It’s official: I’m old. Yesterday the responsibility of booking tickets for a couple of gigs fell to me, and I intentionally chose the seated option. Gone are the days when my gig-going friends and I would desperately try for standing tickets, and only very grudgingly pay for seated tickets (and only then on the understanding that when the third song came on, we would hot-foot it downstairs and either walk nonchalantly into the main hall, or – if absolutely necessary – flirt with a bouncer until we were allowed through. Iain, I am not including you in the second part of this statement!). Luckily, my most excellent friends were of the same mind-set (and rough age) as myself, and upon being asked whether they’d prefer to stand or sit at the upcoming gigs, the unanimous verdict was that we’ll be oldies together and rest our aging backs for the duration (and perhaps tut disapprovingly at anyone who has the audacity to stand up in front of us…)
There are various reasons why I prefer to sit at the majority of gigs these days; my old age and associated aching bones being only one of them. I am willing to concede that my tolerance threshold has possibly lowered as I have grown older, but I do believe audiences have changed over time, too. When I first started listening to live music – in the mid 90s, so not all that long ago – the vast majority of the people surrounding me were there to do just that: listen to live music. These days, it is not unusual to stand towards the back of an audience and observe a sea of smartphones waving in the air. This infuriates me in a number of ways:
- On a purely selfish level, I do not want your screens in my line of vision. Being as diminutive as I am, years ago I resigned myself to the fact that I am seldom rewarded with a decent view when standing at a concert. Your phones waving in the air render that already restricted view infinitely worse.
- I do not wish to see your poorly-filmed attempts at capturing the ambiance of a gig plastered all over Facebook. The phone is often shaking around and the sound is always shocking. I bet you a pound that if in a year’s time I were to play your clip back to you, you would struggle to name the artist in question, never mind the venue or even the song that featured in your amateur film.
- The gigs I want to go to are often sold out. (See my previous rant for more on this: https://caththebruce.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/100daysofgrievances-5-ticket-touts/) It annoys me that half the people who did manage to get tickets are not losing themselves in the music but are, instead, focusing on the tiny screens in front of them! If you want to watch a gig on a screen, save yourself the ticket money (thus enabling people like ME to snap up your tickets), and stay at home and watch it on Youtube. Watch it on your phone instead of your computer for that real-life experience!
This article gives a balanced view of the rather contentious topic: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22113326
And this sign displayed during a Yeah Yeah Yeahs tour pleased me immensely:
Alas, it is not only people with phones who irritate me at gigs; there are many categories of gig-goers who I strongly believe should be penned off in a special section of every venue…
Firstly, those people who fight their way out of the crowd, head to the bar and then attempt to carry four pints back to where they were originally standing. I’m not one for making sweeping generalisations – okay, I lie – but it is normally people of the male persuasion who attempt to carry too many drinks. I work in a pub, I witness this phenomenon on a weekly basis: I am an authority figure on such matters. It has always bemused me as to why someone would fumble around trying to rearrange the glasses that are clearly fighting for escape, when it would take less time to make two trips! Why do these
men people always look so utterly surprised when one or more of the drinks falls to the floor? Surely it wasn’t completely unexpected…
At a concert, the glasses are generally squishy plastic affairs (I’m not going to get into the intricacies of the contradiction-in-terms that is the plastic glass). Hence, it is markedly easier to carry 4 of these than it is to carry 4 actual glasses. In addition to this, it is generally more time consuming to visit the bar than it is in your local, and an ever-so-slightly more daunting challenge to find your friends afterwards… However, whether you choose to wrap your paws around all four of your drinks, elbows out to the sides, protecting your haul, or if you go the route of holding two in each hand, sweaty fingers dipping into your friends’ drinks as you hold them from the top, your drinks are not going to make it back intact. That is a fact.
In the meantime, you are going to annoy everyone who you squeeze past and slosh beer over. Beer you just paid over the odds for, slightly warm beer in a plastic glass that you just paid over the odds for… Warm, expensive beer that just made you miss your favourite song whilst you fought your way to the front of the queue at the bar. Warm, expensive beer that is now making you need the toilet… Was it really worth it? Well, not to worry, it’s someone else’s round next: they can barge through everyone, queue at the bar, elbow past the same audience members for a second time (this time with the added bonus of having that wet weapon to spill on them if they don’t hastily jump out of their way), and then they shall return and triumphantly present you with two thirds of a pint of beer! Let’s not dwell on the fact that it is of a caliber that no discerning beer-drinker would ever consider drinking outside of such a venue…
My other pet hate concerning gig-goers is those people who pay for a ticket and then talk incessantly until the one song they are actually familiar with is played (generally the only one that has, for example, been used in an advert or a film, or is played by mainstream radio stations). It is at this point that their whole demeanor changes and they start jumping around and singing every word, only for it to finish and them to resume their conversation. Often, this playing of the ‘popular’ precedes a mass exodus. Oh, if only bands would cotton on to this, play the famous tune first, await the rapid reduction in audience size and then play the remainder of the gig to people who actually want to be there and don’t intend to talk throughout.
These days when I stand at gigs, I always seem to find myself migrating towards the back and standing among those non-reacting cool types, witnessing girls in heels (always amusing in a venue with a sloping floor…) nipping in and out of the toilets to fix their hair. The prevalence of these aforementioned lurkers is a phenomenon unique to London venues; those individuals who stand alone looking pensive and important and showing no reaction to anything at all. Makes me wonder why they have even bothered to buy a ticket – up North people actively enjoy their live music!
A couple of years ago, the BF and I saw the Cure at a Reading Festival. I was shocked and appalled to be approached by a fellow festival-goer who asked who was onstage… (If you don’t know this is the Cure, you don’t deserve to be here! Is that too harsh?) His companion (who was wearing high heels, incidentally, at a festival!) then asked if they’d played Lovecats yet. Quick as a flash, the BF arranged his features into what I refer to as his Sad Face (not to be confused with The Pout), and told the girl that alas they had played it first. Quick thinking on his part (and massive naivete on hers) meant that they skipped off to another stage and we were left to listen to the remainder of the gig (including a rousing rendition of Lovecats), in relative peace and quiet. Result.
I go to a gig to hear a band or artist; not to listen to the audience singing or talking. I abhor crowd participation. I would be happy if band members didn’t utter a single word between songs – I find it infinitely preferable to those bands who extend their egos – sorry, I meant microphones – into the audience so that their adoring fans can sing in their stead.
Thankfully for me (and, for every other audience member), I will be in a nice civilised seat for these forthcoming concerts. Perhaps I am getting old, but, I like to believe, more discerning too… I used to feel sorry for people sitting upstairs, now I can see that they are the ones with the right idea.
I’m not going to dwell on the fact that I have reached a milestone and am unlikely to ever seek out standing tickets again (well, unless I ever get the chance to see Fleetwood Mac – I’d make an exception for you, Stevie!) Luckily, I can sleep easy knowing that If I ever start feeling too aged and dull, I can always take myself along to a nice folk gig – nothing like listening to a decent bit of folk music, surrounded by the associated sea of grey beards, to make one feel youthful again!