Entertainment Festivals

Sunday 8 December 2019

Rock: Now this is how you enjoy a gig

Listen up ... it's time distracted punters learned basic etiquette so that the rest of us can enjoy the show

How it should be: Proper revellers get into the spirit of the night at Electric Picnic.
How it should be: Proper revellers get into the spirit of the night at Electric Picnic.

Tanya Sweeney

Over the weekend, I learned a lot about negative equity loans, face serums, and Tallinn. Yet I wasn't at a dinner party or even having a catch-up with friends.

Rather, I was at a gig at the Olympia . . . and the conversation I was 'enjoying' wasn't even mine. Barely stopping for breath, two attendees at the Wild Beasts gig did their feverish and hearty catching up as the visiting band performed not 30 feet away.

Others, judging from the hisses and glares, were clearly ruffled by the pair's chinwagging, too. And so it went, the twosome taking the shine off the night for many paying punters.

Boy George got it right (now there's a sentence you don't read in print very often, is it?) when he once tipped a glass of water on a chatty audience member's head mid-show. If what's happening on stage is of marginal interest to you, why not write off the ticket and do your chatting in the pub instead? That's the million-dollar question.

Sartre famously said that hell is other people. Though what he would have made of the uneasy tango between partisan gig-goer and oblivious chatterbox is anyone's guess.

These days, the gig etiquette rap sheet runneth long and wide: shouting banter at a performer during a slow/quiet song; questionable hygiene; liberal sloshing of beers; holding aloft iPads (wheh?); couples wearing the faces off each other throughout (yes, we know it's your song); and my personal favourite, walking right to the front of the stage and sticking your six-foot-five frame right in front of me. Nice shoulderblades, by the way. And don't even get me started on whoever thought it might be a good idea to plough into someone else's spleen to demonstrate an appreciation for music.

On one seemingly innocent night out years ago, this very thing landed a friend and I in the A&E room, her scared and swollen of rib. Buzzkill Central, as you might imagine.

How did it all come to be? And why did no one ever think to make a set of rules to ensure that anyone parting with €30, or thereabouts, on a gig would at least not come away feeling short-changed, if not injured?

Amid the myriad of amenities and cultural events vying to get bums on seats, the music gig still evokes a sense of grand occasion. A healthy slew of acts still come to these shores, albeit with perhaps less regularity than five years ago. The days of the speculative recce to Dublin for a fledgling British or American band are long gone.

Musician and promoter alike would rather not risk losing their proverbial shirts hauling equipment/hungover drummers/girlfriends across the water to play to 12 people in the Sugar Club or Academy 2. It makes much more fiscal sense for an untested, box-fresh band to show up in a support slot to a bigger act or festival bill.

What this does all mean, however, is that while gigs are perhaps happening less frequently in Ireland than before, the sense of festivity is palpably heightened.

Just as it has always been, the moment the lights die down and a band takes to the stage isn't just fun for a genuine music fan ... it's a lifeblood. No wonder they feel protective about it.

Yet something curious is afoot. Thanks in part to social networking, sometimes just showing up to claim bragging rights is enough for many punters. Some ticket-holders may have heard of the band on the radio, or perhaps like the one song that Ray D'Arcy has been playing all week. There's of course no hard and fast rule that says that all gig-goers must be seasoned, die-hard fans ... there is room for the curious and casual fan, too. Well, once they keep their thoughts on Tallinn to themselves.

Problems arise, however, when the genuine music fans are left out in the cold. You can bet that not every lucky person who snapped up a ticket to one of Kate Bush's momentous London dates is a die-hard fan. Those white-hot tickets didn't go to the most deserving or worthy of fans; they went to the folks with the best broadband connection or the fastest clicking mouse skills. Very simply, many people want to be there to say they've been there.

Whether or not you're an evangelist about a given band, it's best to adopt a simple but effective approach to gig-going. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Music shows are a great leveller, their atmosphere designed to evoke a sense of community and joyous commonality. Try soaking this up and live in the moment. It's a damn sight more fun than trying to find the right words or photo for your Facebook page.

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