Crowdsurfing with Staind

Not really a big fan of Staind.

Going to admit it.  Staind frontman Aaron Lewis did something good on Saturday.

He stopped singing!

Okay fine! He did stop singing but for a good reason. He stopped a song halfway through to tell concert goers who were molesting a teenage girl who was crowd surfing.

 “Alright, listen up, you fucking assholes. That fucking girl right there is, like, 15 fucking years old and you fucking pieces of shit are molesting her while she’s on the fucking crowd. Your fucking mothers should be ashamed of themselves, you pieces of shit. You should all be fucking beaten down by everyone around you for being fucking pieces of shit. If I fucking see that shit again, I swear to God, I will point you out in the crowd and have everyone around you beat your fucking ass.”

Part of me is “oh goodness! Don’t encourage violence” and part of me is like “well it is a metal concert and such language is common”. But here is the thing. Metal as a genre has generally been more accepting of its fan base. Even thought I have pointed out that it is a predominantly white genre and there are no real drives to encourage people to partake, the community is as a whole more respectful and encouraging despite a (there always is one to be fair) lunatic fringe.

I listened to the Radio a lot growing up for my musical fix and while poking around I discovered metal and was hooked. And when I first went to University I discovered Star and the Wendy House nights in Leeds.

These were my first introductions to the world of metal where I noticed something weird. I was the only Asian kid there. Maybe there were others, but I certainly didn’t meet any after much much later.

It’s where I met some of my first friends and made tentative steps of independence. All the Indian kids were out listening to Dubstep, Jungle and Hip-Hop and Asian Dancehall genres.

I never saw race until later but in retrospect I had just walked into the least racially diverse place ever.

And someone commented on that on my first night out. “What Are You Doing Here?”.

It was followed by “Can I buy you a drink?”.

This was not a question of insensitivity. This was one of curiosity. Metal fans have a bad rap most of the time, but their reputation is especially tarnished by the far right’s involvement in the genre. There are some metalheads, punks and the like who are rather racist and vocal about it. It’s easy to demonise the whole lot by the actions of the few.

No, this person had never seen an Indian at this place and wanted to know if I accidentally got lost. Maybe it was racist but you know what? There weren’t any Indians there. I spoke about listening to bits of it on the Radio growing up (I never really bought music, didn’t have anything to play music on till my first PC for myself).

There’s always one or two at every metal gig I go to in London. Amid the sea of white faces there are always one or two black fans standing out from the crowd. The question I want to ask is “What are yo.u doing here?” Not because I don’t think black people should be into metal, but because I want to know what drew them to heed metal’s call.

This is an issue to be fair. Minority groups are not well represented in Metal. It’s still predominantly a white male area. When women are involved the language often tends to be very misogynistic especially considering one would think that a genre that prides itself in appeal to non-conformist outcasts would try not to ostracise women.

Female metalheads do everything these days. They run the labels, the magazines, the agencies, studios and the background business of the Metal music industry. They shred, scream and drum. They throw up the horns.

They also seem to be represented in major magazines as “Metal’s Next Hot Chick” while draped in alluring positions. One can argue that it’s their choice but one can also that it portrays women solely as eye candy while “Metal’s Next Sexy Dude” isn’t draped sexily in skintight leather but is portrayed as well… an artist. Oh I noticed it too. Female metal artists are treated as eye candy, male ones are serious and that attitude shows. Can you name any famous metal bands with female members? Nightwish? Within Temptation? Certainly they aren’t Metallica. The attitude is changing but it’s still not perfect.

The same problem lies in Metal in minorities but in the opposite. Metal fans here are portrayed as unfriendly because of the “Hail Satan” look.

People like Metal because it’s an outlet for emotions. It’s fun! The problem is Metal Fans are portrayed as surly, angry, nerdy, friendless, weird and racist. Because of it’s association with Punk and Skinhead music. And because like any racially dominated group, you will get some bigotry and Metal for a long time was really really white.

