An open letter to ‘fans’ who talk incessantly through shows
Reprinted from Modern Acoustic magazine. To download the entire issue, click HERE
Why is it you who claims to be the biggest fan never stops talking while your band is performing onstage? Am I the only one who always finds himself trapped by you, who instead of listening to your FAVORITE BAND EVER, jabber on (loudly) as if you’re in the school hallway between classes?
Recently, I went to see Dawes at Royale. I positioned myself within the first quarter of the room, up fairly close to the stage. My reasoning (after years of thoughtful research) being if I stand any further back I become surrounded by those who really aren’t “true fans” – yes, those who get distracted by drinking and, yes, chatting. So here I am, behind you two guys, BIG FANS of Dawes. You spout things about the band’s brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, you think the keyboardist is a cool dude, you know ALL the songs.
When the band starts playing, I’d think you’d shut up and listen, right? NO! Instead you just keep on with your conversation. You continually move your heads close together sharing insights and then separating: It’s like standing behind an opening and closing door. Not only are you talking over the music, but you are also blocking my view. I want to pull a Three Stooges and knock your heads together. You hear a guitar solo and instinctively thrust your fists in the air in support, then when it’s over, you go right back to the jabbering.
Maybe I’m just old, maybe this is what the concert experience is now: get a group of friends together to go to a show and talk all night with the band as background; pull out your cellphone to take pictures and watch the entire concert through a 4-inch screen; call your friends who couldn’t make it , tell them all about how great the concert is, and have them listen to the show over your phone; invite more people into your chatty group, even though others have been standing in that same spot all night.
I went to see Jenny Lewis at the House of Blues a few years ago and actually told you large gaggle of girls to shut your yaps… OK, I was friendlier than that. But seriously, when I pay to hear someone perform, I don’t want to hear giggles and laughter. I’ll go to see a comedy show for that. How is it possible that no matter how loud the music, your voices are STILL audible?
You have to wonder what the performers must think. The babble is especially egregious for quieter bands.
You’d think you fans who love Josh Ritter, Gillian Welch or the Swell Season know what you’re in for and would listen intently, but NO! I’ve been to the Paradise in Boston for shows by Shelby Lynne, Kathleen Edwards, the Low Anthem… No matter who is on stage, you chuckleheads are out there, mostly at the back of the rooms, yakking away.
And pity the poor opening acts – they get no respect at all. I’ve seen you at the front of the stage blabbing on while Your Favorite Group is performing. At least have the decency to away from the stage.
There are few venues where people get it: Club Passim in Cambridge and, surprise, the Newport Folk Festival. Now, maybe this is because the age of the crowds skews older. Passim has a coffeehouse atmosphere and you would be really conspicuous if you chattered on during a show. As for Newport, Colin Meloy of the Decemberists commented this summer that they’d “never played to a more attentive audience.”
But this is not the norm. It all comes down to respect for others, which seems to be in short supply these days.
So, I’m asking you, the Biggest Fan Ever of the Band Onstage, to please lead by example. You love the band, you care about the band, you paid money to go see them play. So pay ATTENTION. Tell your friends you want to actually hear the band play. You can talk all you want before and after they hit the stage. Don’t do it for others, don’t even do it for the band. Do it for yourselves. Listen to the show. I mean REALLY listen to the show. If you do it, others will do it too.
And then you can call your friends who couldn’t make it and tell them about how great it was.