Holdgruen: The importance of music scene safe spaces may be lost on older generations

Music is a significant part of youth culture. I’ve been exposed to punk, emo and indie local scenes, all of which share a common characteristic: an increasing importance being placed on creating safe art spaces and enforcing and respecting consent within them.

From Rochester to Brooklyn to the local scene at Geneseo, evolving youth culture emphasizes and addresses the issues of masculinity and aggression in music scenes as well as addressing what participants can do to make spaces comfortable for people other than white males. What I’ve witnessed and experienced within these spaces, however, is a potential generation gap between our youth generation and older, adult participants.

There was a casual, calm atmosphere at a recent rock show in Rochester. There existed a mutual understanding among the young crowd that this was the type of show where you may head bob while sipping a beer, but not push or mosh like previous shows I’ve attended at this exact venue.

There was a surprisingly large percentage of middle-aged adult audience members at the show, some of whom appeared to be as old as my parents. I couldn’t help but notice the unspoken safe space and consent rules—understood by most respectable young people familiar with music scenes—were violated by the older audience members.

One man––who I estimated to be in his late 40s or early 50s––reached over and smacked the back of the head of a young man in front of him whose arms were raised, taking a picture of the stage with his cell phone.

While they can be annoying and obstructive, cell phones are typically used during any kind of show—it’s a big part of our generation’s culture. It is never acceptable to touch, to be aggressive to or pettily assault a complete stranger at a show. As a close bystander, I was anxious about this man potentially touching me in a similar way if he didn’t like something I was doing.

It seemed to me that this older man enforced authority over a young person, whilst not understanding typical show etiquette or appropriate consent.

Another man who looked about the same age caused disruptions during the show by heckling the musician and starting verbal fights with other audience members. During the encore of the show, this man came up behind me, put his arms tightly around my lower body, moved me to the side and pushed in front of me to jump and dance around the mostly motionless crowd.

Three years of attending shows leads to weird experiences—being kicked in the face, punched in the gut and even inhaling pepper spray. Obviously, unwanted touching was nothing I had experienced before in art and music spaces. It was not expected at such a calm, respectable show.

Safe space and consent just may not be something some adult audiences think about. It is often coupled with current and evolving feminist ideas, some of which older generations may not care about or take seriously. Safe art spaces are not new, but have evolved from previous music cultures and scenes. Its revival is becoming more prevalent in our youth music culture and may not be realized by older generations.

Alcohol and drugs may hinder judgment, but it is overwhelmingly possible that the importance of safe space education and enforcement at these music scenes is underestimated by older generations. No one should ever be denied entry to a music or art space because of age, but if this generational gap of knowledge and etiquette exists, more attention must be made to education at these spaces. Violations made by older men completely undermine the goals of the movement and culture.