Kicking someone offstage is not a gender issue: it’s a question of why violence is ‘punk rock’

Alt Press and the pop-punk corner of Twitter were awash last week with the news that Parker Cannon [pictured above, right], frontman of The Story So Far (I know right, who?) kicked a fan off stage as she stood to take a selfie.

The response to the incident has been divided, with some people stating that he shouldn’t have done it – which is quite obvious, really – and the rest suggesting that the story is only making headlines because the victim was a girl. This rather presumptuous conclusion has been reached as the news of Parker Cannon kicking a guy off stage at a show in 2015 failed to gain as much momentum as this particular tale.

The Californian natives, who are no stranger to the odd misogynistic lyric (“I know where you’ve been/you’re ruining men/never again will I let someone in” as heard in ‘Roam’) have thus far failed to comment via social media on the scenario. The fact that kicking anyone, whether to launch them offstage or just as they’re walking down the street, is physical assault, has ultimately been forgotten about as masses of The Story So Far fans and pop-punk fans in general seem determined to erase the problematic nature of the act.

However, the question is not whether people only care if it is a girl who gets kicked at a concert, but rather, why have we allowed violence to become synonymous with the alternative scene at all?

There are certain unwritten rules that go hand in hand with attending a concert. People at the barrier are there because they queued for an unreasonable amount of hours to secure their space. There are going to be mosh pits. Complaining about people pushing is going to result in more pushing. Mosh pits are violent. Drunk people at concerts are the worst. Getting up on someone’s shoulders will result in an angry security man pulling you to the ground, achieving exactly what he was allegedly trying to prevent in the first place, which was you falling or injuring someone. Attempting to get up on stage is frowned upon, but some bands don’t mind. Herein lies the rub.

If a band, such as The Story So Far, is small enough to be playing a venue that does not have adequate security and fans can reach the stage from where they’re standing, people are going to try get up there. Whether that’s to stage dive or take a photo or whatever, it’s going to happen. Even if you believe it’s wrong to get up on stage and take a photo with a live band, it’s still undeniable that physically harming someone, or risking the physical harm of an individual, is not only unprofessional, but also childish, rather arrogant and blatant assault. It doesn’t matter if that person is male or female. Nobody deserves to be physically assaulted for getting on stage.

Is Cannon so arrogant that he couldn’t ask someone, or order someone, to get off the stage rather than resorting to violence? Is he so deluded as to believe he is above the law? If we consider the fact that pop-punk is an immediate derivative from true punk and punk rock, we are acknowledging that pop-punk is a descendant of a music and cultural movement that spoke up for angry kids who were stewing in quiet, rage-filled apathy. At some point, this quiet, rage-filled apathy changed to activism that came in the form of violent protest which was unsupported by punk giants such as The Clash, and which was detailed by Krissi Murison in the Guardian some years ago.

It seems today that pop-punk has held on to the violent aspect of the punk culture, and not much else. No longer are the lyrics about harrowing, unfair things which face young people, but rather an idealised hatred of hometowns, romances with girls who just aren’t good enough or who are too good for them, eating pizza, and hanging out with great friends – something which has been parodied over and over again, but best done by Jarrod Alonge.

The scene is a cesspit of guys in backwards snapbacks, Vans, t-shirts of obscure bands you’ve never heard of and probably never will, and girls who are either seen as fangirls or band whores but never, ever as just being fans. Indeed, the backlash the story has received so far (I couldn’t resist, sorry) has people riled up over the outrage itself.

A satire website called The Hard Times posted an article suggesting Cannon posted a statement on his personal Facebook page, saying in a nutshell that he was sorry but that “that stupid whore” has probably broken a whole load of hearts. Despite its tongue-in-cheek nature, comments on this article are mostly dudebros boasting that ‘you go to a punk rock show, punk rock things happen to you’, suggesting anyone who doubts them should listen to 13 Stitches by NOFX. As if breaking bones is a badge of honour, and getting stitches after a gig akin to a shark bite or something. No seriously guys, you didn’t have fun unless your toes have to be amputated post-gig. It’s just the rules.

From the sounds of everything that’s been said on the issue, all the men negatively commenting on it think the girl needs to toughen up, while all the girls think Cannon is ‘sexy’ (and each to your own, guys, each to your own) so ‘she probably deserved it’. Violence without a purpose is pointless. Mosh pits are fun, but if it gets to a point that you’re jumping on each others’ heads because you are so taken in by yet another song about how much of a whore some dude in prescription-less glasses’ last girlfriend was, you gotta start questioning a) what the hell you’re doing with your life, and b) why you’re single, probably.

I could imagine if it was a pop group or a hip hop artist guilty of kicking someone offstage, there’d be no one defending them at all. Since Green Day, Blink-182 and Fall Out Boy peaked, the pop-punk scene has moved on to a new wave of bands who all sound the same and think it’s punk to kick people off stages, or abuse their fans, or sleep with underage girls. At some point, pop-punk lost all integrity and it’s almost laughable that the slogan ‘Defend Pop Punk’, initially coined by Man Overboard, has been adopted across the scene as the gold standard in how ‘hardcore’ the general pop-punk fanbase is.

It’s especially ironic that Man Overboard are on an indefinite hiatus, probably not defending pop-punk somewhere else. Perhaps crying in a corner somewhere that their slogan was hijacked by scores of bands who have done nothing but ruin pop-punk and make it a male-dominated, horrific industry to be in – and if you don’t believe me, name one female-led pop punk band that is not automatically compared to Paramore. You probably can’t.

Indeed, Becca Ilic, the 21-year-old who got dropkicked off stage by Cannon has spoken out in an interview with Alt Press, noting that she knew that she “shouldn’t have been up there for that long of time (sic)”, setting the record straight that she’s “fine” and that she hopes “this doesn’t change anyone’s opinion on the band”. I believe in this case, it hasn’t so much changed anyone’s opinion as serve to solidify the notion that Cannon is probably a Grade A douchebag. The conversation around the incident is interesting though, as it’s highlighting a level of misogyny in the scene that I’ve seen since the age of 16, when I was told to get out of a mosh pit by the guys in there because I was a girl, and which has always been around the notion that girls can’t just be fans of anything or anyone; they’re seen as hysterical fangirls, stupid, or band whores.

Thankfully, the owners of the Mod Club, the venue where the incident took place, have banned The Story So Far from playing again, stating that “it was a very cowardly act”. Maybe Cannon will state in future that he doesn’t relish sharing the stage with anyone other than his giant ego. Better still, maybe someone will dropkick Cannon himself offstage – all in the name of defending pop-punk, of course.

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