There is direct racism. “Oh Go Away Paki”. I haven’t heard anyone say that to me in earshot at Metal Gigs. But there is a subtler one. In order to be an Indian Metalhead at the time you had to dissociate yourself from Indian Culture in the UK. Which was a bit weird for me. I liked the stuff Indians liked and I liked Metal. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with knowing the lyrics to the Spice Girls and Dio and never felt the tribalism of Metal.

No what I found was surprise and a feeling of novelty. In the pit people would sometimes have a weird moment where they are attempting to mosh and look at me at the same time which is not advisable since it stops looking like you don’t have a care in the world and starts looking like you just herniated yourself. Try it out and I guarantee you will not look “Badass”.

And I feel that being a novelty can scare people off. People want to be part of the crowd and to not stand out.

A lot of minorities are under the burden of expectation to behave a certain way and that means “not enjoying headbanging”. People attribute my taste for it as being due to “living in the UK”. Which was funny to me after I began to move around India more, I sort of realised that Indians LOVE metal. I can get myself a Megadeth T-Shirt for £2.50 and since India has incredibly lax copyright laws that aren’t enforced, music is effectively free. Indians love “terrible” Hip Hop too but they like Metal as well. The problem is Indians in the UK are more defined by their ethnicity and expectation than Indians in India and their identity is more narrow and so they have a narrower taste. We are enjoying it more and more. But there is one group that’s even less represented than us. Black people. I feel that it’s because of Metals repeated excision of black musical influences from itself and the enmity between Metal and the Mainstream which at the moment is Hip Hop has resulted in some rather tasteless arguments.

Metal may be strongly coded as ‘not black’, but its coding as ‘white’ has become seriously eroded, (despite the efforts of metal’s openly racist fringe.). It’s a community that’s cleaning up and it’s a community that’s doing well in doing so. Now obviously things can go faster and better but that’s the case with all progress.

What metal does need to be is open to the involvement of those minorities who wish to join and to start breaking the glass ceiling for minority groups here. Metal has a strong community and it’s an accepting one. The spiky anti-social Metal Head is gone and inside really does beat a human heart. (Cheer up! It’s painted black!)

Walking through the door may be hard but since I did on that one night in September around 11 years ago, I felt at home. And I was lucky to not run into the racist fringe but the real fans who wanted me to enjoy.

That night, I admitted I knew nothing beyond what I heard on the Radio. The next morning I had a knock on my door. The lads I met turned out to live near me and asked to use my computer. I said sure and left to do some laundry. I came back 3 hours later to find my room COVERED in CDs. Everything from AC/DC to Zepplin. They had collected every CD they had and were copying them to my PC so I could enjoy what they liked.

I don’t think we should think of music by race. Music is something for everyone. If a white man plays jazz is it less jazz than if played by a black man? If a black woman with one leg and and a hare lip played guitar for a metal band, does it make it less metal? Certainly it makes it more!

But we perceive different spaces as places where we wouldn’t be invited or where we would be ridiculed. And to delineate ourselves by genre is madness too! Don’t listen to these sounds! You already listen to these sounds and those sounds are wrong!

Staind’s front man did a good thing. While we may faint at the language, the reality is he stood up against concert molestation. If more people did the same concerts would be more fun for everyone. Do you think women are going to want to have sex with you just because you grabbed them during a crowd surf? Even if I don’t “like” the band, it doesn’t mean I cannot like what they do.


  1. Crimson Clupeidae says

    I rather like a lot of Staind. I see this as a good thing. Going to a concert of any kind should be safe.

  2. ianeymeaney says

    I will see your Staind, and raise you a DKM where they beat up a Nazi scummer on stage. NSFW language

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  4. ianeymeaney says

    /angry at not being able to edit comments
    The last concert I saw was DKM. They are about as much of a “white music” band as there can be (Irish punk), but I have seen people of every ethnicity at every one of their concerts, and every concert I have attended. Maybe metalheads are more diverse in the US? My girlfriend is brown, and no one looked twice at her. I know I wouldn’t think twice about seeing a non-white person at any concert; I would mosh them just like anyone else and have some good clean fun. As you can see from the video, DKM is also vocal about where they stand on inclusiveness.
    Thank you for this post, as it gave me an excuse to post video of a Nazi getting hit with a bass guitar by my favorite live band!

