I could say Torrance, CA punk quartet Joyce Manor played a tireless set at BackBooth Tuesday night, full of quick, bombastic blasts of energy from throughout their catalog, because all of that is 100% true. But, I think that would be short-changing Joyce Manor, because most punk shows are of a similar design. What truly hit me, what I actually walked away from the show with, was much, much more important. Enjoy.
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“IF being violent at a show is something you think you’re entitled to, then – FUCK YOU!”
Amongst all loud, angst-ridden, and brilliant music that spilled out of BackBooth, this quote shined as the crux of the evening. Almost instantaneously, Joyce Manor lead vocalist and guitarist, Barry Johnson changed the night’s climate from a great punk show to one of great social importance.
Earlier in the evening, my photographer Karina explained to me that the band had started a conversation on Twitter about violence at punk shows, and how many fans, unintentionally or not, hurt others by hurling their bodies into the crowd. The band had warned their fans about the possibly-violent act of stage diving – in particular, the number of women hurt by much larger men at shows – and although there was an incredible support for the band’s stance, many “punk purist” have bashed the band for their views.
But seriously, fuck those people. I applaud Joyce Manor for their words on Twitter, and am even more impressed that in the moment, they would fearlessly defend and criticize their own fans, because they feel so strongly about them. But I shouldn’t have to praise Joyce Manor. Because its members are not declaring themselves activists and protesters, they simply expect all of their fans, regardless of gender, to respect each other. An opinion that should go without saying, but for some reason, has been ignored for decades.
In the early-90’s, Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna spoke similar unabashed criticism towards the same kind of violence that Joyce Manor did Tuesday night. Sadly however, it seems punk fans have forgotten Hanna’s words. Johnson’s spirited PSA did evoke a strong cheer from the audience, but during the very next song, I witnessed a fan jump from the back of the audience onto the heads unsuspecting concert-goers. The young man then attempted to reach the band by crawling on the skulls of others. I believe Johnson too took notice of this.
Later in evening, Johnson delivered another impassioned speech about the guilt he feels when he sees Joyce Manor’s music used as the soundtrack for violent behavior. His sincerity was unquestionable and, despite the electric performance, I believe the issue weighed heavily on his mind throughout the performance. I also believe that if their shows continue to end in injuries, many bands, including Joyce Manor, could lose the drive to tour out of safety for their fans.
And it’s horrible that this issue had to take precedence that night. Joyce Manor put on an incredible show, as did Des Ark and The Exquisites. But as the night closed, I could only think about how the lyrics to the show’s encore, “Leather Jacket,” and how they clearly mirrored some of the fans shouting them.
“In your new leather jacket, you’re somebody else.”
Punk-ass photos by Karina Curto: