Music

The Smith Street Band Have Cancelled A Show After Shitty Crowd Behaviour

"If you come into my house and you make people uncomfortable I wanna rip your fucking head off."

Smith Street Band frontman Wil Wagner has aired his frustrations about the shitty crowd behaviour he constantly witnesses at shows.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Wagner announced the band would be cancelling their show in Castlemaine after learning of an alleged sexual assault that took place in the crowd at their Hawthorn gig. He also wrote that because of the consistent crowd issues the band experience, it might be a while before they perform live again.

“At the moment I feel like I never want to play a show again,” Wagner wrote. “We played an under 18 show yesterday that felt lovely and wholesome and special. Then after I found out someone groped someone in the crowd and was apprehended and arrested. Out of respect to the situation, I won’t go into that further.”

“I’ve been playing shows for about ten years now. Anyone who’s seen me perform a few times over that journey knows how seriously I take this and how much it fucking kills me… I stopped talking about crowd behaviour as much because I learnt that telling people what to do doesn’t work at all. If anything, pointing out people being dickheads in the crowd only makes them and their mates act worse.”

He then wrote that the band have attempted to make their shows safer by working with venues and briefing security prior to shows — even altering their line-ups and set lists so as to not “rile up” the crowd. But in the end, there’s “only so much” the band can control, and if you get a thousand people in a room at a gig some of those people “are gonna be shit.”

“But when something like this happens I lay awake all night blaming myself and thinking of how I can do better and how I can help more,” he went on. “And then I get attacked and blamed by people saying I don’t care enough because I don’t just exclusively talk about how everyone and everything is terrible but I don’t do that because it just doesn’t fucking work.

“I try and I try and I try and I fail at protecting you and helping you and making shows safe… I’m too scared to look at the crowd in case I see something that makes me wanna throw my guitar down and rip someone’s head off because if you come into my house and you make people uncomfortable I wanna throw down my guitar and I wanna rip your fucking head off.”

He finished by writing that he “didn’t want to be a part of it anymore”. Read Wagner’s full statement below.


Hey friends,

We’re sorry but we’re gonna be cancelling today’s show in Castlemaine. At the moment I feel like I never want to play a show again. We played an under 18 show yesterday that felt lovely and wholesome and special. Then after I found out someone groped someone in the crowd and was apprehended and arrested. Out of respect to the situation, I won’t go into that further. But I’ve been playing shows for about ten years now. Anyone who’s seen me perform a few times over that journey knows how seriously I take this and how much it fucking kills me.

In the past I’ve been aggressive, preachy and generally over bearing on stage, coming down too hard on people because of my unending frustration that when you get a lot of people in a room together some of those people are fucking dickheads. But I stopped talking about crowd behaviour as much because I learnt that telling people what to do doesn’t work at all. If anything, pointing out people being dickheads in the crowd only makes them and their mates act worse. So we’ve developed other ways of trying to ensure a safe environment, we work with venues well in advance of the show and brief security on the night about how we need people to behave, we have posters up around venues and we ask door people to let punters know a few rules before they come in.

We’ve unfortunately had to ask people to stop crowd surfing, not because we have a problem with crowd surfing itself, because now we aren’t playing to only huge music fans a lot of people don’t know how to do it safely and aren’t expecting someone to come flying onto their heads. It’s staggering how many people get up on peoples heads and just kick and then fight the security guards when they come over the barrier. The extreme irony being most of those people are only there to see us play death to the lads.

We try and pick line ups that won’t get people too riled up, fuck we even curate the playlist between bands carefully. And instead of focusing on the shit people and preempting their behaviour I try and only be positive. Only talk about how we are all here together and we are all friends and try and fill the room with love and warmth and togetherness. But I’m the first to admit that some nights I’m better at that than others and some nights I lose my temper because I’m tired and I’m emotional and at the end of the day I’m just a person standing there watching other people’s faces, hoping they smile at me. Sometimes I straight up misread a situation and embarrass someone undeservedly, which I feel incredibly guilty about. 

And I know there’s only so much I can control. If you get a thousand people in a room some of those people are gonna be shit, that’s just an unfortunate fact of life. But when something like this happens I lay awake all night blaming myself and thinking of how I can do better and how I can help more. And then I get attacked and blamed by people saying I don’t care enough because I don’t just exclusively talk about how everyone and everything is terrible but I don’t do that because it just doesn’t fucking work.

Yelling at people doesn’t make them want to do the thing you are yelling at them. Negativity breeds negativity. But I’m sure the comment section to this will just be a bunch of stories about how terrible our shows are and how much I suck. And I’m sure the little gang of people in this music world who are desperate for us to fail will turn this against me but if they didn’t use this they’d just use something else.

I guess the point of saying this, and I’m aware of how selfish and self absorbed this sounds because I am clearly not the victim in this situation, is after ten years it feels like every fight in the crowd, every groping, every one of these fucking bullshit “incidents” stacks up on my conscience creating a weight I am now unable to carry. I try and I try and I try and I fail at protecting you and helping you and making shows safe.

When I walk on stage I should be focusing on getting the chords right and not fucking up the words but instead I squeeze my eyes shut because I’m too scared to look at the crowd in case I see something that makes me wanna throw my guitar down and rip someone’s head off because if you come into my house and you make people uncomfortable I wanna throw down my guitar and I wanna rip your fucking head off. But that’s not gonna stop the same thing happening tomorrow night and the night after that. At the rock show, at the night club, wherever.

And I just don’t want to be a part of it anymore. I didn’t start writing songs so they could become the soundtrack to people getting groped and people throwing punches. If I’d have made a difference there wouldn’t be people getting arrested at a fucking under 18 show.

I started writing songs because I wanted to express myself and it feels selfish of me to keep using that desire to express if it comes at the cost of people being hurt. I’m gonna keep making music, nothing is ever gonna stop me doing that, but it might be a while before I feel comfortable on stage again. I know I’m essentially making other people’s trauma about me but this is something I’ve long had need to express.

I guess I just need you all to know that I’m angry and I care. And I’m sorry.

Wil

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.auIn an emergency, call 000.

Men can access anonymous confidential telephone counselling to help to stop using violent and controlling behaviour through the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.