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Canadian fun-punks PUP: “Every band has a responsibility to call out bad behaviour at shows”

Over the past decade the Canadian punks have been outspoken about creating a safe environment at their gigs

A few weeks ago, PUP frontman Stefan Babcock shared a clear message for punters who come to cause trouble at his band’s shows: “If you’re gonna act like a piece of shit in the pit, don’t come to PUP shows.

This is nothing unusual from the Canadian punks. Over the past decade of being a band they’ve made their fan’s safety and well-being a priority at their live shows. They’ve stopped mid-song when they see fights breakout, asked overly rowdy moshers to go to the back or leave entirely. Before gigs, they make a point of meeting security of every venue they play to ensure an enjoyable atmosphere for attendees.

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Over the past few years they’ve called out toxic behaviour both IRL and on social media. In 2016 PUP took to social media to call out the sexual harassment of two female fans at one of their shows, and have now built up a friendly and inclusive community which means their shows are a safe place for all fans.

What lead to your message to fans a few weeks ago?

“We got an email from somebody saying they had a pretty unpleasant time because there was one shitty person in the pit. It’s certainly not something that happens at every show, but as we’ve kind of started playing bigger rooms, it’s been harder for us to police what’s going on from the stage.”

How does it feel when you hear people have been behaving like this?

“It’s just really frustrating because we feel like we’ve worked really hard at building the good community of people who care about each other and that are respectful; but there are bound to be people who come to shows who are not like that. 99% of the people who come to punk shows are incredibly respectful, and it’s been really great to see that when people fall down, the pit just opens and everyone pulls them up. And that’s kind of what we want to see and to encourage, not the other shit.”

And you’ve stopped shows before because you’ve heard people have been getting too rowdy – is that harder to police this now you’re playing bigger venues?

“We’ve always been really good at picking out those individuals [who are getting too rowdy] and speaking about it on stage and making sure that everyone is respectful. But as we’ve started playing these bigger rooms it’s a new challenge for us, and something that the band has to kind of figure out. So we’ve been extra vocal lately about people being good to each other in the pit. And that’s not to say ‘don’t go off and don’t jump around’, but if you’re going to do those things, make sure that you’re not making the people around you uncomfortable.”

How do you tackle bad behaviour from the stage?

“It obviously dependent on the circumstances, but we’ll stop mid song if it looks like someone’s in danger, or if we see a fight or shoving match break out. And I’m sure there’s two sides to every story; but like those people have to go because it’s creating a bad environment to the people around them.”

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“And if it’s just a bit too rowdy you know, between songs we’ll just try and do our best to remind people. And it becomes pretty apparent if it’s just one or two people who are causing all the shit by the fourth or fifth song pretty clear to us, and we can either make sure those people are removed or go watch from the back.”

“You don’t want to turn your shows into a library; but there’s a difference between going to a gig and having fun and being rowdy and going to a gig getting crushed against the barricade.”

What else do you do to ensure a safe environment is created at your shows?

“Every day our tour manager has a security meeting with the security guards to make sure that they know to help people out in distress, get people out of the pit if they need to get out of the pit, that kind of thing. And the other part is just, you know, speaking about it publicly off stage so that people come into shows know that there is a certain type of behaviour expected of them!”

“There are the odd shows where security have been…aggressive on their own. Instead of helping the situation they’re just adding fuel to the fire, and there have been times where we had to stop and call security for being too handsy or whatever; but I think a lot of the times that happens it’s more that the security guards aren’t used to working security at shows like these, where there’s a lot of crowd surfing and a lot of moshing. I’d really stress the fact that in the past two years, stopping to reprimand security has only happened two or three times out of 400 shows or something.”

What can other bands do to combat bad behaviour at shows?

“I think every band has a responsibility to kind of call out bad behaviour and try to change the culture around their shows. Every band should have an open dialogue about it with their fans. Just to encourage people to come out and tell them if they’re not having a good time at their shows or not feeling safe at their shows. I think that’s the most important thing that you can do for your scene is have an open dialogue about the things that are maybe not perfect and do your best to, you know, be part of the change.” 

PUP are currently touring the UK

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