Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dear Fellow Concert-Goers: Shut the Fuck Up Once In a While

Before I get into this: What I'm about to complain about didn't stop me from enjoying the two shows in this post. They were far more good than bad. But I still like to bitch. Contradictions onward!

My friend Julia and I went to see the Decemberists in Chicago this weekend, and, this being Chicago, which has awesome rock crowds, the show sold out and the Riviera Theatre was packed pretty damn tight. Not everyone there is going to be a Decemberists fanatic or a particularly big fan (I'd say I'm a moderate fan?), but when everyone has paid more than $30 for a ticket, it's a fair bet that their main point in coming is to hear the band's set. And drink beer and maybe talk a little (I'm not above making the occasional comment during a show or movie). Maybe it's just that I grew up so close to the Orlando Area Amusement-Industrial Gulag, but when I've bought a ticket to something, my attitude is always, "GOD DAMMIT, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE EVERY MEASLY DIME'S WORTH OF FUN, LIKE IT OR NOT!"

We're doing some mild calisthenics to shake off the soporific fog of the opening act, Alasdair Roberts (I don't just mean he was boring, I mean that his set was pretty much audio-induced naptime), and a guy and his girlfriend squeeze through, saying they need to find their friends. Being nice folks, we let them. And then they plant themselves in front of us, blocking our view. "The bitch is shorter than the asshole, so why don't we switch places?" I say to Julia, who's a bit shorter than me. I'm standing two or three inches behind these fucking people, almost yelling, and they don't hear me. This is more than the crowd noise should cover up, and my intention is that they'll hear us, but they don't, which makes it even funnier. Hard heads, is all I'm saying. So we manage to squeeze to the side of them, enough that the view of the stage is a bit better, and it seems to be resolved.

A few minutes later, the Decemberists come out and start into "Leslie Anne Levine," and damned if they even get through a verse before the girl turns around to the guy and starts yapping full-bore. Not just an "I'm so excited! Colin Meloy's so dreeeeeamy!" or anything, but deliberate, prolonged windbaggery of the highest order. So I do something that can really creep people out, which is to fake a tubercular coughing fit, and because we're packed so close, I can't be blamed for coughing right at the back of her head. This seems to bug them for a minute, but then they're right back at it. And they keeps it up, through about three songs, and then we decide to find another place to stand. As we're moving out, we run into a couple who say, "Hey, we'll totally back you up, those people are assholes!" But it was frankly just easier to move. Thank you for your solidarity, Tall-ish Guy and Woman. The four of us could have stomped those two nitwits, but the show itself was just too damn good to interrupt for a brawl.

From further back, we can't hear Bitch and Asshole, but Julia can see them, and she tells me they're still talking. Who in the fuck pays $30+ to stand and fucking talk the whole time? If you've got to talk at a show, there are always lobbies, bathrooms, or the sidewalk. Places where people aren't actively listening to music, places where people will soon start finding your severed, bashed-in heads. When did this talking shit become acceptable? I'm sure there's always been a loud jerk or two at a given show, but when I read about concerts in the 70s and 60s, or listen to live albums from that period, I get the impression that crowds were generous and attentive for good sets (and this was a great set; given the chance I'd pay $30+ to see it again). I'm not saying we should all sit there like obedient little doggies, but for fuck's sake, let other people at least fucking hear the music without your mindless contamination. I'm sure I've been to shows where it's worse; most of the people in our area and closer to the stage just seemed to be singing along, dancing, etc., all of which actually make the concert fun and show the audience's gratitude to the band.

It could just be because I'm anti-social, and a lot of the social conversations I try to have end at awkward small talk. Then again, I've enjoyed of long, rambling conversations about a lot of dorky, silly stuff. I just don't believe in having them all the time, and I don't believe that running your jaw is inherently valuable. No one's above yammering about the stupid little details of his/her life or anything else, but there are times not to do it. One time: When you're watching a solo acoustic concert in a space where sound carries pretty well. Today, Chris Smither played a free concert here in Madison, and all the stray chatter in the audience reeally distracted me at times. Look, people, just can it once in a while. You probably won't miss anything important in your stream of verbal barf, and you'll actually fucking hear the music. Again: Sometimes you can't help talking a little, and that's one thing, but when you just keep talking incessantly, you're an asshole. I could almost understand if this were some crappy act, because this is one of those events people just kind of go to because it's there--like a couple of zoo concerts I wrote about this summer. But this is a guy who still writes fantastic songs, with a guitar style to match. Maybe I just happened to be near the few people who were talking. If it was important to them to have their conversations right then and there, why'd the come to a damn concert?

Alright, this is turning into a one-person PTA meeting.

I'm far too picky about some things, I know. There's just nothing worse to me than the din of dozens of people having dozens of useless conversations all at once. It's like listening to zombies feed.