Over the years suspension as an art form has been utilized by many different forms of entertainment. It’s been featured in movies, primetime television, all over the Internet, and in numerous forms of print media. The allure of suspension can often be difficult to describe, but its addition to other performances gives a new dimension to both our crafts. One of the oldest and most natural connections is that of music and suspension. Anyone that’s hung from hooks will tell you that music adds to the experience. Also, from the musician’s point of view, the visual of a body swing through the air definitely adds the visuals during their videos and live performances.
Since the early 90’s suspension and music have made excellent bedfellows. Both small local bands and giant internationally known acts have added hookers to their bag of tricks. To the outsider this might seem like a well functioning symbiotic relationship. However, for many reasons this is rarely the case. Ultimately the fans go to the shows to hear the band play. Of course people come to see more than a regurgitation of a studio album, but the addition of a suspension is simply a cherry on top, not the meat and potatoes of the concert.
Furthermore, suspension artists have a limited lifespan. Even under the best conditions, age, injury and constant damage to the skin take their toll. Plus suspenders often have to deal with makeshift piercing areas and the added problems associated with healing wounds while on the road. As a (mostly) retired performer and still working suspension piercer/rigger, I’ve seen quite a bit of this world from the inside. It can be a grueling, underpaid and sometimes unappreciated career. What starts as a glorious life in the limelight with a golden ticket to see the world can turn into days or weeks of lingering pain, long hours sitting in hot/cold venues, and a body that looks less like a temple and more like it’s been blasted by a shotgun.
Now is this article intended to deter musicians and hookers from making this connection? On the contrary, I support the infusion of suspension into musical entertainment. My point of this blog is to illustrate that suspension performance is tough work. From an outsiders point of view it might seem like an easy job, well as easy as hanging from flesh hooks can be. One or two shows might not be too difficult, but committing to a tour takes dedication and sometimes personal sacrifice.
Suspension never pays enough to be a full time career. Performing means taking time off school and/or work. Five minutes in the air really means two to three days of lost wages. A week on tour can sometimes mean losing a job, not to mention the physical damage that takes months to heal. A month on the road? Well, early retirement is right around the corner. I’ve seen what hanging night after night does to people. Heck, I’ve seen what it does to me.
Bottom line, artists shouldn’t sell themselves short and those that hire us should be understanding and accommodating. When we suspend for entertainment, we are giving it our all, flesh, blood and spirit. We are not expendable or easily replaceable. Furthermore, we are network and a family. If we are treated with respect, we as a community will give back 100% and more. For every musician, band, production and management company that has supported us through the years. You have our sincere gratitude. We have and will continue risk our lives and health for art. All we ask is that you understand what we are giving. Help us to remain safe and please compensate us for the pain and suffering we endure.