Last week, shitty behaviour at two concerts, half a world apart, turned into internet stories featuring two Canadian musicians with a lesson that needs to be learned by music fans of all genres in all cities.
On Tuesday, November 14, Dallas Smith’s Side Effects Tour took over the Encana Events Centre in Dawson Creek, BC – and in Smith’s words, here’s what happened.
Tonight I got to watch girls and guys punching, pulling hair, groping girls ect ect. Disgusting Dawson Creek. Most fans were great. Others ruined it. Grow the f**k up.
And on Wednesday, November 15, at Sydney’s Marquee nightclub a similar incident was recorded by a fan at Drake’s show in Australia. From the stage Drake called out a male fan for groping women in the crowd.
That’s two incidents, on opposite sides of the globe, 24 hours apart. This isn’t about Dawson Creek, it isn’t about Sydney, it’s about shitty behaviour and assault at concerts.
What followed for Smith was a Twitter storm that was picked up by news outlets, radio station websites and more. And, in my eyes, most problematically, there was push back and defensiveness where there should have been support and action. People with voices, big and small, were more interested in defending themselves and a city than dealing with the problem.
One of those responses, defensive in nature and ignoring the problem, came from Dawson Creek Mayor, Dale Bumstead who posted these words on Facebook…
My heart, my stomach, my body hurts when someone makes a discouraging comment about our city. It hurts even more when people in our community feel the opportunity to join in and share in the statement. You cannot underestimate the importance of your reputation. An event that impacts the Cities reputation can have long lasting effects. Maybe a significant economic opportunity is lost because a business leader reads the media reports and says “shouldn’t go near that city” Maybe another major event like U17 says better stay away from there. Maybe a new Doctor says, not there I heard they …….
These can all have a direct and significant impact on each and everyone of us.
Reputation IS everything.
We work hard day in and day out to build our communities reputation as a community that has a great quality of life.
Very sad day for me right now [crying face emoji]
I get it. We can all understand defensiveness and standing up our city. Hell, that’s his job. But where was the acceptance that something bad happened in his city? Where was the support for the victims of the reported hair pulling, fighting, and sexual assault? Where was the community when some of its members needed it most?
Now, I’m not here to put the Mayor on blast. And I’m not even here to call out Dawson Creek – because this isn’t about Dawson Creek, and it’s not about country music. Just like it isn’t about Sydney and hip-hop. It’s about understanding that, as communities, we need to care about each other. We need to look out for each other. And when someone does something shitty at a show, or in any setting, we need to hold them accountable, not circle the wagons to defend ourselves and make ourselves feel better and look innocent.
I’m a straight cis white male, so I’m trying to stay in my lane here. And I can tell you, from personal experience, that there are times when I see a post online that generalizes the behaviours of straight white men and my instinct is to think or say “not me, not all men”. Defensiveness: I get it. But then I realize that those posts are rooted in deeply personal experiences by the people that write and share them – and I know that someone who looks a lot like me was the reason that the post exists. So it may not have anything to do with me directly, but in a way, it does.
Let’s throw an example together.
After the concerts in Dawson Creek and Sydney, at least one woman went home and told her friends or family, or herself in the mirror that she had been assaulted. And when she describes who assaulted her, it’s going to be a male country music or hip-hop fan in Dawson Creek or Sydney. She’s not saying that all male country music fans in Dawson Creek or all male hip-hop fans in Sydney assaulted her. She’s not vilifying all males, country music fans, hip-hop fans or people in those communities – but the truth remains that someone that fits that description assaulted her.
Here’s where you come in. Do you…
A) Say, “Don’t blame all men because one guy acted shitty”
B) Say, “Don’t blame all country music and hip-hop fans because one of them acted shitty”
C) Say, “Don’t blame all of Dawson Creek and Sydney because one concert goer acted shitty”
D) Say, “That’s terrible, I hate that it happened, we need to be better and do our best to make sure it never happens again in Dawson Creek or Sydney or anywhere else.”
If your gut answer is A, B, or C, you’re not a bad person. But if you don’t ever get to D because you’re so busy digging your heels in on any or all of the other answers, you’re ignoring the actual problem, you’re ignoring the assault that happened, and you’re excusing the actions of the shitty male country music fan in Dawson Creek and the shitty male hip-hop fan in Sydney.
You can change male to female. You can change country music and hip-hop to rock or pop. You can change Dawson Creek and Sydney to Toronto or Melbourne. The example holds up.
Assault at concerts and festivals happens. If you’ve been to enough shows you may have witnessed it. Sometimes it’s a fight in the crowd between two guys who run into each other and a drink gets spilled. Sometimes it’s a fight between two women for the same reason. Sometimes it’s a guy groping a woman and thinking that he can get away with it. Sometimes it’s worse. The sad truth is, the incidents in Dawson Creek and Sydney weren’t isolated.
And if it’s ever going to get better, we need to start taking responsibility for these actions and each other, not deflecting to make ourselves feel innocent or persecuted for someone else’s shitty actions.
Unless you are a person who has acted shitty and assaulted someone at a concert, you shouldn’t feel attacked by anyone calling out that kind of behaviour. If you are against shitty behaviour but feeling defensive, you should probably ask yourself why you’re more concerned with yourself right now instead of a person that was assaulted. And if you care about people who are assaulted but are still feeling defensive, you should care more about them then the reputation of your community – especially in the immediate aftermath.
We are all really good at worrying about ourselves. We are all really good at not wanting to look bad. We are all really good at distancing ourselves from problematic issues that happen in our communities. What we need to be better at is not running away from a problem so we can feel good about ourselves, or hide from a problem to avoid feeling bad about ourselves. We all need to be better at identifying problematic behaviour in our communities and working to eradicate that behaviour.
As music fans, we all belong to communities. In Toronto I can identify faces at country shows, rock shows, pop shows, hip-hop shows… we see the same people at different venues for different artists, there to watch music because they love music. And when a country fan or a rock and roll fan does something shady or shitty at one of those shows, it falls on the Toronto community of that fandom to stand with each other, protect each other, and support each other. The moment one of those communities throws its hands in the air and says “it’s not our problem that one fan did a bad thing” – it’s all gone to shit and the word community means nothing.
We are all stronger as a community. We are all better as a community. We are all together as a community. But if we don’t act like it… it doesn’t matter.
Music fans across all genres need to know that this kind of thing happens, and that it’s not okay. We need to know that the people who carry out these reprehensible acts of violence and assault should be punished and held accountable by law. We need to stand together and ensure that we don’t shrug our shoulders and say “there’s nothing we can do”.
It shouldn’t be on entertainers to call this behaviour out from the stage or on Twitter. And while it can be helpful, and certainly respectable when they do, it should be on us.
If you ever witness someone physically or verbally assaulting a fan at a concert or festival, take action. If you don’t feel comfortable confronting the assault, go get security. If you do feel comfortable confronting the assault, be careful – and have someone else go get security. If you witness an assault and the person who committed the act has left the area, be there to support the victim – and have someone get security. And if you’re at a concert with someone committing any kind of assault – call them on it, make them stop, don’t turn a blind eye.
We know it’s not all concert goers. But one is too many. And we all need to stick together and do the right thing to make sure that it doesn’t happen.
When we stand together, we are strong. When we turn our backs on the people in our communities in their times of need, we are weak.
We need to be strong.