  5. lorn says

    As much as I dislike violence, it is a blunt tool that seldom ends up getting you to where you want to go, the fact is that violence is a scalar and lighter forms may, if applied early and well, can prevent the need for stronger measures. In this case the band took responsibility for the injustices they observed committed by their concert goers, they used the power granted them by their position up on stage to intervene.

    The threat of violence was likely unnecessary, the threat of exposure and embarrassment in front of the crowd would likely be enough to change the behavior. Then again the we have a well establish social script for threats of violence. I’m not sure the guy on the microphone would know the words to use to get the desired result telling the offenders that they would be publicly embarrassed. I don’t know that the crowd would know how to process that threat. I doubt that the offender/s would know how to react. There is some chance that the crowd would overreact, or worse, fail to act. The offenders might react as desired, sheepishly accept the warning and stop the behavior, or they might take the unscripted moment to escalate and declare themselves rebels to social norms.

    With threats of physical violence everyone knows the script and everyone has a good idea of how they are expected to act.

  6. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    Kinda rambly and pointless comment because I am stoked the dose of ibuprofen appears to have worked as a prophylactic against lawnmower induced headache (fumes or dehydration?), but still about music bringing people together.

    I seem to remember a story a few years ago out of florida about a scuffle between two groups of skinhead/hardcore punk fans with the all-shite skinheads getting their asses handed to them. A lot of what burned that story into my memory was the obvious shock and surprise of the reporter that not only were there groups with non-white skinhead/hardcore punk fans, but that their hatred for the racist skinhead influence on hardcore punk burned hotter than an exploding star.

    My first introduction to metal was in middle school through the background music of a class-related slideshow presentation (kittie – immortal) by a friend who was all sorts of awesome (female, First Nations, metalhead? at a cat-lick middle school? in the deep south?). Unfortunately, I spent most of high school listening somewhat secretly since she went to another school, and anxiety, money, and transportation issues all colluded to prevent any further connection to metal beyond listening. In retrospect, it’s sort of funny that I kept it secret, since my 60-ish mom does not own many albums, but those few currently include four or five of Linkin Park and maybe two of Korn.

    …and thus begins another metal marathon starting with Kittie, Kidneythieves, Deftones, and Otep… and start reading the Serenity Rose anthology again. Spooky-cute, forever!

  7. says

    Hey, the dude gets points for calling that shit out.

    Metal — for me — is soothing. Then again, I go in for the classic metal, like Black Sabbath. Never been to a show or been in a pit (and I suspect the wheelchair would present a danger to other moshers anyway), but I’m here, behind my screen, giving a silent scream of appreciation.

    I can relate to being a novelty — I’m usually the lone disabled person in just about any group I join.

  8. Wrath Panda says

    Like Avi, not a Staind fan either, but seconding the sentiment that he deserves a nod for doing A Good Thing. Will never forgive him for the duet he did with Fred Durst though.

    As a heavy Spotify user with a severe case of, “Ooh! Not heard them before *save* *download to device*” syndrome, I’d like to think that I have sampled a large cross section of what’s out there. I can agree that there is an under representation of female fronted bands at the bigger end of the genre, however I’ve found my current tastes tend to favour them. I’d recommend you check out Witch Mountain, Wounded Kings and Firebrand Super Rock. Especially Firebrand. In fact, you everyone should buy both their albums, even if metal isn’t your thing. I am entirely unbiased and do not know them personally at all…nope.

    Not as up on the Indian metal scene, but I find Bhayanak Maut to be entertaining. Given the percieved state of the metal scene over there (certainly, all the bands I’ve heard speak of playing in India say how good it is), it has always surprised me that I rarely see any people of Indian descent attending gigs in the UK.

    Also, the sooner we can get rid of the NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal) scene the better. I get fed up having to research any BM band I might be interested in to see if they’re actually a bunch of racist fucks or not.

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