Monday, April 20, 2009

Dear live music audience


I just found this clip of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy reading the riot act to some audience members who chose to talk during an acoustic song. I'm pleased Tweedy wouldn't stand for such rudeness. It reminds me of the time I saw Patti Smith tell a fan who kept keening "Paaaatiiii! I looove you!" to be quiet. "Nobody wants to hear that shit!" she snarled.

Did people talk as much or as loudly during live musical performances twenty years ago as they do now? Maybe my memory fails me, or maybe the concerts I attended back then were too loud to allow conversation. Saturday night, I saw Robyn Hitchcock at the Logan Square Auditorium. The audience skewed toward my age, and most were reverently attentive. Not however, the two Trixies behind me, who were talking non-stop. Instead of acting on homicidal fantasies, I moved to another spot.

When I saw Will Oldham at the Walker Art Center, there was a talker, a young woman, seated on a cushion at the foot of the stage. She must have had a brain injury, or just snorted a line of coke. I mean, there has to be some plausible explanation for the torrent of chatter pouring out of her cake hole. The worst of it was during the opening act. It's a thankless job to open for Bonnie "Prince" Billy, made even more so when forced to listen to this during one's set:


And so on, for at least 30 minutes, like somebody had put a quarter in her. She finally settled down after Oldham came out and her friends ignored her. I am bewildered by this behavior. Issues of etiquette aside, why would you pay $30 for a concert ticket and then use the time to catch up with your buddies?

I see I'm not the only one puzzled by this.

Dave Herrera. "So what's with all the talk during shows?" Westworld [Link]


Josh said...

this phenomenon was definitely more pronounced when i lived in portland. my theory then was that in a smaller city with fewer venues, fewer nationally touring acts coming through, etc., the hip/scenesters went to whatever was the highest profile show going on that night/week, regardless of whether they actually cared for the band. and, it only really matters with more quiet acts - early cat power, red house painters, ron sexsmith solo were all shows where it was really annoying. sometimes it wasn't bad - the first time I saw Low there i feared for the worst but the crowd gave the necessary hush. strange how even tweedy gets it now. i guess he's just that big. makes me nostalgic for lounge ax.

The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

I was also thinking: the migration of music criticism from print to the internet may be partially responsible. In the 'zine era, people attending a show of a lesser-known artist were either fans or just plain into music. Now, a concert-goer is likely someone who scanned the recommended shows in the Decider or Flavorpill, looking for something "cool" to do on a Friday night.
Still, it is pathetic that there are humans so inured to constant distraction that they can't make a quiet space--even inside themselves--for the experience unfolding right in front of them.