Monday, July 15, 2013

The Great Summer Of Shows™ - what we have learned

Way back at the end of May, What Would David Bowie Do? came to the stark realisation that it was going to be an amazing summer of live music, kicking off with Eric Clapton at his surrogate home, London's Royal Albert Hall, before setting up camp in Paris with the Stone Roses, Rodriguez, Depeche Mode, Mark Knopfler, The Who, Bruce Springsteen and Hugh Laurie, ending at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Prince.

Though we're only at the midpoint of July, it is safe to say that it has been a Great Summer Of Shows™. It has also been an education. Here's what we have learned:

The Merchandise Stand

Just because, when you first walk in, you see a caged-off 'shop' of sorts selling merchandise doesn't mean you have to cause a minor riot for your "exclusive" all-black XL tour T-shirt, which your other half will eventually purge from your collection. Nor does it mean wearing the thing over the clothes you came out for the evening in (especially if you just came straight from the office) or draping round your shoulders like you've just looted it from a branch of Top Man during a riot. This thing called the Internet has just been invented and you can use it to buy stuff from bands and their "websites"

Banned Items

Patrons of stadium gigs should refrain from bringing in the following items:
  1. Binoculars (because you don't want to look a total prat), 
  2. Inflatable beach toys (because they're designed for the beach, not for annoying 50,000 irritable people who've been drinking in the sun since lunchtime)
  3. Bra-less girlfriends who want to be carried on your shoulders (because they will be ogled at as soon as they appear on the big screen and you will end up taking the week off work due to your back giving out).
Picture  © Simon Poulter 2013

The Mexican Wave

If you are at a stadium gig it is seriously not cool to start a Mexican Wave. It was amusing once, during the 1986 World Cup, which was held in Mexico. It is not amusing in the 21st century at a football stadium in the north of England.

The Support Act

The support act may be completely unknown to you, they may have a weedy voice and a total lack of charisma, but that doesn't mean you should talk all the way through their act. The person you've really come to see believes in this frail singer-songwriter/angst-ridden balladeer/quirky-looking pretty boy your girlfriend suddenly takes interest in and it's just damn rude to yack away during their 30-minute set. Bugger off to the bar instead.

Learn How It Works #1

The act you've come to see will get on stage when they're good and ready. No measure of slow-hand clapping, whistling or stamping of feet will advance the situation.

Picture  © Simon Poulter 2013

You're Not HBO

If you must video the show, first buy a television station or DVD company, negotiate with the artist for video rights, and then record the event using professional cameras and the ubiquitous Louma crane. Do not spend the entire night holding your iPhone in the air to the annoyance of all standing behind you.


If you feel compelled to sing along to the hits, take a few singing lessons first. Nobody wants to deal with the band not properly lip-synced with the video screen and your drastically off-key caterwauling. Especially if your breath stinks of Hades because you decided to have a cheeky curry before the show.

Recognise That You're Not In The Photographers' Pit

If you must take photographs, learn how to use your camera or smartphone first. Some poor drone at the consumer electronics company who made your fantastic new compact super-zoom spent time and effort translating the Japanese instruction manual into your native language. At least have the courtesy to learn how to switch off the annoying BEEP-BEEP that will drive your fellow punters to kill if it happens every time there's a quiet bit. 

Picture  © Simon Poulter 2013

The Stage Lighting Is There For A Reason

And while you're at it, learn how flash guns work on compact cameras. If you have the flash on, all you will be doing is illuminating the row of bald heads immediately in front of you, not the stage which - by the way - is already lit up by lots of lovely coloured lights. So you don't have to.

Sit Down, Dickhead #1

If you do take photographs, take only a few as souvenirs. Recognise that there are people behind you who weren't so successful in getting seats near the stage, and will not appreciate spending all that money to watch Mr. or Ms. Big Time through the LCD screen of your camera.

Sit Down, Dickhead #2

If I see that iPad appear above your head one more time...

Sit Down, Dickhead #3

Yes, we know it's cool that your lifelong idol is just in front of you, in the flesh, and close enough to touch, should you actually be that close, but that's no reason to stand up like a giddy child forcing every single person in every single row behind you to do the same. There are people who've paid good money for a seat, and are ruddy-well going to use it without having your lard arse block the view.

Picture  © Simon Poulter 2013

Stop Tweeting

Yes, it's cool for your followers to know you're at a concert, but do you need to give a running commentary? Do you need to miss the show because you're hunched over your Facebook page giving song-by-song updates? Do we need to see your face lit up like Indiana Jones in front of the Lost Ark because you're trying to redefine the zeitgeist in 140 characters or less?

Avoid The Clap

Everyone likes to clap. Pop concerts are the one venue outside gospel churches where communal rhythmic clapping in public is acceptable. Except that in a gospel church it will be rhythmic. And in time. Unlike your uncoordinated attempt to catch a particularly agile fly.

Learn How It Works #2

The act will go off towards the end, your less informed fellow punters will clap/whistle/stomp, the act will reappear for an encore. When they're good and ready.

Give It A Whistle

Actually, don't. The bluesman Blind Willie McTell may have started the practice of whistling during concerts as a means of getting audiences to join in with him, but he did not intend for ear drums to suffer permanent damage because the middle-aged adolescent next to you is trying to show off by sticking two fingers between his teeth and blowing. Not big. Not clever. Just painful.

Picture  © Simon Poulter 2013

Lighters Aloft

In the era when people smoked at concerts (and I mean regular cigarettes as well as those sweet-smelling roll-ups people still think it subversively cool to take a puff on), it was considered to be an appropriate indication of togetherness to hold a cigarette lighter in the air during an emotionally-wrought song to create the "ooh-aah" effect of hundreds of flickering flames. Where this practice began, no-one quite knows. Some say it was at Woodstock, when such hippy soppiness would have been contextually acceptable. Others claim it was at a Neil Diamond concert in the early '70s, and happened by random accident. Either way, it should have stopped by now, and certainly should not have been succeeded by cretins who have amusingly loaded a flickering lighter app on to their iPhone and are now holding it aloft during the 'slow one', right in front of you.

Learn How It Works #3

When 'the big lights' come up, that's your cue to head for the door. By the time you've stopped clapping/whistling/stomping the band will already be in a limo heading for the, erm, 'aftershow refreshment'. Go home. Or go home with someone. Or go next door to the pub. Or what-ev-ah. Those fat blokes on stage in Iron Maiden T-shirts coiling up microphone cables are roadies packing up Mr/Ms. Big Time's gear for the next gig, where all the above rituals will be played out once more.

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