A Melbourne rock band has cancelled a performance after a teenage fan was allegedly sexually harassed at their show over the weekend.
Smith Street Band frontman Will Wagner claimed a concertgoer was groped at a recent show for people under the age of 18. He said the distress caused by this incident and other past events has led him to question whether to continue performing live.
The groping is alleged to have occurred at the Hawthorn Arts Centre on Saturday, May 12. The singer said the perpetrator was arrested, however Victoria Police could not confirm if someone was brought into police custody.
Wagner has since taken to Facebook to talk about the personal toll harassment at live music venues has on artists and events organisers.
"When something like this happens I lie awake all night blaming myself and thinking of how I can do better and how I can help," he said.
"I'm aware of how selfish and self-absorbed this sounds because I'm clearly not the victim in this situation [but] after ten years it feels like every fight in the crowd, every groping, every on of these f—— bullshit 'incidents' stacks up on my conscience creating a weight I am now unable to carry.
"When I walk on stage, I should be focusing on getting the chords right and not f—— up the words. Instead, I squeeze my eyes shut because I'm too scared to look at the crowd in case I see something that makes me want to throw my guitar down and rip someone's head off."
The singer said even though he and his fellow band mates have taken steps over the years to provide a safe environment for fans – such as talking to security before a show and ensuring the venue provides anti-harassment posters – he still feels a sense of helplessness.
"I didn't start writing songs so they could become the soundtrack to people getting groped and people throwing punches," he said. "I'm gunna keep making music, nothing is ever going to stop me doing that, but it might be a while before I feel comfortable on stage again."
As a result, The Smith Street Band cancelled its Sunday, May 13 performance at Castlemaine's Theatre Royal. However, the band's manager confirmed the Melbourne gig on Friday, May 18 will go ahead as planned.
Stacey Piggott, one of the co-founders of Your Choice – a group that promotes a no-tolerance approach to sexual harassment in the music industry – said the issues Wagner raised are part of a conversation "that needs to happen".
"There is a huge responsibility on artists, as well as venue and festival staff when something bad happens on their watch," she said. "It's heartbreaking when you put your energy into creating an experience that is supposed to be positive and someone leaves it feeling shattered.
"While the experiences of victims should always be privileged and centred in these discussions, it is important to recognise the full range of impacts that sexual harassment and assault can have in the music industry.
"Perpetrators need to be aware of the flow-on effects of their actions. They need to be held directly accountable."
If you are experiencing harassment, violence or abuse you can contacted the national sexual assault helpline on 1800RESPECT.
Broede Carmody is an entertainment reporter at Fairfax Media.
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