Keeping a finger on the pulse

A word or two on respect and safety during live shows

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Lately, there has been an ongoing discussion about making the Icelandic music experience better, spinning mostly around the issue of how to make more space in town for live shows. But there is another side to this topic as well. It’s how to make the experience of live shows unforgettable in a positive way and, first and foremost, safe. So here’s a word about safety.

Each of us would love to attend a show in a space free from any fear or discomfort. Therefore, venues that aim to host events should stand their ground in making the shows enjoyable for both musicians and guests. Though it surely happened to all of us that this one intoxicated person was interrupting the show in a very annoying way. There must be no space for violence or sexual harassment during live performances. Everyone agrees to that, you too, am I right? It’s in the power of the venue’s staff to control the run of events and prevent unwanted behaviours.

If a wasted customer invades the personal space of a performer on stage to the point of being right up in their face, distracts them and acts aggressively, this situation has no right to exist. Performers are providing a service to the venue. At this very moment of being on stage, a performer is an honoured guest of that place. So employees should attend to performers with care and work alongside them to provide the best experience to the guests. Therefore, an individual or group creating a potential menace and showing disrespect to the work of any of employees or honoured guests of the venue should be approached by other members of staff and, if the situation demands, it should be taken steps to keep the show going safely for both guests and performers. This impacts the reputation of the venue. So when performers signal abusive behaviour by an intoxicated person to the staff, I find it unacceptable that the staff doesn’t react in an expected way and simply lets the abuser cross another limit. It’s sanctioning harassment.

There have been venues in Reykjavík, where I show up for concerts with full trust in the staff. Whatever happens, my safety and that of others around will not be put in any kind of danger. If someone pursued my friend at (R.I.P.) Húrra, there was no further discussion and staff expelled the abuser. But not every venue in the town pays special attention to let the guests have fun in safe surroundings. It’s a sad and alarming conclusion.

As an employee myself and a person with a pinch of empathy, I strongly disagree with putting the venue’s staff under pressure by running an event such as gig in a situation of not having enough employees on the shift to make the event run safely. Not having a doorman or an event supervisor of any kind and throwing all the responsibilities of all team members on a bartender having their own function at the show, is not tolerable. If as an organiser, you don’t have the human means to execute the project, make some effort to make it work or just let it go, postpone, cancel. As an attendee, I pay way more respect to an organiser excusing a last-minute event cancellation by a lack of staff rather than carelessly allowing some dangerous situation to happen. I know we live in Iceland, but not everything in the world will work out with „þetta reddast”. Not harassment, for example. So, don’t let harassment happen just because you have no one to keep an eye on the situation or because you had this great idea of saving money on staff tonight. Entertainment and arts are not only meant for bringing money. It’s food for the soul. And the soul is peaceful if we secure the most basic need – feeling safe and comfortable. It’s the venue’s responsibility to run an event reliably, and for the sake of the most precious part of a performance, the audience, decide to show an abuser to the door.

Disrespect to musicians and venue’s guests is pitiful and ridiculous. Live music demands tools to perform. Venues assure access to a sound system, but every other piece of equipment such as instruments and gear are collected by the hard work and high expenses of musicians themselves. Pay them some respect for all the effort they’ve put to walk on stage and offer you entertainment. Remember that they’ve learned it through tears, blood and sweat and now you are enjoying it, maybe even for free, lucky you. You might be not aware of how expensive it’s been to make this show happen, reach this level, arrive with the equipment and set it up in the way that you actually can hear something.

On the level of reconstructing Reykjavík as a music city, if you spot any disrespect or any kind of harassment and the staff doesn’t meet standards in the human common sense of securing the basic needs of guests and performers, this place doesn’t deserve to be called a venue anymore. We as a community can do better, and we as concert-goers deserve better.

Justyna Wilczynska
a.k.a. Stína Satanía

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