Saturday, 3 October 2009

Talking at Gigs (Part 1)

Over the last few years there has been a gradual change in the behaviour of a significant number of punters at gigs and festivals in the UK, which is characterised by the inane and often loud chit chat that occurs whilst an artist is performing, ignoring the music completely. The question is why spend fifteen pounds on a ticket and then not listen to the band you have paid to see and hear? Talking over a band is not the same as listening. No one can multi task that well.

Yes, gigs are not sterile places; most punters certainly wouldn’t expect everybody to stand in total silence. We respect the right of the individual to have fun as they choose, but surely there are limits? Unfortunately in this day and age it seems that a growing number of individuals have no respect for the artist that they have paid to see or other audience members whose enjoyment may be reduced. Would those same individuals talk all the way through a theatrical performance or at the cinema? We suspect not. So why do it at a gig or festival as well?

We believe there are two main reasons for this gradual shift in behaviour at gigs.

First, in the age of the download, individuals treat music as a throwaway commodity. People no longer hold deeper ownership of music as a physical form instead treating it as a backing track to their busy lifestyles. Our listening habits have changed. This may be setting your I Pod to shuffle on the train journey home from work or listening to snippets of music backing TV shows or adverts. Listening to an LP invariably involves pressing skip when there is a track you don’t like or simply downloading only the tracks you do. Sadly with this change comes an inability to listen properly with any depth through reduced attention spans. So by the time an individual is confronted with an hour long performance at a gig they simply cannot retain concentration for this period of time.

Secondly drink and drugs. Now please don’t think that this is some puritan rant. We like a beer or cider at a gig. Drink and drugs have always been part of the culture of live music and festivals. Yet something has changed. Whereas in the past people used substances to enhance the gig experience, these days it almost seems that they are used to block it out. Back in the sixties gorgeous young men and women went to festivals, took drugs, removed their clothes and danced as free spirits to the music. There was an innocence and beauty to their actions that the music formed an integral part of. It was never disrespectful of the artist, more a celebration of the music. Today you are more likely to see red faced beery men shouting at each other, their backs turned to the stage, oblivious to the band playing. Why pay good money to do this? Why not go and stand in a field and get drunk with your friends and save yourself a hundred pounds ?

So at the risk of repeating ourselves, why go to a gig if you don’t want to listen to the band? It spoils it for music lovers who actually go to enjoy the music.

So are there solutions to this problem, or is it not a problem at all? We’ll be posting more about this soon.


Matt Merritt said...

As always, a valid point Robin. But I fear you've missed one important aspect of the gig-goer. One-upmanship.

How many people do you see at gigs who are there just to say they were there? Could anyone honestly tell me that Them Crooked Vultures sold out in minutes because so many people had a deep respect for their music? Most people haven't heard a lick, they just see John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl's names and want to boast that they were there when they played Portsmouth.

Sadly when I say paulo Nutini last night it was full of just such crowds.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Yes agreed Matt this is another reason, without doubt and I fear the one upmanship you speak of is getting worse. Apparently when PJ Harvey played a 'secret' acoustic gig at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms recently Polly actually commented to the audience that they were a noisy lot. From what I have read / heard it seems that a lot of people were there simply because it was a Friday night and a secret gig. They could tell all of their friends that they had been there and seen someone of the stature of Polly Harvey - getting that one upmanship you speak of, even if they weren't bothered about listening !

Thankfully we missed the gig, instead we were at Camp Bestival where Polly played the next night - bizarrely to a crowd that (for a festival crowd) were very respecting and actually listened / kept pretty quiet.

Mistress Wanda said...

I agree this is really anoying, but is it such a new problem? Being a fan of accoustice music I know there's always been a constant battle with the audience and the band. I remember back in 2003 Badly Drawn Boy kicking off with the audience at a World Peace Day event because not only did they talk all the way through the set, but also when he was trying to talk about why he supported the cause he was playing for. Not that it made much difference!!

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

"Would those same individuals talk all the way through a theatrical performance or at the cinema? "

Sadly, probably yes (having been unlucky enough to experience this sort of thing).

Anyway, very good points and frankly if I could get people to just be generally shutting up that would be great (not entirely; I'm forgiving of a minimum of words - say about 10-20 words for the duration of a gig!)

I got really hacked off with two guys of about 50 years old who stood behind me at a Billy Bragg concert and clearly weren't remotely interested in listening to the music. They stood quite obliviously talking. I put up with it for two complete songs and then turned around and asked why the hell they had bothered coming if all they wanted to was talk and to please shut up. "We'll do what we want thank you, who are you to stop us?" they growled at me.

I think they thought they were being polite (though I got the sarcasm). I resisted the urge to punch them in their beer-formulated guts and tried to relocate myself to elsewhere in the room. I do fear that one of these days I will lose it with some yaddering F-wit who thinks that a public gig is the perfect place to hold a full-length conversation.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Mistress Wanda... agreed it has always been an issue, but where I live (Portsmouth, UK) the situation has certainly become worse over the last few years. Sometimes I do ponder if it is a 'Portsmouth thing' as the levels of chit chat certainly don't seem so bad in neighbouring Brighton, 50 miles down the road.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Lisa, thanks for your comment. Interesting to see that the idiots at your Billy Bragg gig were 50 rather than 15. If the two lads were 15 I'd almost be inclined to shrug my shoulders and say "They'll learn," but at 50 they really should know better (especially watching someone like Billy Bragg who brings a political ideology that is based around respect...)

centro said...

