Thursday, 15 October 2009

Talking at Gigs (Part 2)

A few days ago we posted about people talking at gigs here . We concluded by asking the question what could be done about the problem ? Or is it a problem at all ?

First let’s examine the second question. Is it a problem at all ? Well it certainly is for some people judging by comments on the first part of this blog as well as some emails received by Breaking More Waves. But not everyone considers this issue a problem. For many going to a gig is a social event, a way to spend a few hours with friends, and over the band chatter is part of the evening. Yet such chatter can be a spoiler for others. In many ways the argument has similarities to arguments about passive smoking a few years back, before the smoking ban in indoor public spaces and workplaces was introduced.

So if for some it is a problem, what can be done about it ?

One distinction that needs to be drawn is the type of gig we are talking about. At a loud rock gig, talking is less of an issue. At such concerts we believe that atmosphere can be added when people are singing along or celebrating noisily, you only have to witness the number of stadium and arena shows where bands actively encourage the audience to join in. At such shows, if someone is chatting it has less impact on those around them, because of the sound levels. Then if you take a band like Iron Maiden or My Bloody Valentine, chatting becomes an impossibility as the volume gets turned up to absurdly loud ear crunching levels.

So the type of gig where chatter is a potential problem is the quieter or acoustic gig. Such gigs demand the full attention of the audience and any talk can be disruptive for everyone in the room. It is a wonderful experience to watch a gig where the audience is respectful, giving themselves the chance to immerse themselves fully in the music.

Now we revert back to the first question. What can be done about the problem ? Let’s focus on quiet gigs here. In terms of behavioural change gig goers can be encouraged to alter their ways through positive actions or a more heavy handed enforcing type role can be implemented to help people to reconsider their chattering. It’s the carrot or the stick argument. At one local venue in our home town of Portsmouth in the UK the promoter of quieter gigs takes to the stage before the gig starts and asks people to keep chat to a minimum during performances, and those that don’t will be asked to leave. This may seem a little officiously controlling but it works and provides a good evening for both audience and artist. There’s still plenty of time for chat in between bands. Other venues in other towns have signs up on the walls requesting quiet, but these are sometimes ignored unless there is a penalty to pay such as eviction from the venue. Of course potentially the most powerful person to encourage is the artist themselves. Yet only very rarely have we actually seen an artist at an acoustic show ask for quiet. Is this because an artist accepts that people may chat, or is it because they don’t want to upset their ‘audience’ ? Of course if someone in the audience is talking too much, as an audience member you can politely ask them to quieten down, but this runs an increased risk of aggravating the situation as one of our readers commented on part one of this blog.

Certainly from experiences we have had at quieter gigs the carrot with a small threat of a stick achieves the objective of a quiet venue the best, although there may be the odd disgruntled punter. For noisier and bigger gigs the solutions are less easy, especially as everyone going to these types of gig will have different expectations of acceptable behaviour.


Anonymous said...

I don't mind a bit of chatter at pub gigs.. It depends on the venue though..

Mistress Wanda said...

Maybe for acoustic gigs take the approach that comedy clubs do. They usually have signs up about no talking and often the doormen remind you on the way in to keep quiet while the acts on. I think the majority of people would be in favour of this. After all there's plenty of time to talk to your mates in between acts.

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Anon - It's interesting to see how different venues effect the audience behaviour. Rock / folk gigs in churches are interesting - we've seen audiences reduced to whispering in such venues even before the band has come on.

Mistress Wanda - Yep agreed that could work. (Nice blog by the way, hope you keep it up - I'll have a look regularly and add it to BMW 'Blogs we read' list if you do.)

Mistress Wanda said...

Awww, shucks thanks! They'll be a Twitter #followfriday in it for you if you do!!

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Sorry I've only just caught up with this continued debate about talking at gigs!

I definitely agree that louder more rocking gigs are clearly going to be less of an issue for some level of talking amongst the audience (though good luck with discussing anything when the volume reaches ear-crunching decibels). So quieter/acoustic gigs - or frankly just those where some level of engagement with complex lyrics - are probably those we're most concerned with, yes?

In these instances, I think a 'comedy-gig' style warning is more than suitable, and I would be delighted if people were ejected for talking. I've never yet seen it happening though no matter how much I've complained or challenged some of the yadderers. And when said talking folk are not young ('don't know better'/'will learn' still isn't good enough in my book though) it gets complicated because the older cohort perhaps spend more money on gigs and merchandise [in my experience they do, though this may reflect the gigs I attend].

I've attended gigs (or had detailed reports from friends) of talking spoilt by acts such as Camera Obscura, Laura Marling, and Rodrigo e Gabriela just to name a few. I do try and zone out talkers from my hearing if I can, but sometimes it is near impossible. And you're right that artists seem remarkably sanguine about challenging the talking - or maybe it is less obvious when you're on the stage (rather like the difficulty of seeing the audience in many vanues).

But the problem of talking raises a connected point and it was something that was mentioned as an aside on the earlier post: using mobile phones. The light of a phone being used for texting can be horribly distracting, and personally I think a twitter can wait (at a push I'll let folk 'twit' between songs - and yes I know the word is 'tweet' and I do have a [barely used] twitter account). But I've even been at gigs where people have held entire conversations on their phone during gigs - and have been located near the front of a performance. Talking to someone with you at a gig - well, I'd rather you limited it, but some exchanges may be permissible between tracks.

But talking on a phone? What is the excuse? If it's urgent, you probably need to leave the gig anyway. If it isn't, why not have your phone off or relocate yourself to a spot where you're less likely to be disturbing someone?

Breaking More Waves Blog said...

Hi Lisa, thanks for your great comments :)

Ref: People being ejected for talking at acoustic style gigs, in Portsmouth we are lucky enough to have a small pub style venue that puts on acoustic gigs by name acts (this year artists such as Mumford and Sons and Kate Walsh have both played there) and punters have been ejected (after some warnings) for to much chat during the performances. They soon learn (or never come back)

Talking of Laura Marling who you mentioned, a year or two ago we witnessed poor Laura supporting The Maccabees and she was subjected to a vulgar crowd shouting "Get yer tits out," at her. Disgusting behaviour, not only upsetting Laura but spoiling it for those who were there to see her. Which brings me to another point regarding talking at gigs - what about support acts ? Do the same rules apply ? BMW opinion is that they do, but we seem to be in the minority here. We've seen some great support acts completely ignored, which can be a real shame. Having said that on a more positive note recently we saw Blue Roses @ The Hanbury in Brighton as a support (blogged elsewhere on this blog) and the audience were absolutely silent. Likewise we also recently saw The Antlers supporting Passion Pit (not written up on this blog - but a great gig) and initially everyone was chatting but the power (as in engaging power, not necessarily volume) of The Antlers music silenced the crowd.

As for mobile phones, again we would say the same rule applies - having a verbal conversation on a mobile is still rude and disrespectful, so it shouldn't happen. However as a parent we prefer the security of leaving mobiles on, in case there is a problem with our children and the babysitter needs to contact us in an emergency. However it's easy to turn the mobile to silent and vibrate and get the babysitter to send a text which we could then leave the venue / go to the toilets etc and phone.

As for texting others at a gig, personally we don't have a problem with this. We wouldn't notice anyway if someone was bashing away at their keypad - we're concentrating on the music.