One of the most celebratory moments of any Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes gig is when the frontman spares the song ‘Wild Flowers’ to allow for only female and non-binary fans to crowdsurf. “This next song is very important to us,” Carter told the crowd at Reading 2019. “And every time we do it, we dedicate it to some very special people in the crowd. People that wake up every day to threats of domestic assault, sexual assault, verbal assault, misogyny – the list goes on. Ladies, this song is for you: this is your song. If you’ve ever wanted to crowdsurf through fear of being touched inappropriately by some anonymous twat in this crowd, this is your chance to crowdsurf in a safe environment where every single male member of this audience will treat you with the love, the respect and the kindness you deserve as their equal.”
Vowing that this will be “100% something that the band will do forever,” Carter tells NME of his despair at how the wider culture of the music industry is still catching up in making gigs a safer and more inclusive space for everyone.
“It’s just the happiest mosh pit you’ve ever seen,” Carter tells NME. “There’s no kung-fu or testosterone, and it changes the atmosphere of the rest of the gig. You’ve got a bunch of dudes standing around who are being excluded for the first time and it makes them question why. You know, when you’re a guy and you just walk around in the world and you don’t have to think about the space you occupy.”
We caught up with the punk veteran to discuss what needs to change.
What impact have you noticed in asking crowds to consider the female and non-binary fans among them?
“At a rock gig, men have naturally dominated that situation for years. Suddenly they feel their own presence and that’s a great thing to watch on both sides. It gets rid of ‘us and them’ and suddenly everyone is just together. Everyone feels safe. The best part is when you see girls and people who don’t define themselves by a single gender later on the gig just crowdsurfing, freely. They’ve been empowered and are no longer scared to do that. If they do have a negative experience, they’ll feel the power and energy that they had at our show to question what’s happening. It doesn’t take much to grab a hand and look at them and say: ‘What are you doing?’”
Do you feel as if attitudes are changing towards creating a more inclusive environment?
“No, it’s still too early. That’s why we’re still talking about it. I think all bands need to start talking about this and creating a safe space for women – to empower women and destabilise the conditioning of the last 100 years of going to shows. I would love to sit here and be like, ‘Yeah, it’s great. Everything is changing’. Maybe in 10 years we’ll be able to see some markers of actual change. Now it’s getting talked about in the press. Other bands are taking note. Girls at our shows are getting excited about it.”
Will more change come with generations becoming more and more aware?
“I always talk about these things in decades. It’s happening now because I’m incredibly disappointed in myself for not doing this 10 or 15 years ago when I started playing music. If I had, then the landscape now would be different. Just look at the numbers. The amount of people that I’ve played in front of who’ve grown, had kids and want to protect others…. We could all be creating a very safe space for our children. That forethought is rarely a priority for humans. Human endeavour is to just to want to go far without worrying about the damage in the present. We’re trying to be proactive.”
Have you seen this much among other artists?
“There was praise for bands, us included, in the media for stopping their gigs if they see someone being assaulted or someone in trouble. Well, congratulations. That’s an absolute failure immediately because someone has to have been assaulted in the first place. The only acceptable number for people who have been assaulted at a gig is zero. Get it down to that and we’re in a good place. We should be watching to make sure it never goes above zero. To do that, we need to be proactive. The minute you’re reactive, you’ve already lost.”
Is this also a result of the way we treat our ‘rockstars’?
“Historically, rock has always put men on a pedestal as gods to be idolised. That’s given them the free reign to act out in front of everyone without really facing any consequences. I’m shocked that there hasn’t really been a #MeToo movement that’s ripped through the music industry yet. I don’t know why that is. All I know is that we can act differently now.”
For help, advice and more information, visit Safe Gigs For Women.
Having previously welcomed the likes of The Japanese House, Beabadoobee, Dream Wife, GIRLI, GLOWIE, and Black Honey among others, NME’s Girls To The Front aims to showcase female and non-binary artists as well as celebrating gigs as a safe place for all genders.
NME’s next Girls To The Front night will see Tove Lo headline London’s Shackewell Arms on Monday September 9, before Nasty Cherry take to the same stage on Monday September 23.