Op-Ed: You must be this tall to stand front row

I felt pulling on my backpack and heard this woman yelling “You’re too f*cking tall to be there!” I moved to the side but she decided to dump her beers on my gear and my shirt.”

Being a woman who is 6’1” isn’t something I’m always happy about. Growing up I was always one of the tallest kids in the class and with time it quickly became an insecurity of mine.

As of late, there is talk among the concert community about how taller people shouldn’t stand up front during concerts. Recently a Michigan band, Mover Shaker, tweeted the following 

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I would like to use this article not as a call out, but rather a very good starting point to a conversation that needs to be held. As an avid concert attendee of six years now, I have had a variety of experiences in relation to my height, and others around me.

As much as it did hurt to read that statement, with my height and my love for concerts being as big as it is, the band followed the tweet with this reply;

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With that being said, I don’t believe Mover Shaker was calling out every single person above 5’6” who likes to stand up front. I can empathize with those who have had unfortunate circumstances with said type of person.

Height was more of an unspoken issue at shows until the recent social media campaign. At a local festival this year, my friends and I arrived early for a popular set, hoping to be at the barrier for it. I remember one of the girls behind us saying loudly to her friends “wow, not sure how I’m gonna enjoy this when I can’t even see.”  The comment upset me, and had she asked nicely I would’ve let her in front of me but in that case, I will admit that I just ignored her hurtful comments.

I do try to make sure I’m not purposely blocking someone’s view and try to check behind me before sets. However, it is hard to continuously be aware of who you’re standing in front of when the crowd is constantly moving and the person who was behind you, in the beginning, isn’t always going to be there at the end of the set.

In addition to the hurtful comments I have received as a fan in the crowd, I have experienced backlash as a tall photographer. My work began in small bar rooms that have a cap of about 400 people or less. In situations like these I always stand in the front but off to either side.  A lot of the time, others who are up front and see me holding a camera tend to say something along the lines of “let me know if I’m in your way, just let me know!” Or, “Hey! Let me know if you need to get in front of me for a shot or something.” It’s funny how some people will see someone holding a camera and just suddenly offer their spot, even with me being 6’1″.

Despite the majority of positive experiences, this does not outweigh some of the more extreme reactions I have had to my height. A very intoxicated woman and her boyfriend were at the barricade for a show at the Crofoot. Right before the headliner took the stage, me and the other photographers headed out into the photo pit to get situated. I felt pulling on my backpack and heard this woman yelling “You’re too f*cking tall to be there!” I moved to the side but she decided to dump her beers on my gear and my shirt.

Landon Defever, whom I met a few years ago, made atwitter thread about some of his experiences being a 6’7” concert goer, and I think he made some very valid points.

Defever understands that there is an advantage to our height, but it doesn’t mean we are going to be inconsiderate about it. As mentioned in one of his tweets, Landon states that at pretty much each shows he’s ever attended he’s made an effort to actively look behind him to make sure he’s not standing directly in front of someone shorter than him. I would like to think that most people who are taller tend to do this as well. 

In addition, we are almost relied on in the front to help aid security is grabbing crowd surfers and helping coordinate their safety.

 Winnie Zhang (5’3″) and Chloe Roland (also 5’3″) shared their opinions with me as well.

“Nonissue. Everyone is there for the same reason; to have fun and enjoy the band(s) they’re seeing.” stated Zhang.

“Everyone paid to get in. Someone’s height could be an inconvenience for you but that doesn’t give someone the right to make mean comments or force them to go to the back when they have just as much right to be there. I’m sure most taller people would gladly let someone significantly shorter than them go in front. Your height is not something that can be controlled, so I honestly see no logic in giving people s*it for it. If you can’t see you can also move to convenience yourself. As for me personally, it doesn’t matter where I’m standing because I’m gonna end up in the pit or in the air anyway.” 

Roland’s take on this was very similar. She stated that when she was younger it was difficult for her to see if she was in the back, but now that she’s older and can get to shows early it’s not as often of an occurrence.

“I think if you know your height and that it can be an issue, get there early. Simple as that. Some shows you’ll be able to see and some you won’t but you can’t expect tall people to sacrifice every show.”  said Roland.

I think we need to try and talk about better ways to go about things like this as a community. I respect Jack of Mover Shaker, for tweeting an apology on their personal twitter.I understand that everyone can act quickly without fully thinking about the repercussions, especially when it’s something we have very strong feelings about. Mover Shaker is a great band, and while I did not fully agree with what was said in the initial tweet, the follow up of who it was directed toward and why it was said, made more sense. In the end, this was and is still a topic that needs to be talked about from more point of views more.

Janelle Santacruz