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Following the very public manslaughter trial of Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe following the death of a fan who jumped from the stage, pretty much everyone involved in live metal shows is walking on eggshells when it comes to fan participation. So much so in fact that many venues have enacted a “No Stagediving” policy in an effort to avoid any potential liability.

This seems like a ridiculous policy to enact, especially considering that the venues booked the infamous Dillinger Escape Plan, whose live show guarantees a 100% chance of stagediving. The Ocean guitarist Robin Stapps recently made public his reservations regarding this rule and spoke out via Facebook:

“what are these stupid “no jumping into the crowd” rules on a tour which gloats about being the “most extreme tour of the year”, seriously? I don’t get it.

This is the 5fth night in a row that we can’t go into the crowd because of stupid agency or venue policies. I’m getting bored. Someone tell these dumbfucks that stage diving doesn’t kill people, and that stage barriers and 6 foot ditches won’t stop us from leaping into the crowd, they just make the leap a little longer and a little more dangerous for everyone.

Someone also tell them that fans know what to expect when they see The Dillinger Escape Plan or The Ocean live. If you are worried about your make up, don’t be in the first row!!!”

Having the fortune of seeing The Ocean before, I can attest that their show is less volatile than Dillinger’s, but comparable on a good night. Loic Rosetti soared over my head once, and it was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. I agree with Stapps on this one; this is the way you have a good time at a metal show — moshing, stagediving, crowdsurfing, what have you — and most fans understand the risk for personal injury and should attend at their own risk. I’m not against the idea of fans having to sign an agreement regarding this upon purchase of tickets, either. I don’t think we should be neutering an extreme metal show.

Sumerian Records boss man Ash Avildsen disagrees, and fired back at Stapps:

I’m a bit offended by The Ocean Collective‘s recent Facebook post jabbing Summer Slaughter and some of the venues that are willing to host it so let me set the record straight.

Summer Slaughter is called “The Most Extreme Tour Of The Year” because of the music. It’s the only tour that puts 10 national acts who play progressive, extreme music all on one stage inside a club during the summer in North America. It’s not called this because of bands doing vintage stage antics.

Iggy Pop and Jim Morrison were jumping off stages in to the crowd before you guys ever picked up an instrument. Jumping off things at a venue doesn’t make you extreme, it makes you dangerous. Sure it’s a cool thing to watch if no one gets hurt, who doesn’t love eye candy? But the reality is people get injured, paralyzed or in rare cases die from this and therefore certain venues at these capacity levels will not allow it. This is usually because of past lawsuits or ones that are still pending verdicts/settlements. It’s not the opening band who’s going to end up footing the bill for the kid when their parents sue for a million dollars for damages, it’s the venue. So next time you start whining about not being allowed to be “extreme” enough on Summer Slaughter, focus on being appreciative of the opportunity you have been given to play your music in front of thousands of people opening for some other great bands instead. If you still really think your music and live performance simply will not be properly conveyed because you can’t jump off shit, then do it where other people don’t have to catch you and risk getting hurt. Land that move and go back on stage to finish your vocal line. That’s extreme. Or maybe you go on tour with Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza and find a new definition for what you consider extreme at a show. I invited you to play because I appreciate your music, so start appreciating the venues and people who are making it possible for you to be here. While you keep taking notes from Dillinger on stage, be sure to take them off stage too. They carry their our own tour/liability insurance. Might want to look in to that bud.

P.S. Mick Foley getting thrown off the top of a steel cage by The Undertaker at Hell In A Cell and taking a 16 foot fall is far more extreme and just as scripted as your next stage dive.

-Ash Avildsen
Summer Slaughter Tour Creator

Clearly Ash disagrees, and was awful quick to make petty passive-aggressive jabs at Stapps (“bud”?), and made a lot of irrelevant name drops and references. The Ocean shouldn’t be too concerned about jumping into the audience because some rock and roll icons did it decades ago? Okay. When you book a band, you should take their live performance into consideration. Like Robin said, a show with Dillinger and The Ocean comes with the expectation that someone’s taking a leap from somewhere. Ash took this way too personally.

On the other side of the coin, I understand that America is a very litigious country, which is strikingly different from what The Ocean are used to (more or less). People get sued over here all the time, and lawyers come running at the drop of a hat. Venues catch heat for accidents caused by stagediving and moshing, so they react by making a sweeping bad of the practice. Makes sense if you put yourself in the shoes of a venue owner.

UPDATE: 1:54 PM: Robin Stapps responds to Ash via a post on The Ocean’s Facebook:

“… so our recent facebook post on stage diving at Summer Slaughter has recently turned into a bit of a drama, as some people have said – or maybe just a healthy discussion of a difficult topic. Ash Avidsen, head of Summer Slaughter tour, has replied to our post this morning, see link below. And here is our reply, once more.

Ash,

we have been enjoying this tour to the max, despite some venue’s strict regulations, and we appreciate the opportunity of being here. The point was not to diss the Summer Slaughter tour, which we respect for being a forward-thinking and ground-breaking institution – that’s the whole reason why we did it, and we are happy to be part of this not only extreme, but progressive and interesting and diverse lineup. It’s been a great time.

Firstly, I understand that these “no jumping into the crowd” rules come from certain venues, and not from Summer Slaughter – because most of the nights, it has not been an issue at all — only in a certain chain of venues (and you know well which ones I am talking about), where policies have been so strict that the local security would not even let band members get back on stage or backstage, after they had jumped into the crowd!!! Excuse me, but I find this a bit pathetic. And again, this was not coming from the Summer Slaughter HQ.

I do see your point on the risks involved, in theory. In practice, it’s really not about justifying jumping off 30 feet balconies at House of Blues, it’s not about jumping feet-first into the crowd, with the intention to hurt fans. When you have a light-weight vocalist that communicates with the crowd a lot, and makes them anticipate the jump, the potential risk of injury is about as high as the risk of a guitar player breaking his ankle while stepping on the monitor, or the risk of dying from a heat stroke on a tennis court.

With this whole discussion (not just here but in general), what I find lacking most of the time is a bit of common sense. We don’t want anyone to get hurt, and the people in the first row don’t want to get hurt either, but they are aware of being in a higher energy scenario then in the back of the room there (and hence are more alert and cautious and raise their arms when someone jumps). There is a minimal potential risk involved when a crowd gathers to watch a band play, gets excited, and starts moving – just as there is a potential risk involved with playing volley ball, or doing any kind of sports, really. And in the end, that’s what a rock ‘n roll show is, both for the band, as well as for the majority of the audience: an event of sports.

Stage diving is a beautiful thing – it’s an intense interaction between the crowd and the band. It’s the crowd that actually makes it work, for if they cleared out and if there was none to catch the singer, he would face plant on the floor. The fans don’t want that, and the momentum of energy unleashed when a 90 pounds singer leaps into the crowd and 20 people raise their arms to catch him is low enough that none will get hurt. We may not have been doing this back in the days when Iggy Pop, one of my biggest idols, did it – but we’ve been doing it for 12 years too, and noone ever got hurt in any of close to 1000 shows we have played with this band. Just saying.

– Robin Staps / THE OCEAN“

What do you think? Is safety the prime concern or is it the energy of the show? Should fans be protected or should they come to metal shows with the expectation of being at some remote risk of injury?

– JR

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