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True fans of live music? June 19, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Anyone read this in the Independent? A piece bemoaning the new socially distanced gigs that may be a feature for a while in live music.

The James Vincent McMorrow performance was neither a pilot – in any useful sense – nor a proper gig, not unless your social life is stuck at the level of kids’ birthday parties.

When Culture Minister Catherine Martin appeared on Prime Time afterwards to rave to Miriam O’Callaghan about the “one-way system to get your ice-cream”, that was the end for me.


It’s painful for true lovers of live music to act as if what took place last week bore any resemblance to the real thing.

I don’t know. Having been packed into gigs in the last few years where there was a ridiculous number of people – I think of Robert Forster at the Button Factory, and Brian Jonestown Massacre at the Academy, both in 2019 if I recall correctly, I have to admit to being a bit jaundiced about this ‘real thing’ and supposed ‘true lovers of music’.

Because it isn’t just the experience of being packed in like sardines in a venue, with the heat and sweat and so on of people standing far far too close for comfort (actually strike that – standing one top of one another really), but the fact that at these gigs the sound of people talking was all too evident and clashed with the music badly. And forget about it if you wind up close to the bar. 

And it strikes me that for a lot of people that is live music and always has been – it’s a night out and where the night out isn’t that important and if it happened to be a pub or a gig they’ll treat the latter like the former. So the issue of too many people packed too closely together for comfort is exacerbated by people talking too loudly. It’s not that I expect a respectful hush, but at gig after gig, even pretty loud ones, the number of people who are there for the chat seems bizarre. Gary Numan at the Olympia, Stereolab at Vicar Street and on it goes. 

In truth the most respectful crowd I’ve seen in years was at Monster Magnet in the Tivoli a couple of years back – perhaps in part because the crowd seemed there because of the band in a way other crowds at other gigs weren’t (that’s probably a bit unfair to Forster and Numan), perhaps because the sheer volume of the sound of the band was such that it would blow conversation away. Well, whatever works. 

So socially distanced gigs, with a separation between people. Inside, as distinct from open-air. Where you could actually here the music? I’m not sure I’d be complaining about that…and all that before we get to what a ‘true’ fan (a useless term if ever I heard one) is!


1. rockroots - June 19, 2021

I agree with you, but we’re probably just showing our age. 😉

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - June 19, 2021

I know, it’s like middle aged man moaning, but but it’s true… there’s a spectrum and it’s shifted in a bad way in recent years. Though maybe not that recent – I recall seeing granddaddy in 2006 or so and the sheer number of people talking over the band was mad.


2. gypsybhoy69 - June 20, 2021

The most respectful crowd I’ve witnessed was Benjamin Clementine in the Olympia. i know it probably helped that you were sitting down and that his music kind of leans towards silences and listening closely. You could hear the proverbial pin drop while he played.

Marc Riley on BBC Radio 6 has mentioned with some irritability his experiences of the chatter din at certain gigs and not without good reason.

Liked by 1 person

3. sonofstan - June 20, 2021

The chatter at gigs in Dublin is off the scale in comparison with other places I’ve been. And it goes back a long way – I remember nearly shitting myself the first time we played in London because people shut up when we arrived on stage and looked attentive: I’d never experienced that in Ireland! Saw William Tyler at the Brudenell just before lockdown – quiet, solo guitar, completely respectful audience. I recall seeing John Fahey and Jim O’Rourke in Whelan’s, not together, and both shows completely ruined by the inability of people to shut up and listen to music.

Liked by 1 person

Michael Carley - June 20, 2021

Back in the last century I remember Marcus Connaughton telling people at the bar in Whelan’s to keep it down. As he said “six pounds is a lot of money for some people”.


6to5against - June 20, 2021

Whelans seems to feature some weird acoustic anomaly whereby the conversation of punters is amplified over the amplified music of those on stage.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - June 20, 2021

That place just down from Whelan’s in the 2000s had that problem precisely too. What was it called again?


sonofstan - June 20, 2021

The Wexford Inn > Mean Fiddler> Village?
Funny story: a mate who used to work for Vince Power told me that when it was opening there was a bit of a rush to get it finished – a few minutes before doors, Vince suddenly demanded that two bouncers, as big as possible, be placed at the entrance. Once done, he relaxed, and asked my friend if he noticed anything – transpired the place still didn’t have doors….


