The stereotypical depiction of a metal show involves circle pits, headbanging, and, of course, people jumping off the stage and into the crowd. People outside of the scene might see these activities as too rowdy or even violent, but any metalhead worth his or her salt sees it as a regular thing regardless of whether they participate or not. But with the recent incidents regard the deaths of fans at both Lamb of God and Suicidal Tendencies shows it begs the question: Do we need to take more precautionary measures towards stagediving?
Matt: Honestly, I’m one of those guys who prefers to go to shows and watch the band play rather than jump into the pit. That said, I get that people want to let loose at shows and sometimes that involves climbing on stage and launching themselves off it. Stagediving has been a staple at shows for years and years and venue security has adapted to it to try and keep people safe, but it can only go so far. The people going up on stage are the ones putting themselves at risk for injury and security can only do so much. Even if venues tried to enforce rules to prevent stagediving, it’s not going to be a foolproof way to prevent potential injury. The safety of the concert attendee ultimately comes down to the attendee.
Let’s put it this way: there’s a right and a wrong way to mosh. If you’re one of those assholes running around flailing your fists punching and kicking people, you’re liable for the safety of yourself and others. The same goes for stagediving, except there’s less you can do to be safe about it. I think we also forget about the fact that the stagediver not only puts his or her own safety at risk, but also risks the safety of others in the crowd. You can’t repeatedly do flips off the stage the same time as four other people just assuming you’re going to have a safe landing. I don’t think stagediving can ever be fully safe, but in future people should be near-obsessed with safety to prevent hurting themselves or others. Or even being killed.
Bram: Generally, a metal show is a safe place. At a normal metal show, if you go down, there are generally people there to pick you up. That should also lend itself to security, with bouncers trained how to treat crowd surfers and stage divers. In a perfect world, would-be stage divers never make it up to the stage, plucked from the crowd by security. Also, at shows where there is stage diving, the crowd generally is ready to catch anyone that does so.
I think it should be noted that both deaths occurred over a several year period, and while one is too much, that’s still a very low mortality rate given all the stage diving that takes place. It should also be noted that both took place at overseas shows. I’m not suggesting that foreign crowds and crowd security need proper training, although that might not be a terrible idea. It’s also probably not a great idea from a band perspective to invite your crowd onstage, especially if it’s a large show with a high drop from the stage.
Kodi: I want a controlled element of simulated danger at a metal show. It’s extreme music, and to take Brutal Truth out of context a bit, extreme conditions demand extreme responses. But the key word here is controlled. Yes, metal is in many ways about catharsis, about handling negative energies and turning them into something positive. With that in mind, what positive comes out of someone lunging into a crowd from a great height and snapping their neck, or even worse, badly injuring an uninvolved bystander? It’s a sad one-in-a-million possibility that something could go wrong at a show like this, but there’s also a big difference between the communal aspect of a properly conducted circle pit (where people are not actively trying to injure each other and will pick each other up if they fall) and senseless chaos. At a metal show, which is generally a safe place, the community knows how to be careful in these situations; that said, it only takes a couple of terrible accidents like these for that to be thrown out of a window.
With that in mind, I’d want to see people educated about the risks of going into a show and stagediving, rather than active measures being taken by venues against it. Think of how many venues claim to prohibit moshing or stagediving, but once you’re inside, anything goes. If anything, bands should be taking the approach Lamb of God now does and ask audience members not to do it. The height of the stage definitely should be a factor – if the stage is too high for a crowd member to get up on under their own power, then it’s too high for anyone other than the performers themselves (who are kind of professionals at this sort of thing) to be jumping from. To the educational end, wouldn’t it be cool if venues had some kind of sign at the entrance with basic illustrations and information that would instruct and encourage crowds to help each other at shows where stagediving and moshing might take place? Instead of forbidding physical interaction at shows, empowering people to be responsible and mature about it would go a long way toward solving these issues. Then the venues can still escape liability (you were told this was potentially dangerous behavior, after all), while crowds can be more conscious and take care of themselves. Go to a free show where people are moshing, and a lot of the community and safety awareness breaks down, making for some tough situations. Why not take the opportunity to educate people who aren’t regularly a part of scenes like this, while reminding those who are to respect it?
Zach: I’d say that all three of you hit the key points. So I’ll keep it short and simple. It all goes back to the golden rule: if someone falls down in the pit, make sure they get back up.