I was at the PJ gig and the talking (mainly pissed women) could only be heard during a few quiet numbers to which PJ passed comment on. A member of the audience then shouted 'Shut the fuck up!' at the offenders, which recived a round of applause and all was well after that. It wasnt a big deal.

So 'Breaking More Waves Blog', please dont comment on gigs on which the only experience you have of it, is hearsay (It wasnt acustic for a start).

By alluding that your attendence to PJs Camp Bestival show was a better experience than the Wedge gig (to which you didnt attend) is a far worse crime of oneupmanship and also hypocritical.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Hi Centro. Thanks for your comment, always valued, even if I don't agree with what you say.

Just to clarify a couple of points.

1. As author of this blog I feel I am entitled to make comments / observations about a gig I wasn't at as long as I qualify that I wasn't at the gig (which I did in my comment) and that the comments I am making are only what I read / heard (which I did). If you re-read my comment I think this makes it very clear. Remember this is a blog, not a professional music publication. Blogs by their very nature are the personal thoughts of the author, and as such I am allowed to make whatever comparisons and observations I want to.

However before making this comment I had checked as much as I could. I checked the PJ Harvey forum where one particular fan stated that "There were a number of people who were quite happy to chat the whole way through the set." I also received a number of text messages from friends who were at the gig who said it was spoilt by the chattering people, and similar comments were made on fans facebook pages. A clip on you tube also has various comments about people chatting in the audience and you can hear the chat in the background on the clip. So although it may not have been a problem for you, it was for others.

I stand corrected about the fact that the gig wasn't acoustic though - although again from You Tube footage etc, some parts of it were.

2. The comment about the Camp Bestival performance was not intended to be one upmanship, merely reporting on what we saw / heard at Camp Bestival and comparing with what had been reported about the night before. Have you ever read about something that you went to where it is reported that another night wasn't as good as the night you went to ? If so you may have felt "Thank god I went that night." That was the feeling I was trying to express in my comment. One upmanship to me is a more boastful way of saying things, and this certainly wasn't the intention. Sorry if it seemed that way :( It was just a comparrison with no further motive other than passing comment on how surprised we were at the attentiveness of the audience at Camp Bestival in relation to what we had heard about the night before.

And as for being hypocritical, again it wasn't intended to be, even if it came across that way.

Anyway, thanks for your comment. Always happy to be judged, but also always happy to defend myself. The internet can be a dangerous place for making judgements. Without body language, tone of voice etc sometimes it is hard to communicate effectively.

Hope these comments go some way to explaining my comments. You can make your own judgements, just as others reading your comments will judge you :) Oh, and that's not meant to sound patronizing, I'm saying it with a big hippy lovin' smile. xx

Monkey J said...

Hey ! I agree with this blog. Gets on my tits when pissed idiots chat loudly at gigs.

Regent said...

Got here via a link on the Strong Island website where they posted a small feature ref your site today. Just want to say I’ve spent a good hour reading through your posts and have enjoyed it a lot. Particularly like the more discursive articles like this one and the future of the NME one. More of them please.

I think Centro misses the point of what you were saying, I certainly don’t read your comments as trying to get one up, you were explaining your experiences against others you have heard of to demonstrate the point of your original argument about talking at shows. Seems valid to me. In journalistic terms it's called may not have been there but you check facts then report (or in the case of many journalists these days, don't check facts and just make it up) Ta da. If the chat at the PJ Harvey gig ‘wasn’t a problem’ as Centro suggests why did someone have to shout out to shut up?

Anyway, I’ve just added this site to my favourites , also sent you an email about something else, so check your in box ! And see my other comment about the gig we were both at !

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Monkey J - It seems you are not the only one !

Regent - Thanks for your kind words. Always appreciated. Neat point about journalists, I'll use that argument next time, even though I'm not a journalist ! Emails checked and sending you a reply :)

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with a chat with your mates at a rock gig - ain't doin no harm.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Hi Anonymous.

Your comment "ain't doin no harm," could be argued against. The harm may be that it is spoiling others enjoyment. The difficulty is that everyone has different expectations of what is acceptable behaviour at a gig, and what isn't. This expectation may also change depending upon the type of gig - you mention rock gigs, but what about a quiet acoustic gig ? Would you think differently then. Part 2 of this blog goes up tomorrow and we talk about these issues there.

centro said...

One thing I have noticed at gigs is since the smoking ban, all you can smell is farts and body odour. (not mine I hasten to add). That is far more offensive than people talking.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Centro. You have almost inspired me for another blog subject there. Stinking venues, that's a real issue :) The worst we've experienced is an all-dayer at Camden Barfly. By the end the smell of stale farts was overpowering and virtually nauseating - it added a whole new dimension to the phrase 'toilet venue'! But at least the farts they don't linger on your clothes like cigarette smoke :)