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Mind Your Head

Nigel, Sunday 26th May, 2013

This being the internets, many of you have probably seen this excellent piece of writing, by a guy who appears to be smart and switched on and honourable and brave and all of that right stuff:

It certainly had a resonance with me, as it's something that crosses my mind on many nights of my working life. In my position sat with a good view of the front row welded to a drum stool and with little else to do of an evening except keep an eye on the goings on in the crowd (well, apart from the drumming I suppose) I get to see all sorts. About which maybe I will talk another time.

But I feel properly torn when anything rough or injurious happens. In Winnipeg on one tour I had to grab some jock moron who was shoving people smaller than him about (that was a bit of over-sensitive sexism worry - my original sentence was 'shoving girls about', but believe me I'm very aware that there are plenty of girls out there who are far more capable than me of standing up to jock morons). But that kind of thing, in its way, doesn't make me tense. It's straightforward - that guy's a dick, and if there's no security to do what needs to be done I'm happy to go and take charge. (The knock-on effect was to cause my biggest and most toe-curling onstage fuck-up ever, but that also is a story for another day).

Harder to cope with is things like the first of our two Webster Hall shows in New York. A crowd surfer came over and mashed a girl's face into the barrier on his way to ground. I very starkly remember the look of horrified shock on the face of her friend next to her a moment later - I couldn't see clearly myself but it had clearly done some serious damage.

My first instinct was to run over and help, but for better or worse in those cases professionalism has to be maintained so I continued drumming, slightly distractedly, while she was taken out of the crowd. When the yawnsome solo acoustic section in the middle (just kidding) came about I ran out to front of house to see if I could find her and check if she was OK. Security told me that she was outside and an ambulance was imminent. To me it seemed a weak and pathetic salve, but I went and grabbed a T-shirt from our merch stand to give to her (to mop up the blood? as a memento of a gig where she got injured? fucked if I know). I caught up with her just before the ambulance headed off, where she looked dazed and confused but alive.

I heard later that the woman concerned was fine, but I see the same thing (thankfully to a lesser extent, and even more thankfully at a different degree of seriousness than the Lamb Of God incident) most nights - someone always gets an unexpected kick to the side of the head in the centre of the front row and I feel really bad. Even though my initial feeling is that the crowd surfers are irresponsible arses, I know that's not the case - it's a gig and that kind of thing is an exciting expression of the energy and enjoyment that we are trying to create. But equally I can't put myself in a position of imagining that what I'm doing is in any way worth getting a boot to the temple, or a cracked skull.

There's no solution here, just spleen venting. But I feel better having screamed. (Anyone catch that reference?) I guess all I can say is look after each other in any rock and roll crowd you're in, and if you want to be in the front row either accept that there may be some roughness, or come prepared with an American Football Helmet.


VenomousBear, Wed 10th July 2013, 02:13:14 PM
I was LOSING my shit at Lee's Palace in Toronto, as I was standing beside a petite girl I had just met, and being a thin and gangly lady myself, couldn't do much to protect her from the aggressive crowd surfers and skankers. I get that it's good times and all, and it's fun when no one face plants into the ground, or kicks others on their way to the top.

We were all just trying to dance in our space, but like a few others have said, we know what we are getting into. I recommend that people who want to stay safe watch from the stage sides...calmer waters over there, and plenty of dancing space with kickass proximity and viewing :)

Thanks so much for caring though, seriously.


Stephen D, Tue 2nd July 2013, 07:16:08 PM
One of the best gigs I have ever been to was seeing Jello Biafra in Dublin. It was way too loud and rough as fuck, but in the best possible way. There was pushing, shoving and a lot of aggression, just like the music. But I was one of the younger and smaller guys there, and there was always a safe eye cast over me. If anyone fell they were immediately picked up. There were rough punks, but absolutely no dick heads.
So a bit of moshing in the right crowd can be amazing, but it's when the drunken idiots get involved that the trouble starts.
Still, it's reassuring and nice to know there's care and concern coming from those onstage.

Kathy E., Wed 3rd July 2013
I am a bit older than most of the other fans I attend shows with. There are a few bands that I absolutely feel compelled to be upfront for, your band is one. I've somehow passed this drive and instinct of the front row onto my two children. I taught my 23yo the risks and joy of the front row, now my 13yo has it! My son just saw you at The Stone Pony in June, he's seen FT five times now. One of the reasons I allow him in the front is that I know that you guys take care of us, I thank you for that. I've seen all of you put an end to fights. My son was hurt by some real idiots in Philly last September and Matt Nasir came to his rescue. The idiots in question reacted like he had no business being there, his 4th FT show, as if they had a right to kick and step on his shoulder and face. I'd have spent the night in jail if not for Matt. Thanks Nigel for being a truly decent person as well as an awesome musician.


Paddy, Sat 29th June 2013, 12:09:34 PM
I think bands should man up and ban crowd surfing and moshing, its fucking annoying and dangerous for anyone who isn't involved. I hate hearing 'well if you're at the front you've got to expect it' that's bullshit rock elitism, go do it at the back where there's plenty of space for you, don't ruin the experience for those of us who just want to sing and dance and not get pushed around and have to negotiate around a crowd surfer. Even though most bands seem to hate it they wouldn't ban it because they don't want to be seen as 'less rock' which is bullshit in itself.


Fiona, Tue 28th May 2013, 06:10:10 PM
Watch the first 6 minutes of Henry Rollins talking about this happening at a Black Flag gig. Terrible quality but you can hear him fine.

"It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye". Lordy.

No matter how many lovely people you're surrounded by, at most gigs there's always going to be at least one idiot out to ruin it for everyone.

I have a crooked nose to prove it.


Wendy, Tue 28th May 2013, 03:11:43 AM
Basically, what everyone else said....I expect to get pushed and kicked in the head a few times. It helps when there's a barrier before the stage, with space for security to stand in and catch the crowd surfers. Security in action in front of you is a warning to put your arms up and protect your head. When there's no barrier, you have no warning and tend to get kicked more. That said, I prefer to be right up against the stage. I didn't drive for hours and queue for hours just to have my view blocked by security and photographers (especially when they refuse to leave after the first 3 songs like they did at Webster Hall). Getting a little bruised is all part of the fun, but sometimes it's not worth it. I read this blog waiting for the Gaslight Anthem to take the stage in Asbury Park Sunday night, from my spot by the soundboard. So why was I back there? I was front and center Saturday night, but they had the speakers positioned in such a way that the people in front couldn't hear any vocals from the band. Not an entirely uncommon occurrence (note to all bands everywhere: soundcheck what the crazies in the front will hear too). Not worth getting kicked in the head if I can't hear the band. Last tour, your shows were relatively tame until Frank kicked into Four Simple Words and basically encouraged moshing. That was always the point where it became dangerous, despite him telling everyone to look after each other.


Ida-Malena, Mon 27th May 2013, 06:14:44 PM
Always nice to read your blog, and nice to know that you care. tho´I think most of us who are up front know what to expect when it comes to being pushed and bruised, it´s part of the game. And I don´t mind crowdsurfers but of course it´s no fun if anyone gets hurt. I always get the feeling that the Frank & Souls fans take good care of each other, which is something I´ve never really experienced before at gigs. It´s a good family-vibe out there, at least at the European gigs which is where I´ve been.