Thanks for doing this interview. Could you please state your name(s) and role(s)?
My name is Carly Comando and I sing and play keys in Slingshot Dakota.
As a touring artist, have you ever noticed any behaviors that you consider harmful in the scene, especially in regards to harassment and/or discrimination?
I would say that the shows that make me the most uncomfortable are house shows that are more like house parties. When you’re already exhausted from driving “x” hours in a day, and it turns out your house show is just an excuse for kids to get wasted, it’s a huge bummer. It’s a bummer to know that most people are using the show as an excuse to drink heavily, and it’s a bummer because for us, we’re taking the time to exhaust ourselves on a daily basis to play in a small basement where kids are going to spill beer over everything. This isn’t ALWAYS the case for house shows. We love house shows.. we grew up with them and that’s how we both found punk.
However, we both were involved with punk houses that were dry spaces. There have also been a select few that have perfectly balanced drinking and show enjoyment. It’s just usually rare. I see more problems with these kinds of house party-shows than I do at bars that we play. As someone who’s experienced sexual assault personally, I know that alcohol can lead to terrible decisions. I guess my critique is, a safe space can rarely exist with alcohol present. It CAN exist, but I’ve rarely ever seen it.
Tom and I drink – we aren’t straight edge – but when we go on tour, the priority is doing what we love and staying healthy so we can continue to drive around the country for a month or two. And as a punk, I know you can’t tell people what to do, so as a band, we try to avoid house show venues that we’ve gotten bad vibes from.
In terms of discrimination, I deal with it all the time as a female who plays a piano in a punk setting. I’ve been dealing with it since I started my first band in high school all the way to now. I fight it by existing and kicking ass. I fight it by talking about it. As someone who isn’t from every scene in the US, however, it’s not up to me to tell each local scene how to become more diversified. I just hope that by us existing and playing their scene, they’ll see that you can be different and challenge the punk norm.
What do you think needs to change specifically in order to help create a safer music scene for everyone?
I think communication is key. I think it’s up to each local scene to decide what makes them feel “safe.” For me, I think underage drinking is a huge problem, but it’s not up to me to tell anyone what to do. When I was growing up in Long Island, we had a huge meeting to discuss sexual assault and gender inequality in our scene. I’m not sure if I exactly felt better after it, but at least all of us could say we were doing our best to use our voices and communicate the problems that existed.
What role do you believe the following should have in promoting a safer and more inclusive music scene:
I think that when you are at the center of attention of a show, you hold an important responsibility as a role model to that audience. Not that you need to say anything ground breaking at any show, but be aware of the power your voice and music have to an audience.
If you say something offensive, the audience can either challenge you or accept it, depending on how much they look up to you. Be aware of that. I know technically there is no hierarchy in punk, but I see fans idolize punk bands all the time and emulate things they do. Also, if you’re playing a space that doesn’t make YOU feel comfortable, vocalize that too. Choose to not play it, or choose to not play it again but tell the venue why. What can they do better? What makes it feel unsafe for everyone?
You have a voice. You aren’t alone. If you don’t feel safe at certain venues, please talk to or write the people in charge of that venue. Most of the time people don’t know something is wrong, and until you communicate that, they’ll never know. If you don’t feel comfortable, ask a friend to help you communicate.
Be aware women are in bands now 😉 Don’t ask me if I’m someone’s girlfriend trying to get in for free. Also, if you’re a club venue offering all ages shows, but you’re going to be really aggressive towards minors, there’s no point in being all ages. We played a venue in LI with Title Fight and we literally watched the door people touch/pick up/forcefully move kids outside who, from what we could tell, did nothing that required such treatment. We immediately talked to the club owner about it.
My opinions with alcohol are mixed, but if you’re a house show, please try to prioritize the music over the drinking. It’s not rewarding to be a band that makes no money because the entire crowed needed to fund their PBR for the night. It’s not rewarding to see people care less about music and more about getting fucked up. Don’t make your venue about drinking.
Are there any places, scenes and/or venues that you’ve noticed to be a safe space? If so, what are they doing that should be emulated by others?
I think this is a hard question overall. What I might deem as safe, someone else might have had another experience in that atmosphere. I can say as a touring band, the venues that regulate drinking to 21+, the dry houses and DIY spaces, all seem to be in the right direction. At least at a bar, you have less of an incline to spend $100 on drinks, whereas a house you can bring a whole bottle of whiskey.
It’s weird to say I feel “safe” in a bar, but sometimes I feel safer than at a house show. And that sucks, because music is for everyone and many bars aren’t all ages. Additionally, I think being aware of your personal space helps create a safe space. If you’re in a scene that is in tune with the space you take up and you’re aware of the needs and feelings of others, that creates a safe space. If you’re creating a dialogue about a safe space, you’re doing something to create a safe space.
Are there any particular bands, musicians, and/or organizations you believe are making an effort to help this cause?
At this point, I can’t think of anyone specifically that is making an effort to help this cause but I’m sure they exist. I am wrapped up in my own brain of booking shows and taking care of my own tour that I honestly haven’t been aware. However, I can say that as a band still booking our own tours, I only book at venues I feel safe at. I still take a gamble with new venues but overall, I don’t play the same places that have made me feel uncomfortable.