In a few weeks I will be seeing the one and only Action Bronson live and I could not be more excited.
I'm bringing a baseball glove so I can be sure to catch a blunt.
I'm bringing my finest tuna tar tar.
I'm also going to rock a suit of armor under my very loose pants because have you seen what goes down at a Bam Bam show?!?!
The first few times it was organic, but now it seems as though it's kind of a thing. People are rushing the stage with the express purpose of getting tossed back into the crowd like a sack of potatoes. For every sleeping puppy video on the internet, there are three "fan gets taken out by Bronson!" ones. While Bronson has become the Michael Jordan of stage rushing, he isn't the only one getting interrupted by over-zealous fans. From Afroman to the Zombies, it seems like everybody is getting rushed and it's always a must-see, and what we're seeing has a dark side. Sure it's fun to laugh at Afroman, but he crushed that girl. Plies? He could have actually been seriously hurt. This Riff Raff video is great for a moment until you watch that kid get lit up and think, "holy shit, he might actually be dead."
It doesn't always have to end with a Mortal Kombat finishing move either. It seems like every show I got to now, people are hopping up on stage to grab a selfie or stand next to their favorite rapper. I've been going to shows for years now and I've never seen so many fans onstage so regularly. It usually only makes the internet when someone gets knocked the fuck out, but rest assured it's happening all over, every night. Even just a decade ago the line between performer and audience was very clear; can you imagine JAY Z stage diving? From the stage, wielding a mic, it was the performers job to dictate how, when, and where the crowd moved. Rappers were larger than life and, with rare exception, meant to be be observed from offstage confines. So when did things start to change? When did these lines between fan and performer start getting so blurry? Of course there were always some artists who were happily jumping off the stage, times when fans rushed the stage, but when did it start becoming more the rule than the exception? It feels like those lines really started breaking down about five years ago, when, artists like MGK, Yelawolf and Odd Future were first making their name off stage-diving shows. And those seem like artists who draw their performance style from punk rock more than rap.
While my knowledge of punk music is admittedly limited, I've always held the music in high regard. Not just because of the music -- although The Clash, The Ramones, Black Flag etc. are great-- but because of the cultural significance and meaning behind the music. I've always been fascinated by punk shows as a space where the ideas of the music, the "point "of punk, is demonstrated. Anarchy. The dissolution of elitism. Fucking up the system. Pure, raw, and primal aggression used almost as catharsis. Rebelling against a society that had deemed these people outsiders. While a mosh-pit and a fight doesn't necessarily cause social change, it's the manifestation of those ideas. Interesting ideas, but the power of a punk show is best understood visually. Take a look at this Black Flag show where Henry Rollins, one of the craziest dudes alive, and a fan get into it.
Holy. Shit. That is insane. I don't know who is crazier, Rollins or the fan. Still, though it's violent and raw, it all fits into the punk ethos. There's something weirdly noble about watching the fan, with a big smile on his face, try and grab the mic in between blows. When I watch a Bronson clip, however, I don't see that same genuine, authentic spirit. Those kids are looking to be the center of attention, not be part of something larger than themselves.
We are in the midst of the turnt up era. People go to shows to get fucked up, but weed and vodka can only do so much. People want to literally get fucked up. Getting thrown off stage is a new high that no blunt can match. Or maybe it goes along with the new American dream. People hop onstage because they know they will get tossed off into every click-baity website looking for a cheap thrill. Maybe it's an extension of the access and closeness social media gives us to these artists. We feel like we know them as people. There is no border between fame and normalcy on the internet - we are given intimate looks into the lives of these artists - so when we see them onstage we feel as though we already know them. Thanks to Twitter, Instagram and sites like DJBooth, there is very little fourth wall left in hip-hop. We feel like we belong onstage, like we are part of the performance because who have been told so many times that now, more than ever, we are part of the artist story. Whether it be a retweet, a follow or a chokeslam, we want to feel that connection with the artist.
If the result was nothing more than fleeting internet fame it would be fine, but I see a darker side. Not to be the babysitter of rap - concerts should always have an element of excitement or unexpectedness - but it's all fun and games until someone (be it a fan, artist, or bodyguard) gets hurt. The last two "big" stage rushes, Plies and the Riff Raff spear, were funny to me for a few seconds but then my mind went somewhere darker. Imagine if Plies had landed on his neck. Imagine if that spear from a 300 pound security guard had broken that kids neck then he was back into the crowd. What if a security guard doesn't spear someone and they end up hurting the artist? If it sounds implausible ask El-P. What if no injuries occur but the rest of the show is canceled? I'll be damned if I'm going to pay good money to go to a show and some drunk idiot ruins it. So what do we do? How do we still have fun, still go nuts, but make sure nobody dies?
Don't rush the stage. Just don't. I love live shows, but I don't want to see an ocean of iPhones when I'm trying to watch a show, I don't want to deal with those drunk girls behind me talking the whole time and I don't want to see some kid get lit up by a 300 pound man. Shows aren't about you. You aren't special and nobody thinks your great for rushing the stage. Congrats on your four seconds of internet fame, I hope the retweets were worth a broken jaw. Be respectful of the artists who spend months away from home so you can see experience them in a different way. Be respectful of their craft. Let them work. You want to mosh? Go right ahead I'll be there with you, but for your sake, for my sake, for the artist's sake, hell for hip-hop's sake, stay off the fucking stage.
See you soon Action. I'll be the one in the back rocking very loose pants who's not suplexed.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]