Monday, July 28, 2014

The Grabby Problem (and Mr. Velvet Hands)

A fan grabbing some ass. Looks like she’s married too. 

So you spend a small fortune on a concert ticket in the pit next to the stage — why? You won’t be far enough from the stage to get a good look at it; your entire view will be of the legs of the performers, and a severely telescoped look at their heads. Your view will be impeded by a forest of hands holding up phones. The sound will not be engineered to resonate well at this distance. You will not be able to sit down. You will be squashed. You do it for proximity: the opportunity to make physical contact with the star.

Everyone on the economic end of the concert experience knows this; it’s why the star will devote considerable time during the show to slapping hands with those in the front rows. Some will even sit down on the edge of the stage to sing a song or two, legs dangling perilously among the fans. Stages are designed to facilitate this, with their promontories stretching out in configurations allowing for maximum front-row exposure.

And if you weren’t quite close enough to shake hands during the show, or just missed by an inch? Then if you hang around afterwards, chances are the star will too, staying to sign autographs as the house lights come up and the crowd files out.

It’s one of the big perks of the ticket price. But has the expectation of physical contact become so de rigueur that it seems a right to those who pay for the privilege? If you’re an excited, perhaps tipsy lady with a powerful crush on the star, where do you draw the line between being satisfied with the momentary hand touch and a full-on grope? What if you have the opportunity, and could reach the denim-clad crown jewels, say — the bull’s-eye — would you? And if you’re the star, how close do you let the ladies get to your wedding tackle? The Inky Jukebox has seen phone footage of the crotches of singers so close to the lens that surely, surely, such an opportunistic grope would have been not only possible, but possibly invited.

Some entertainers have reached a point in their careers where this sort of thing — the grabby problem — is a known issue. Tim McGraw, for example. There was the famous incident in which his wife, Faith Hill, freaked out on a grabby fan after she groped him onstage. There was a mixed reaction: on the one hand, folks thought Faith was being a tad Mama Bear in going after the fan; on the other, folks wondered why Tim himself didn’t respond in the same way.

Skip forward a few years, and here we are again: some woman makes a grab for McGraw’s well-muscled leg (and more?) — but this time, his wife isn’t around to kick ass, so he swats the offending  intrusion away. The trouble is, he makes contact with the woman’s face instead of her hand. And all hell breaks loose. Did he intend to slap a bitch? Of course not. He’s in the middle of a song. Did he do what he felt was immediately necessary to extricate himself? Yes. Case closed. The woman, however, is gunning for revenge (or an apology and cash), for the humiliation. Let’s get this clear: she reached for him, first, not the other way around. Case closed.

Tim McGraw is a veteran performer; he never fails to tell the audience this, as if anyone in the crowd didn’t already know. He is fully aware of what the ladies want. They want to touch his crotch. They want a “Real Good Man.” They do not want “Truck Yeah” or “Mexicoma” to make a set list ever again.

The Inky Jukebox has witnessed McGraw interrupt a show to ask fans to remove their beers from the stage. He cited safety reasons. The fans at McGraw shows are humped so close to the stage upon which he struts that there is nowhere else for them to rest their beers.

Does this mean Tim McGraw must now push his stage back to create distance between him and his fans? Does it mean no more hand-slapping during shows? Or does it mean that people need to respect the basic social boundaries that prevent us from grabbing at what we want whether we're in the front row of a show or at the supermarket?

Sometimes, an iPhone crotch-cam close-up has to be enough to satisfy. Gentlemen: take heed. Except Luke Bryan. Dude already has that angle covered.

(And Justin Moore: don’t stop. OK, you play bigger venues now, and have three kids. But still.)

Whoa, lady! What you grabbin’ at? (Picture cropped.)

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