Concert preview: Speedy Ortiz makes shows a safe haven for fans

Joel Oliphint

Last fall Sadie Dupuis, singer/guitarist in indie-rock four-piece Speedy Ortiz, decided enough was enough. At times, she'd felt unsafe in the crowd at concerts, and she knew Speedy Ortiz fans might sometimes feel the same way. So Dupuis set up a hotline that anyone at a show can call or text if he or she feels unsafe. The message goes directly to all band members and the tour manager.

"We have signs at the venues about what constitutes good conduct at a show and how you can work towards making a venue a safer space," Dupuis said by phone. "It encourages people to be on their better behavior. Whether or not we have to actively handle an emergency, I think having it encourages dialogue about how to make shows generally safer and more inclusive."

Even when no one calls the hotline, Dupuis has no problem enforcing the guidelines herself, like she did at a recent co-headlining show with Tim Kasher's the Good Life in Ventura, California. "We had finished, and there were all these teen girls I met after our set," said Dupuis, 27. "They were watching the Good Life, and I kept seeing this guy touching them, rubbing their backs and stuff. So I went up to them in the middle of the show and said, 'Do you guys know this guy?' And they were like, 'No, he's making us really uncomfortable.' They had moved away from the stage because this guy was totally violating not only their personal space, but touch boundaries."

To avoid the offender, the girls had walked to the back of the room where they couldn't see the Good Life performing. "So I went up to him and said, 'Hey, you can't be touching these girls without consent,'" Dupuis said. "He was wasted and didn't want to hear it from me. I said, 'You're gonna get kicked out,' and he was like, 'Oh, go ahead.' And I went ahead and he got kicked out." … It was great when he left. All the girls went to the front and got to actually watch the show that they paid and drove to see."

Other bands, like Philadelphia's Modern Baseball, have followed Speedy Ortiz's lead and set up their own tour hotlines for fans. Dupuis hopes awareness of the safety problem will help bands, promoters and fans make the leap from noticing something to fixing it. "There will always be drunk assholes," Dupuis said. "[The question is], will people do anything to make the room better for everyone else?"

On this headlining tour, which hits Double Happiness on Friday, June 17, Speedy Ortiz plans to play a couple of new songs written since the release of the band's lauded sophomore album,Foil Deer - a taut, aggressive batch of songs that crackle with bold energy. ("I'm not bossy, I'm the boss," Dupuis sings on standout track "Raising the Skate.")

For an in-progress new album, Dupuis wrote songs on her own and made demos, and then all four bandmates retreated to a beach house in Massachusetts to arrange the songs. "We learned 10 songs in four days - just woke up in the morning and practiced until we went to bed," Dupuis said. "It was freezing cold - like 35 degrees in April - but that was a fun way to learn. I think we wanna learn 10 more and then we'll know what kind of record we'll have."

Dupuis likes to have extra songs, which get put to use. On the just-releasedFoiled Again EP, for instance, two of the four tracks ("Death Note" and "Emma O") came from the originalFoil Deer recording sessions. And while Dupuis is known for having an MFA in poetry, her songwriting is a completely separate creative endeavor.

"I've never turned a poem into a song, so I don't think they really correlate too hard for me," she said. "Songwriting-wise, I always compose music first, and the lyrics are the last thing to come. They're coming very specifically to fit a certain melody and rhythm. I don't have those restrictions at all when writing poetry. It's a very different process."

For Dupuis, the road doesn't inspire many Speedy Ortiz songs. "I don't really write on the road at all. It's kind of impossible to do that. Any writing I do is at home," said Dupuis, who used to live in Massachusetts but moved to west Philadelphia in March. During our phone call, she was making a meal of ramen noodles at an Arizona travel plaza.

"I'm having the grossest tour," said Dupuis, a vegan. "When I'm home I'm a little better. This tour has been a lot of Taco Bell, beer and sleeping badly. … If you're sitting in a van for 10 hours a day, you should only be having green juice or something. This just isn't that kind of a tour."

Double Happiness

7 p.m. Friday, June 17

482 S. Front St., Brewery District

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