Three’s a crowd, or so the saying goes. Well then, what’s a band room full of people? Surely not a mob, or an audience. No. If a mob shares the desire to spill the blood of the innocent, and an audience shares the desire to applaud politely, then a crowd, unlike these two more specific groups, shares nothing more than space. And this is precisely the problem.
Home cinema is entirely unproblematic. Provided you have a darkened room with thick walls separating you from your neighbour, you can watch Britney’s mousketeer performances, sing along with Streisand, or pound your parson to snuff porn, in complete peace and comfort.
But go to a gig and things get hairy. The performer hopes she’s got an audience, but in all likelihood, it’s a crowd watching her bray and sway. Look closely at all the people. Watch the guy carrying those three beers through the crowd like a bishop with a communion chalice; listen to the loud slurry next to you talking poon itch and imminent breakups with her nearest and dearest; feel the slide of the person’s shoulder pushing against yours as you wonder, for the fifth time, what is it that makes everyone see you as the easiest route to the bar. Experience all these things, and you can’t help but realise – we’re not all here for the same thing. In fact, we’re here for reasons which are not only entirely different, but mostly incompatible.
Consider the mind-boggling stupidity of drinking beer at gigs. When you drink beer, three things happen.
1) You want to drink more beer
2) You need to piss a lot
3) You get more and more drunk
In any good pub, none of these needs that beer users experience causes conflict. You want another drink? Go to the bar. Wow, amazing. You wanna piss? Go to the toilet. You wanna get sloshed? Repeat steps one and two. No problem. Good, clean, fun. But now, imagine that process, but between you and the bar and you and the toilet, place a tightly packed room full of people, some of whom want to stand still and undisturbed because they’re watching some inscrutable but apparently fascinating spectacle taking place on that raised platform… Raised platform? Yeah, you know, the one you and your mates are leaning against. The one as far as possible from the bar and the toilets. Can you see where this is going? So let me ask you these three questions:
If you want to get pissed, why did you come to the gig?
If you wanted to drink at the gig, why did you stand down the front?
If you’re standing down the front, why are you yelling ‘Do you wanna ‘nother beer?’ to your mate.
If you ‘wanna ‘nother beer’, why don’t you wait until the end of the song until you go and get one?
The answer to all these questions is this: because you’re a thoughtless, drunk fuckwit.
But the fact is, as a crowd, we have to share space. So what are we going to do? The rich person’s ‘audience’ solution (think tennis, think classical music recitals) involves numbered seating, polite applause and a whole bucket full of sssshhh. Fine, but what about raw power? What about rock? Well, then there’s the ‘mob’ scenario. The ‘mob’ scenario involves solving the problem by focussing all energy on one thing – you’ll be so fixed on the imminent denunciation, decapitation or evisceration of the hated object, that (for the moment at least) you’ll forget how much you need to take a leak and grab another pot. But this is expensive, messy and (if you’re the hated object being torn to shreds) cruel and painful.
Failing either making a mob and an audience of your average Melbourne gig crowd, I suggest something parallel to Leunig’s stink-freeing solution on public transport, where carriages are separated into ‘farting’ and ‘non-farting’. We have separate gigs for under eighteens, we have big-tobacco sponsored outdoor areas for smokers – why not have a thoughtless, drunk fuckwit corral at all our live houses, and a whingeing twat dress circle? You get your drink, I get my gig, and we don’t have to come between each other. But this is all sounding a bit sensible, and maybe I’m forgetting the one, essential thing, the only thing that thoughtless, drunk fuckwits enjoy more than pissing on with each other. And that, of course, is pissing off whingeing twats.
This rant was originally published in Inpress, February '07
© Peter Chambers 2007
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