Stagediving, putting the danger back into live music

It had become a rock and roll cliche – until R&B stars started putting their own fans in genuine physical peril

Before Iggy Pop became a spokesman for visible sinews and betraying everything he used to stand for in exchange for money, he was widely credited with popularising the stagedive, a manoeuvre that came to encapsulate punk rock. Inevitably, the following decades saw the entropy of familiarity set in; stagediving creakily joined guitar demolition, night-time sunglasses and trousers so snug it looked as if someone had thrown paint in an aardvark's face in the lexicon of cliched onstage peacockery. Stagediving became boring. Expected. Managerially encouraged. The very things it once railed against.

When dinky rhymesmith Labrinth bowled onstage at the University Of Kent's Summer Ball last month, he had no intention of becoming one of stagediving's saviours. In fact, he probably foresaw a gig much like any other: bass, beats, bantz. When he hurled himself into the arms of his expectant crowd he presumably expected to glide atop the ocean of palms like a silken hanky, allowing lucky folks to clutch a decent fistful of his arse before depositing him back on stage with the delicacy of a Jenga grand master. Instead, 50 students were flattened in a resounding domino effect of fail. It was wondrous.

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It was also redolent of an incident in May in which R&B hormone-hose Miguel was similarly overcome with the urge to commit bystander facepain. His stagedive at the Billboard Music Awards was more of an airborne scissor-legdrop, a cross between ballet, niche pornography and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. It was if he was trying to kick God in both his testes, one nut per foot. A poor fan's head paid for his hubris, pinned between white-suited thigh and studiously polished floor. The victim is, unsurprisingly, suing him.

Miguel's manager had apparently advised against the dive before the show, and probably had nasal soulster Akon in mind when he did so. In February, Akon was notified that an ex-fan, into whom he'd imprinted the outline of his arse in 2009 during a dive, was seeking compensation. That same month, papers seeking monetary reparations also plopped through the letterbox of rapper Rick Ross, citing an incident in which he "negligently or wantonly leaped into the overcrowded mass of concertgoers". Rick Ross isn't a small man: think the pre-credits sequence of Raiders Of The Lost Ark, plus bling and a bushy beard. It's easy to see why the litigant's spine might have objected, compacted, as it was, like a crap, bony accordion.

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Not since Metallic KO has live music been so dangerous. For the princely sum of a concert ticket you might witness something spectacularly funny that no grainy clip on YouTube will ever be able to replicate. Or, your face might be kicked out through the back of your hair by a rapper inflated to full-body Priapism with Self-ZOMG. It's a gamble. An experience. But to be part of it you have to be there. And live music needs all the help it can get.


Luke Holland

The GuardianTramp

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