We are living in an age of social awareness, spurred on – no doubt – by social media’s fondness for airing the public’s dirty laundry. Questionable behaviour rarely goes without being tried in the court of public opinion. #MeToo is probably the most notable example of this, but on a more local scale, the Sticky Finger’s controversy has proved to be quite the hot topic at the pub.
The drama (not to sound trivial), has been ongoing since late 2016. It involved rumoured racial slurs, altercations with women outside pubs and feuds with local artists. And now the band have reached the end of a yearlong hiatus, citing internal conflict as the reason for their break. In April, lead singer Dylan Frost released a statement disclosing to the public his various mental health issues and seeking rehabilitation for his extensive substance abuse.
Earlier that same month, a gruelling radio Q&A with Triple J spurred more backlash against the group, with Frost attempting to explain his aggressive tendencies; “Violence in my past under the influence, I guess, you know, f***** boys will be boys, you know?” Ah, that dreaded phrase. Boys will be boys is fundamentally flawed and a really pathetic excuse for anything. It was disappointing, as a long-time fan and also a feminist, that such a statement was used in defence of questionable behaviour.
Nonetheless, I was a fan of their music. But due to the band’s immense popularity and sold out show, after sold out show, I never got to see the reggae-inspired band live – until last Saturday night.
I asked many friends if they were going to see the band live – apparently, a STIFI concert is the place to run into the whole of the Inner West – but no one seemed interested in buying a ticket for this particular tour. Their hesitance, apparently, was due to “everything that went down”. On the defence were friends who knew the band personally and vouched for their genuine regret.
Hearing from both sides within my inner circle made the act of going to the concert all the more conflicting. I felt guilty and conflicted: would supporting a band who were rumoured to have verbally abused women make me a hypocrite?
The Night of The Gig
The concert was held at Luna Park’s Big Top where a bizarre juxtaposition of Sydney’s nightlife presented itself. A family-friendly fun amusement park with the romance of Ferris wheel lights and children looking up in awe at Coney Island was met with a tsunami of rowdy youths. If I ever sounded like a disgruntled pensioner, it would be now.
To give you a taste of the type of crowd STIFI attracts, walking into the venue, one man who looked like Russell Crowe’s doppleganger from Romper Stomper (uh oh) excitedly shouted, “ DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY METHAMPHETAMINE’S?”. I was also alarmed to see one fan walk in having already been in a fight – his eye socket bruised with dry blood hardening on his skin. Violence was the opening act before the big show.
As the house lights went down, a roar of cheering engulfed the Big Top. Lead singer, Dylan Frost, entered the stage with his iconic black coat and white glasses. Bass player Paddy Cornwall greeted the crowd, “Sydney, it’s been a while”. In a surprising move, the band opened the set with their biggest hit, “Australia Street”.
It was at this point that a group of men behind me began enthusiastically chanting “YEAH THE BOYS”. Over and over, like a primal call to their lord, a hymn of praise and worship used to solidify their love for the original hipster gods. It was thick in the air, that feeling of over-whelming, repugnant masculinity that I thought only adolescent boys revelled in. After a great set filled with fan favourite classics and a few new songs the house lights came up and the roadies flocked the stage. With fans standing around dumbfounded, cheering emerged from the merchandise section where the band members were casually greeting fans. As we went over to try and get a closer look, a group of boys (similar to the “yeah the boys” choir) started chanting something a little more alarming;
“F*** Thelma Plum! F*** Thelma Plum!” and so on and so on. It was a brazen verbal attack in pure pack dynamic – a complete group of strangers with no involvement in the issue were hurling this abuse in hopes Seamus Coyle, the lead guitarist, would hear them. Plum has always been a prominent figure amongst the various STIFI controversies, with her recent messages to Cornwall’s girlfriend making headlines. It was sad but eye-opening to see that these young men thought that degrading a woman would be seen as supportive to the band, but even more eye-opening for me to see how the influence of a few guys singing songs could have such a detrimental impact on gender relations.
That rhythmic tribal chanting rang through my head on the bus ride home. It had never been more obvious that the “Yeah the Boys” culture is a persistent and dark shadow on our society. I do feel that the band is not entirely at fault, but rather the fault of the aforementioned culture that surrounds them. I felt uneasy and disappointed in a lot of things I witnessed that night – the biggest sign that maybe engaging in an act so simple like going to a concert would disrupt my social morals. I don’t regret seeing Sticky Fingers live, I knew I had to see them perform just once, but last Saturday may be the first and last time.
What are your opinions on the controversy surrounding the band? Would you support them live?