I don’t like live music. Actually, that’s not true — I love live Irish music, jazz, classical music. I just don’t like going to concerts. True, I haven’t gone to many concerts, but I find the system so inherently flawed that it instantly puts me in a bad mood. I’m a selfish music lover. I don’t like sharing the experience with others. I want to keep it pure and true and real, and the minute all the mess of other concertgoers is thrown in, all the magic is lost for me. To most of the world, this translates into me having no soul, like saying I don’t like puppies. [I do like puppies. All of them.]
This past weekend I went to see City and Colour, one of my favorite musicians, at First Avenue in Minneapolis. All the pieces were in place to make it a fantastic night — a musician I love, headlining at a world-renowned venue in a city that makes me feel alive. And while I loved the performance itself, the experience reminded me of the things that just irk me about live music:
1. The encore. Today’s encore is an entirely theatrical experience. Audiences have come to expect it, and so we are forced to endure the song and dance of pretending we think a concert is over, pretending that more applause will coerce our musicians back to the stage, and pretending to be surprised when it works. If we know they’re just going to come back, why must they leave the stage in the first place?
2. Crazies. I don’t know what it is about concerts that makes people put on their rude pants, but concertgoers become flat-out mean when surrounded by hundreds of strangers who share their taste in music. Our fight-or-flight instincts force us to become the most vicious versions of ourselves, taking on every possible conflict with a rashness akin to lions fighting over carcasses in the savanna.
3. Downtime. Forty minutes passed between the end of the opening act’s set and the beginning of City and Colour’s performance. Sure, they had to set up the stage for the main act, but that took no more than fifteen minutes. In any other industry, keeping people waiting for forty minutes for no reason beyond theatrics is off-putting. Music fans endure it without question because they’ve come to expect it.
4. Standing. For all that’s been said about the value of standing in the office, standing really is the least comfortable position. Even in the most comfortable shoes, standing for four hours on a concrete floor is not pleasant. And beyond the discomfort factor, standing at a concert means that your relative height will make or break your concert experience. Stuck behind a 6’8″ amazon? You won’t be seeing the stage tonight.
5. Karaoke kids. Did I pay $22 to hear you sing, soccer player from Edina? No, I paid to hear Dallas Green sing. Pipe down. If I hear your voice louder than the voice of the mic’d performer, something is wrong. Quietly mouth the lyrics, but don’t let me hear you. Save your singalong sessions for nights alone in your bedroom so the rest of us don’t have to hear it. Especially if you’re singing off key.