I would like to send a query out into the vast web world, perhaps someone out there has an answer for me. The question is this:
Why would someone pay to come to a gig and then (when they have the option of sitting somewhere away from all the noise of the performers they have paid to see) proceed to talk loudly and animatedly about anything and everything all the way through every performance?
In my experience of the various performance mediums, this is something peculiar to the world of the music gig. If anyone were to talk or indeed check their phone in a theatre during a play or a musical there would be stares a plenty, shushes and be quiets a plenty which would result in the person either piping down or leaving. The same can be said of comedy gigs and story telling evenings, even university lectures are given a friendly ear.
I have played many gigs and have resigned myself to the fact that the majority of shows on the London gig circuit will be loud and raucous and you'd be lucky if 20% of the punters are listening to the music. This seems to be regardless of the quality of the music on show, I have seen many acts who have been quite simply outstanding musicians and songwriters and the experience has been ruined by those who do not have the manners to pay a little respect to those demonstrating their art by at least keeping their voices down a bit during the performances.
Last night as I was attempting to listen to the very talented Domi Hawken (check our her website www.domihawken.com), I couldn't help but feeling for her as she continued to play, whilst a group of people right next to the front of the stage talked (I say talked but it was more like shouting) constantly throughout her entire set and then had the audacity to applaud at the end of it. There were plenty of empty booths far away from the singer where I suspect they would have been able to hear each other better and not have been inconvenienced by the person who was attempting to entertain them with her songs. I simply couldn't fathom how a reasonable mind could be so impolite and disrespectful...
So I thought, oh, maybe they don't realise they're being rude. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and see if they wise up.
I waited. They talked.
During one of the quietest moments in a beautiful song, one of them was gesticulating and shouting so loudly that I decided they must be oblivious to how loutish and appalling they were being. I looked around at Manda who gave me a knowing nod and I looked across at the couple at the table in front of the loud people, one of whom caught my eye and gave me another knowing glance and a good old fashioned eye-roll as if to say: 'Ha. Some people huh? Can't live with them, can't gag them with a dirty dish cloth!'
At this point I did something that I wouldn't normally do.
I stood. I walked over to the group and said as politely as I could that 'if they would like to continue their discussion could they perhaps move to one of the nearby booths (I pointed out the booths just in case they couldn't see them) as some of the people here had paid to listen to some singing and not the ridiculous conversations of a bunch of obnoxious idiots.'
I phrased it very politely of course and one of them (a big bearded fellow with an astonishingly loud voice) nodded vigorously as if to say 'Oh, of course. Good lord. I didn't realise we were being so rude. We'll be quiet immediately.' I looked around the group to see if they were all in agreement and they were all nodding in agreement like a selection of nodding dogs on a dashboard going round a round-a-about. All of them except one, who was looking at me as if I'd just stepped on his mother, shot his childhood dog, ate the last piece of his favourite cake and taken a dump on his best leather jacket. And all on his 21st birthday.
He was actually OFFENDED! It was amazing to witness. He actually thought that I was being rude in my polite request. He believed himself to be a poor innocent victim. I was utterly astounded.
Anyway, having made my point, I walked back to our table almost expecting to be kicked in the back or shot with a poison dart.
Needless to say the nodding dogs continued to talk, although not any louder than before until the end of Domi's set whereupon they applauded loudly.
I was terrified. It was my turn.
I was about to get up on stage to perform in front of a group of people who I'm pretty sure were going to find out where I lived and toilet paper it. Strangely enough by the time I'd started playing they had moved to one of the booths that I had suggested. Obviously the threat of being shouted at from a microphone did not appeal to them.
Anyway, something nice thing happened just before I got up to play. The couple who had been sitting in front of the loud group came up to me and said thank you for trying and they both shook my hand.
In spite of all I finished the evening down-hearted. It seems to be a continuing trend in the London music scene that it is alright to ignore the person who is currently singing for you on the stage.
I understand when you go to a gig, you often come along to support your friend and have a drink and a laugh but if you can, spread the word, musicians are not CD's or iPods.