Rant: What’cha talking about [at a concert]

I go to lot of concerts. Whether they are free or paid, outdoor or indoors, general admission or seated, I tend to go to about 2-or 3 a month. To some people, this may be an overabundance.  But I really do enjoy live music. There is something about the roar of live guitars with a crowd of eager and attentive fans that really gives me joy.

However, I’ve noticed a recent trend at New York City-area concerts that I am unhappy about: TALKERS. Yes, concert talkers.

These people are the ones standing with their friends in a small circle. They always have adult beverages in hand. They are engaged in conversation about their work days, mutual acquaintances, weekend plans, that time they saw Skrillix.

Its fine.  You can talk to your friends. I don’t mind. Just please, keep it short, say your piece and get back to enjoying the show. If you must talk, please take it into the back…or to the bar…or outside. I can’t fathom how anyone can enjoy a concert if they are talking throughout the set.  Even when the music is loud, they talk over the music.

[I am not saying I am completely innocent. I’m known to make a witty remark during a band’s set or comment on banter (especially if your name is John Darnielle). I’m even guilty of texting during a band’s set.  But these vocal comments and phone vibrations only occur for a moment or two and then I am back to enjoying the music.]

The worst offenders are those who know “the single,” and momentarily pause their conversation to sign out the chorus. Once they clap and cheer, these offenders go right back to their conversation.  I’ve tried giving dirty looks. I’ve tried sighing loudly. I’ve moved to another area of the venue. I’ve even said something to these people. But for some reason, it does not seem to help.

Are people just more interested in talking to their friends than they are in seeing awesome live music?
Are we all just so jaded that we go to concerts and just say “meh” at the performance?

Maybe this whole rant is too “get off my lawn.” Maybe I’m just old. I just do not know. All I know is these “concert talkers” really get to me.  I go to concerts to hear the band, not to hear your tween conversation about how this chick you know is 23 and that is “so much older, bro.”

Follow up:  I found this article on The Spinner, outlining how to behave at concerts. Its a good read. 

Rant: When Indie Goes Mainstream

When it comes to Kings of Leon, I was an early bloomer. I have been listening to and loving them since high school. I started out with Youth and Young Manhood, moved on to Aha Shake Heartbreak, and even got my hands on an advanced copy of Because of the Times (thanks, WERW). Somewhere along the way, a funny thing happened to those Tennessee raised Followill brothers (and cousin). They gained popularity and entered “the mainstream”.

They had already achieved super stardom overseas and I came to terms with that. I would hear them on the radio every now and then but the stations were obscure so I chalked it up to that. Liv Tyler said she loved them in a magazine interview. That was okay too because Liv Tyler is pretty hip, don’t you think? Because of the Times received critical acclaim (for the most part) and then Only By The Night posters began appearing on every construction site in New York City, and suddenly Kings of Leon were selling out Madison Square Garden. That was when I knew; my little indie band was no longer. They had crossed over.

From there it only got worse. The boys secured three Grammies and the celebrity namedropping began. Really, it was only a matter of time. Chelsea Handler of E’s pop-culture comedic jaunt “Chelsea Lately” mentioned that she had been “hanging out” with them. On a radio interview, Miley Cyrus took a breather from bashing Radiohead to talk about the crazy rumor she heard that Kings of Leon are preacher’s sons! Omg, no way!? I am attempting to be happy for them and embrace their more commercial tunes but it has been very trying, indeed.

This brings me to the question at hand; why do we hate it so much when our favorite bands make it big? Maybe Mrs. Eisen failed to teach me that, “sharing is caring,” in kindergarten or something. Shouldn’t I be happy that a band that I like is finally getting the recognition that they’ve worked so hard for? Along with their newfound success I gain bragging rights but I lose a little piece of my identity. When a new fan is telling me how much they love the song, “Sex on Fire,” I can casually say, “Oh, Kings of Leon? I’ve been listening to them for years.” Yet, if a person asks me what my favorite bands are and I say Kings of Leon, it no longer reflects my music preferences in an accurate light. It might lead people to believe that I like other bands like them who can sell out MSG, which is not usually true.

In moments like these, I feel the only remedy is to find new little bands to fill the void. And so, I’d like to introduce you to Cage the Elephant. Hailing from Bowling Green, Kentucky, these boys bring the rock and the southern twang. They also have a solid English fanbase and their single “Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” reached number 32 on the UK Singles Chart, not to mention they grew up on a Christian commune. Sound familiar? The band is comprised of Matt Shultz (vocals) and his brother Brad on guitar, along with their friends Jared Champion and Danielle Tichenor. Lincoln Parish later asked to join via email and his request was granted. While their sound lacks versatility, it so catchy that it just about makes up for it. They are a little less indie and a bit more rock n’ roll than Kings of Leon but a good substitute nonetheless.

Rant: Down with the Encore

If you ask me, the encore is a tired and outdated process. The band has left the stage, the lights are darkened, and yet, the audience continues to shout and clap like those wind-up toy monkeys with brass cymbals. “Encore, encore,” the French word for “again,” can frequently be heard and you already know that the band is gonna come charging back onstage and play that hit song of theirs that they not so inconspicuously omitted from the set list. When a concert is over, I am ready to leave. If it’s a weekday, I am ready to hop on the subway and go home, and if it’s a weekend, I’m ready to head to the nearest bar. Besides, if a band is good enough, I’d like to think that the audience members will be satisfied, encore or no encore.

So, you can imagine my delight while at a Bon Iver concert at Town Hall a few months ago, when Justin Vernon announced that there would not be an encore. One fan was outraged and unleashed some gobbledygook about the failing economy and wanting to get his money’s worth. Yet, Bon Iver played practically every song, not only from For Emma, Forever Ago, but also from their new EP, Blood Bank. We were even treated to a cover of Sarah Siskind’s tragically beautiful, “Lovin’s For Fools”. I felt that my money was well spent and left feeling pleased with the show.

Other artists agree with me on this matter. The Strokes generally skip out on encores and Ben Folds once poked fun at the useless ritual as well, saying something along the lines of, “I’m coming back, but you should try to act surprised.” Spare our voice boxes the screaming and shouting and take it from Elvis. Leave the building.