A Call For Respect and Perspective at Shows: A Letter to the Editor
My name is Jeff Brian and I am a college student in St.Louis. I have been meaning to write this for a very long time, but with school restricting my time it has been next to impossible. I read the various posts about our scene and I would like to expound on the subject as well as throw a few more things into the fire. Let me first state that I am 19 years old and have been into the music since I was a child. It is funny because I was never introduced to the music by my parents or any other family member. Instead, for lack of a better phrase, the music introduced itself to me. Like most people in our community, to me, the music is something…..that is indescribable. As I am writing this to you I am reflecting on how much the music, as well as the community, have shaped me into the person I am today. The music and the community are so near and dear to my heart that they practically are my heart. There is no better feeling then hearing a beautiful song and have it move you in both body and soul. When this happens, as I am sure you know all too well, it is the best feeling in the world; sorry for the blatant pun. However, when something comes in between you and the music it can completely ruin the whole experience. Call me what you will, but certain issues need to be addressed and the sooner they are, the better. I will try to be as diplomatic as possible in addressing these issues because when it comes down to it, there is nothing better then people coming together and sharing a wonderful experience together! Granted, there is no way to control the evolution of the "scene," but there are ways to make it better.
Let me start by addressing the younger members of the community. The does not exclusively pertain to them, because there are many people who this pertains to, but the bottom line is that they need to learn respect. I have no problem with age because I would be a hypocrite if did. I saw my first Phish show when I was 11 years old and therefore would fall into this category. I recently attended a few Cheese shows and was completely shocked by the lack of respect for both the community and the event staff I experienced. One of the nights I was on the floor dancing and all of a sudden I was pushed by a kid who could not have been more than 12 years old. He was trying to make his way to the front of the arena to get a better look. Instead of saying "excuse me," he said "watch out." He then proceeded to drag a chain of his friends up to the front and further crowd an already crowded area. Had he said "excuse me" I would have been more forgiving but the fact of the matter is he did not. This continued throughout the night and only added to more crowding and less room. Should someone who waits in line to get a spot have to suffer because someone has no respect. While moving up on the floor in commonplace, I find it extremely disrespectful. One, it is disrespecting the fan who waited in line to secure a spot close to the stage and it makes the time he or she spent meaningless. Second, crowding the front only restricts space and makes it harder to move and dance. This in turn makes the show less enjoyable and less meaningful. As previously stated, this is not directed exclusively to the younger members because many people, no matter their age. What ever happened to "Take a Step Back?" I am not advocating that a person be allowed "x" amount of moving space, yet a person should be allowed move and "shake their ass." In turn, that person should not flail about in encroach in someone else's space. Simply stated, it is just common courtesy. It is as if the kindness the it preached in the lot is only discarded when the person leaves the lot and heads into to the show. Let me state again that this is NOT directed to the community as a whole, because there are many people who are totally respectful of others. Also, please let me say that I am not trying to preach or parent anyone because I am NOT. What I am saying is that people need to be more expressive and let people know that they do care about our scene!
With that said I would also like to address the disrespect I have seen toward the venues and their staff. Does the kindness that is purported to exist between the members of our community not extend to everyone? For example, the last Cheese show I attended on April 13 was one of the most intense shows I have seen in a very long time. The energy the band gave off was absolutely incredible. However, before the show started there was a mob of people who jump the gate that led to the floor. By the time the show started there was absolutely no room on the floor. On top of that, once people had jumped the gate they danced around the understaffed security guards as if to flaunt it in their face. After a while the security guards gave up because there was no way to control the massive amount of people that were coming over the gates. Aside from that, there were numerous other incidents that showed the lack of respect that people in our scene have. An example of this, which has been going on for some time, is people using the sinks and trash cans as toilets. Aside from being totally disgusting, it makes washing your hands impossible. I couldn't care less about washing my hands, but some people enjoy cleaning their hands after using the bathroom. Now, does it not defeat the whole purpose of washing your hands if the sink in which you are using is dirty with the substance you are trying to wash your hands clean of in the first place? Moreover, what about the people who fill up water bottles in those sinks? That is awful. Along with that, people have no respect for the people who work concessions and the people who are waiting in like to boot. It is the same basic principle that applies to the "dance" floor. Those who get there first have priority and those who get there last have to move back and deal with it. To make matters worse, people will not even help a fellow fan who is having a bad trip and needs something to drink. As the dehydrated fan collapsed in the middle of a large mass of people clumped together waiting to get a drink, no one did anything to help. I had to tell people to get out of the way and let the man's friends help him through. I am not trying to sound like a saint or anything, but seriously, it is obvious when a person is dehydrated and needs water.
Finally, please show some respect for security guards and ushers. I am tired of people complaining when they get searched or told to move back. They are only doing their job. It is not like they hold some individual beef with every fan who comes in through the gates. People should expect this and plan accordingly. My advice to do what needs to be done in the lot before the show and if there is a desire to take stuff into the show then take the appropriate precautions. In the post 9-11 period, people have absolutely no right to complain to the tightened security. I understand that we are a kind, peaceful bunch, but that does not mean a thing to them. They are paid to do their job just as the band is paid to play as well as the vendors are paid to make delicious veggie burritos.
I apologize for this being lengthy, but in all honesty this could be longer. There are many more things that could be said such as supporting the smaller bands that are in your community or who open for larger bands. You never know who is going to be the next "big thing." More so, you never know who is going to be the next band that is going to blow your mind. While there is no such thing as a perfect world, music may be the one instrument by which something that resembles a utopia could be created. The community that we all share in is a very beautiful thing. When people come together to share in the same groove words cannot describe how special it is. In order for this to happen, people need to be respectful of their neighbor, themselves, and the event staff. The music will never stop and as one man one said, "It doesn't matter what you wear just as long as you are there." I would like to extend this and say that it doesn't matter where you are or who you are with just as long as you appreciate and respect what you are taking part in. Thank you to everyone who have shaped me into the person that I am today. Whether it was something that was deliberately done or unintentional, thank you!