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When jumps in the pit raise the question of the safety of the public (and the artists)

These are unforgettable memories for some. The singer of Phoenix, Thomas Mars, being carried by the crowd to the front control, in the middle of the pit, and returning in the same way to the stage; Julien Doré who imitates the leader of the Versailles group a few years later; and even Zazie who plunges head first into the audience…

All these exceptional moments that occurred at the Vieilles Charrues, the festival’s programmer, Jean-Jacques Toux, will never forget them, he confides to 20 minutes. “These are moments never planned beforehand, it depends on the singer’s feelings, but some are more customary than others”.

Jump in the crowd

These jumps in the crowd, they are called the slam. A practice originating in the world of rock, punk and metal that has become popular across all musical genres. And today, some groups are used to “body surfing”, as it is called in Quebec. Among the followers, the rapper Rilès who, at the Musilac festival in early July, threw himself off the stage to land, after a somersault, right in the audience.

His acrobatic figure, impressive, allowed the singer to merge with his audience. But it could be dangerous, for the principal concerned as for the people who are at the reception. Louna, an 18-year-old festival-goer present in the pit during Rilès’ somersault, has no regrets despite her bruise and a scratch on her knees caused by the crowd movement created to receive the artist.

“He warned us, he told us he was going to go down, but I didn’t think he was going to do a somersault,” she told 20 minutes, a smile in his voice. Because even if she fell under the pressure of the crowd, she knowingly chose to go among the first ranks. “There are people who break things,” adds the young rap and pop fan.

A highly codified practice

Another slam specialist, Arthur, member and leader of the Bagarre group, likes to share this complicity with the crowd. But he does not jump from the stage and prefers to climb on the crash barriers – which separate the stage from the public –, then let yourself go. If he threw himself once from the stage, it was at the Olympia, on a very compact crowd and insiders, he tells 20 minutes. Essential to not hurt anyone from the height of his 1.93 m.

Because, according to him, “the misunderstanding with Rilès, or rappers like Roméo Elvis, is to export this practice to very mainstream and popular festivals, whereas it is done more in regular scenes. The slam in this way, like the pogo (consented and disorganized jostling), it belongs to a very coded genre of music where there is never any injury, unlike festivals where the public is more varied”.

The security in question

If Arthur has never been afraid for his own safety, instructions are sometimes given. “When there are too many crowd movements, we are warned,” he says. Because they can spoil the party. “Some people complain that there are too many pogos… They are not always of real interest and even can even prevent some people from fully enjoying the show,” continues Louna. Sometimes it turns tragic. A crowd movement was fatal to eight people during Travis Scott’s concert at the Astroworld festival in Texas on November 5. Two other people later died in hospital.

For the artist, the jump into the pit can also end very badly. We all remember the discomfort caused by the fall of Shy’m at Bercy in November 2015. Fortunately, the artist was not injured, since she recently explained that she had in fact been caught “very low in the hands of people “.

But some falls had a more tragic outcome. In 2014, a festival-goer on stage lost his life two days after the Persistence Tour in Germany after jumping into the crowd without being caught. The slam is also banned in several countries, according to the Swiss newspaper Le Matin. Among our Swiss neighbours, some festivals for the general public display a pictogram to remind them of its prohibition, such as at Paléo in Nyon. At Les Vieilles Charrues, there is no risk of hurting the public or getting hurt, the space between the stage and the pit is too wide to jump from above, which limits the risks. “In any case with regard to the three big scenes”, slips Jean-Jacques Toux.

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