In 2007 I wrote an article where I declared a bunch of new laws to be implemented into the concert going experience. Although I’m sure several people read that article, apparently not enough because people are still breaking Law #1 all over the world.
Anyone who has ever been to a show with me more than once is aware that I hate people who talk loudly at concerts with a severe passion. I’ve kept my cool, but countless times over the years I’ve either wanted to yell “SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!” into the air or directly walk up to a person and politely tell them to SHUT THE FUCK UP. Every girlfriend I’ve had over the past nine years or so has graciously calmed me down at one point because not only does me being angry ruin my experience, it also ruins theirs because I’m pissed. So bravo to these respectful women for keeping me out of jail, hospitals and court rooms.
I have noticed it’s not just me that gets angry like this though. In fact, I actually had to calm down an old girlfriend at a Ryan Adams show years ago and eventually talk her into us leaving so she wouldn’t blow a gasket. And that was ironic because Adams is well known for getting mouthy with audience members who talk louder than he plays on more quiet songs.
Jeff Tweedy from Wilco is pretty notorious for getting upset like this, and I loved reading about this incident on the WOXY message boards once about musician Bob Schneider: “I was at a Bob Schneider show recently and some guy up front stood with his back turned to the stage, talking to his buddies. Bob stopped in the middle of a song, asked how much the tickets cost, pulled $15 dollars out of his pocket, gave it to the chatty dude and asked him to leave. Everyone cheered and Bob finished the song.”
Here is another example of artists recently fighting back. I was at a Heartless Bastards show a few months ago and Erika Wennerstrom was in the middle of a beautiful, soft ballad ironically called “So Quiet” but the assholes in the crowd were talking so loud that it was not only distracting for the other 97% of us in the room who were there to hear music, but also for Wennerstrom. She began to change lyrics to “Blah blah, blah blah blah,” and then yelled out “Fuck it! I’m sorry” and stopped the song about mid-way through.
Classic and brilliant. I feel like artists should stick up for themselves more often in situations like this as I know they often just deal with it and try to entertain the best they can. I interviewed Eric Johnson (Fruitbats/The Shins) a few years ago and he voiced his frustrations mildly about this topic.
So you would think this is something that bothers all musicians, right? Crowd members practically ruining their performances? Well, it’s a touchy subject and it was like pulling teeth to get any musicians to even comment on the subject. It makes sense though because in these cash-strapped times, traveling musicians are struggling to get by like never before. So making a brash comment on their audience members might mean one less audience member coming to their next show.
I did get some answers though, and I have to admit that I was shocked by some of the results as not all musicians were on my side for this one. I asked each of them to make a choice in a selection of four on how they felt about this subject:
A. Talkers don’t really bother me and I’m just happy they are at the show.
B. I’m pretty good at blocking out talkers
C. Though it bugs me, I put up with the talkers because they paid to see me and I’m being respectful
D. I want to bash my guitar over all of their heads!
Johnny Walker (Cut in the Hill Gang/Soledad Brothers): “The secret is to play louder than they can possibly talk. Maybe the problem isn’t loud talkers but quiet bands. However, I do encourage musicians to berate the crowd as tension makes a good show an amazing show. In fact, I rather like the heckling of me. The mic is always louder than the mouth.”
Beth Cameron (Eliza the Arrow/Forget Cassettes): “I would have to go with both D & B. I hate it, but if it’s happening it just makes me work harder. There is truly something that changes the chemistry in a room with silence and concentration from an audience. It creates a really beautiful tension.”
The Whigs: “We choose C. Of course, any band would love to have a totally attentive audience but it is our job to captivate them.”
Adam Turla (Murder By Death): “A. To be honest, I’d have to say that if you are headlining a show and people are talking a ton, you are probably putting on a boring show. Sometimes people just get wasted and feel like going out and talking, but it’s your job to reel them in, not to have them validate you regardless of the quality of your performance.”
Nathan Peters (Captain of Industry): “AAAA. Come on, its a rock show. Quit crying. If you don’t want people talking at your show ask 90% of them not to come, or play at Canal Street Tavern. Yeah, people could be more respectful when someone is playing a slower song, but who ever said rock was respectable?”
So for the most part, these were NOT the answers I was looking for. You know, I figured we would join forces and Rage Against the Machine or something. This article was supposed to cure show talking!!
Maybe it’s just me and my thin patience. All I know is this: When I pay money to get into a venue/bar/whatever and I’m standing next to some drunken dickwad yelling “Freebird” or some bimbo yelping on about that bitch at work, I feel like I’m being cheated. There is a mild argument for the smaller bars who have no cover charge, as it is probably a bar first, venue second (though I’ll happily argue that one also). But why on earth would a person dish out cash (sometimes $30 or more) for a show, then pay no attention to what is going on?
If you ever see me at a show and I look boiling mad, then please come over and try to calm me down as that will be greatly appreciated. And to those talkers out there, I just want you to know that I’m a peaceful man, but sometimes in this situation I feel like walking up to you and just punching you flat in the nose, with no warning or asking you to be quiet. You might be thinking “Wow, do people really get that mad about it?” Y E S!!! We do!! So you might want to reconsider your actions the next time you’re out being all chatty at a show. Just be a notch below the artist, and we’re cool. Okay? [Editor’s Note: Look, I’ll never actually hit a talker at a show, but I’ve met a lot of angry humans who might react that way. If a person in this bad economy really makes a splurge to go to a show and you fill them with booze, then someone next to them is blabbing on and on…..]
Now I want to ask the public (and musicians….especially acoustic musicians) a few questions: Does this bother you also? Are you cool with people chatting? Do you feel like you have the right to blab on at a show? Am I just an asshole? Do you have any interesting and/or amusing thoughts/stories to share on the topic?
Photo courtesy of Corey Gilmore.com