The usual caricature of the progressive rock audience in the UK is that it’s male, and, as one female singer said in the very first issue of Prog, probably bearded with a liking for real ale and steam trains. However, it’s pleasing to note that in the last few years, progressive rock has become a lot more diverse, with more and more women on the scene. They’re not only in the audience either, but also making music too. The whole scene can only be healthier as a result.
Unfortunately this has brought with it a downside, namely the attitude of some audience members to women musicians. For example, there are the amateur photographers whose eagerness to get near the stage increases several-fold when there’s a woman performing, and they only ever seem to be taking pictures of her, seemingly oblivious to the other musicians or whatever else is happening on the stage. We’ve all seen those people who seem to watch the whole gig from the screen of their camera or smartphone, but this is something else entirely.
Secondly, and this is more serious, some female musicians have spoken privately of occasions at signing sessions and the like, where certain audience members will try to take advantage of the close contact. There’ll be the chap, and yes, it’s always the chaps, who tries for a hug or even a kiss, or who maybe asks for a photograph, but then the friendly arm around the waist or shoulders starts to wander. One particular singer described it to me as: ‘copping a feel’. The women themselves probably won’t make a fuss, as they don’t want to make a scene, but incidents like these often make the artist understandably less willing to meet and to talk to members of the public after a show, and that spoils things for everyone else. This type of behaviour would get you thrown out of a lap dancing club, so why do some feel it’s acceptable at a gig? All this has the unpleasant side-effect of creating a particular atmosphere, which extends beyond the stage. I’ve been told by some female audience members that it makes them feel uncomfortable, even if it’s mostly aimed at the performers rather than those in the crowd.
This is not an attempt to be PC; it’s born out of a genuine appreciation for what women have brought to our scene.
I also feel a sense of exasperation that they have to put up with this kind of nonsense in 2016. We’re prog fans; surely we’re better than this?
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