s gig in Hawthorn on Saturday, The Smith Street Band learned of an incident of sexual assault within the crowd that led to an alleged arrest and decided to cancel the second last date of their tour in Castlemaine.
Frontman Wil Wagner posted a lengthy explanation on the band’s Facebook, detailing his reasoning behind not wanting to play shows anymore, considering their fan base now includes people who think it’s okay to inappropriately touch other people in a crowd.
The person who allegedly groped a member of the crowd was identified and apparently arrested, sparking Wagner to speak out about the behaviour of people at gigs.
In the post, Wagner discusses and recognises the fact that his music has garnered attention from the kind of people he doesn’t want at shows, but admits that it’s hard to control a crowd of a thousand people. He goes on to explain his distress over people assaulting at shows that he has helped to facilitate, noting that the band goes to a lot of trouble to try and cultivate a space that “doesn’t get people riled up.”
As someone who was on the receiving end of unwanted touching and groping at a gig very recently (literally last week), reading through Wagner’s post is upsetting. Upsetting because it happened; upsetting because people think behaving this way to others is okay; upsetting because incidents like this are not uncommon. They’ve been happening at Smith Street Band shows for the last handful of years, and they’ve been happening at other shows for years and years and years well before they were around.
From what can be read from this vomit of words and thoughts with minimal nuance, Wagner is making someone else’s experience about himself and the work that he does. Hell, the line “I know I’m essentially making other people’s trauma about me” makes the entire post null and void, because yes that is what Wagner is doing here.
If you are cultivating and curating a space where people can feel free to approach members of staff and security to confidentially talk about an incident at your show, don’t take that away from them. Not every show has space where people can text or call a number if they’re feeling threatened or uncomfortable, and cancelling shows that have these resources is doing very little to minimise harm.
Being an outspoken ambassador of initiatives like Your Choice means you can’t just bail on a community when people begin to utilise the services that you’ve purposefully put in place.
Though it can be read as his intentions were good and true, this is not a helpful way to discuss the way that people (namely men) act at live shows. It’s doing not much beyond using a victim’s trauma to virtue signal and then perpetuate negative behaviour through shoving your fingers in your ears, squeezing your eyes shut, and holding your breath until it goes away.
If this article has brought up anything that you would like to talk to someone about, or you are worried about a mate, you can get in touch with Lifeline on 13 11 14, the national sexual assault hotline on 1800RESPECT. More resources on taking care of each other at live shows and in venues are over at 1800RESPECT and Your Choice.