4. 6to5against - June 20, 2021

Is it an age related thing? I think the 35+ crowd, out to hear a particular band and often going to some trouble with childcare etc, really want to hear the music. The 20-something crowd are just on a night out.
Is it much worse n Dublin, or Ireland? I hadn’t thought of that before, but it does sort of fit with my experience now that I think of it.

Liked by 1 person

Michael Carley - June 20, 2021

I haven’t lived in Dublin this century but when I think of Whelan’s I remember the people having a chat as being older and/or richer: they could afford to pay admission indifferent to whether they wanted to hear the act.

Liked by 1 person

5. 6to5against - June 20, 2021

Thats all about the noise, though. The original point was about the space, and I have come to really hate the excessive crowd thing at some gigs, though I once loved it. In much the same way as I used to love English soccer terraces but now can’t imagine standing for so long to see so little.

The only problem about space is economics. I’ve wasted far too long at great gigs in smallish venues trying to figure out how the crowd can produce enough revenue to pay for travel to Dublin, accommodation and wages. With a sparse crowd, we’d either never see a gig, or I’d feel so bad for everybody involved, I’d feel obliged to hand over an extra few hundred on the way out.

Liked by 1 person

sonofstan - June 20, 2021

The economics of Dublin and London are such that venues need to sell as much drink as possible to as many punters as possible to stay open. One thing I’ve noticed here in Leeds is that smaller venues are much more adventurous becuase they can cope with a few quiet nights every now and then, and it’s worth booking a band on the way up because they may remember it and pay you back when they are pulling a crowd – and maybe because the people who run them like music and like seeing new bands? I guess it’s always possible….

Liked by 2 people

Fergal - June 20, 2021

But what is a true fan?! You pay your way in… end of story, isn’t it? Your euros are worth as much as the true, true fan’s obsession?
Now, if only some bands would do house gigs!

Liked by 1 person

6. irishelectionliterature - June 20, 2021

I wonder is the talking in the audience why some bands started doing gigs in the NCH or the likes of the Peppercannister church. Anyone there, is there for the Music.
As for crowds, In Whelans I’d often try to be at the very front. You don’t hear much chatting then.

Liked by 2 people

7. Phil - June 21, 2021

I cut my teeth as a folk singer at an “open mic” session which didn’t actually have a mic, or any kind of amplification – you stood at the front, people sat in rows, you sang. (My first time on stage, I remember being slightly freaked out by all the faces looking at me – so I looked over their heads and sang to the window at the back of the room, and accidentally discovered how to project.) It was a good environment for performing; you needed to have some ability to hold the audience, but they knew the setup, so there was very little talking.

At one point I was starting to get into writing my own stuff, and graduated to a singer/songwriter night at another venue. But this was an “open mic”, and the audience – although they did applaud and pitched in for the odd chorus – Did Not Stop Talking. Ever. At All. Everything from “Good evening” to “Thank you, goodnight” was projected straight into a wall of audience noise. Of course, I had the mic, so I was twice as loud as any of them, but it gave me the distinct impression nobody was actually listening – or, more precisely, that even if anyone was listening at a particular moment, that person would probably be distracted the next second and only tune in again a couple of minutes later, when there was a break in conversation or whatever. It was a big crowd – anything up to 100 people – but I’d much rather have 10 people listening all the time than 100 people each listening for 1/10th of the time.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - June 21, 2021

It’s a quality over quantity thing. But this reminds me of of all things attending Black Sabbath’s last tour. I’m no fan of large scale venues and I was less so afterwards, but there myself and a friend were for the occasion, sitting on the upper level with pretty good seats and perhaps four or five rows in front of us. And through the gig, and it wasn’t the longest gig in the world, there was a constant stream of people making their way back and forth from the bar – and of course there were people talking. And I was thinking FFS, the band isn’t going to swing this way ever again and people want a pint? Makes no sense.


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