Concert Crowds: Where Have All the Good Times Gone?

Common courtesy. Wherefore art thou? Just where exactly did you go?

For the past several years, I’ve been spoiled on folk shows and smaller venues. As gas and ticket prices keep going up, seeing a kickass songwriter at an intimate venue becomes more and more of a good investment with my little wad of disposable income. Besides the thrill of seeing a performer up close, these types of shows tend to attract people who just sit there and listen to the music. This seems to be a foreign concept to many folks.

Yup, love them small venues. Sometimes, though, a hero from your past goes on tour. You then have to payout for a bigger venue. Which brings around a whole different crowd.

We saw Ray Davies (of The Kinks, for those of you under 30 in the crowd) at The Mountain Winery last night in Saratoga. Davies is touring to promote his new solo record, “Other People’s Lives”. And of course, the new songs (which are quite good) were wrapped around many old Kinks favorites. (Davies opened with a subdued “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”. Quite appropriate.)

But the crowd. It’s fine to sing along on songs you’ve loved for literally decades. Heck, who can’t enjoy one thousand people singing to “Sunny Afternoon”, “All Day and All of the Night”, and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”?

I’ll tell ya who. The woman and her 13-year old girl who were sitting next to me. The poor girl was obviously drug there kicking and screaming and had no idea who Davies was. I don’t blame her for being bored, but with the two of them yammering away for the first half dozen songs, I couldn’t make out half the words to the new tunes.

Finally, in exasperation, I tapped the mother on the shoulder and politely asked if they could talk quieter. She gave me a look like I just keyed her Lexus, so I asked again. Blank stare. So I gently lost it: “All I can hear on this side of my head (points to right side of head) is you and your daughter talking. Can you please stop!!!???”

It worked. I was upset. And then I was upset for getting upset. But I did enjoy the rest of the show.

This isn’t anything uncommon. My friend Michele had a similar experience at a last year’s Eagles show. My pal John, at a Los Lobos show (also in Saratoga…no coincidence) asked a group of drunken youth to please be quiet, which just made them more obnoxious.

I have one more Mountain Winery story: Years ago, my wife and I took my father-in-law there to see Willie Nelson. After half an hour of the guy behind us in the cowboy hat (cowboy hat? Saratoga? You lost me) chattering away to his date, I politely asked him to talk quieter. He apologized. But then his date needled him about it for three or four more songs, I then received a stern, “Excuse me partner, but me and my lady are gonna enjoy this show anyway we like.”

(I hardly knew the guy, and already we were partners. Go figure.)

I think this (lack of) concert etiquette started back when video tape made its way into the home. Suddenly people could not differentiate between chatting on the couch at home and talking in a theater. Now it’s the same with concerts. My friend John has a theory that it started back with the “me, me, me” mentality back in the 80s. I’m sure it’s all inter-related.

I don’t have any answers, but it sure feels good getting a self-righteous rant off your chest once in awhile. ;)

All I can say is if you’re looking for me in the audience at a concert, I’m the one sitting there actually listening to the music. You’ll see me. I’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

Note: As far as the show itself, Davies played a somewhat short 90-min set (which included the filler time for three encores). Still, the guy’s a legend, is in fine voice, and it still a viable artist. (This, despite the drunk who walked past us on the way out and screamed, “He could have cut those eight new crappy songs and played more of his old stuff!”…to which I replied, “personally, I liked them, and I’m happy he’s writing new material. The guy kept on walking and didn’t make us “partners.”)

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