Something is spoiling live performance: The audience. I blame the internet.

In 2005 my girlfriend and I went to see a band called Joy Zipper at a venue called Koko (that’s in London, which is where I live). Rather than take my wheelchair we travelled by taxi; as we approached the entrance, one of the door staff spotted me shuffling sketchily along and offered to show us a good spot away from the crowd on the main floor.

Koko used to be a theatre; Door Bloke escorted us up to a box, which happened to be in exactly the same position relative to the stage as Statler and Waldorf’s in The Muppet Show. So we were well placed to observe – and comment upon – both the band and the audience.

The band was great. Their core is a handsome couple called Tabitha and Vincent, who have a friendly, self-effacing demeanour; they both sing, she plays keyboard, he plays guitar, and two relatively anonymous chaps play bass and drums. Although they’re from New York they have a floaty West Coast sound, which they delivered without fuss. Tabitha essayed one song a capella and made a fine job of it even though she’d never tried it live before.

The audience was a disgrace. Talk talk fucking talk they went. Some didn’t even bother facing the stage. Some monkeyed around with their phones, but most just went yap yap yap. I was embarrassed. These nice folks had come all the way from New York just to be, largely, ignored.

I suppose Londoners want to appear urbane, and not do anything as uncool as engaging with the performers and showing a bit of enthusiasm. Nobody wants to be that guy mercilessly captured in the Alanis Morissette concert video, having some kind of trouser epiphany to One Hand in My Pocket. But still. This wretched rabble’s behaviour went beyond nonchalance into rudeness.

Even back then I blamed the internet. I mean, this is way, way back – I had a Hotmail account! But music was already easily available – you couldn’t quite listen to whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted (and sometimes you had to pay) but music was much easier to obtain than it had been even five years earlier. The thing is, the experience of listening to music just wasn’t special any more, it was part of the entitlement package.

That was 2005. This is 2011, and things are worse, because now we have social media. We’re so connected that you can claim to be living off the grid if you’re not on Facebook. And yes, we talk more, to more people, but what do we talk about? Ourselves, mostly. Yes – Twitter, comment threads, forums and so on encourage discourse, but they also encourage at least a degree of self-obsession. That old favourite demon, television, can still take a share of the blame; it’s evolved so you can watch whatever you want whenever you want. The choice! Tell kids these days there used to be only fifty channels and they won’t believe you. In the words of Ozzy Osbourne: “Sharren! SHARREN! They’ve got a fookin’ bread bakin’ channel now!” You can even pause it and rewind it. And of course YouTube, the bastard child of public access TV, means that not only can you watch (again) anything, any time, but you can add to it. User Created Content! Interactivity! tyler totaly drunk face plant lol funiest video EVAR!!!!!!!

Friday the 18th of March was Red Nose Day, an annual charity event organised by a group called Comic Relief. The brief is: Do something funny. Get money. Proceeds go to various charities in Britain and Africa. It’s a big deal – this year’s total raised was just over £100 million (160,644,523 Canadian dollars). One of the events nearest to me (in terms of both interest and geography) was a one-off Literary Death Match.

As you’re here on TNB, you might well know what LDM is; a knockout format in which four writers take it in turns to read samples of their work, while three judges sit on a comfy sofa and decide who goes through to the next round. The final pair read again, then compete in a silly tie-breaker. Sometimes it’s something physical involving throwing things or spraying silly string around but in this case it was “Poet or Nutter?”, in which the contestants had to decide whether the person in the photograph was a poet or a madman and, for an extra point, name them. Photos of the likes of Aileen Wuornos, H.P. Lovecraft and Shel Silverstein appeared, all with a Comic Relief red nose superimposed. I was delighted that, in John Wayne Gacy’s portrait, his dog had a red nose too.

It was fun. LDM is usually held on Wednesdays, but because it was a Red Nose special, the contestants and judges were bigger-than-usual names and it was held on a Friday, so the audience was larger and rowdier than the usual midweek crew. Less engaged, more Friday nighty. Noisier.

It was a damn fine show. This bloke, I don’t know who he was, kicked things off with a lung-achingly funny intro. “As it’s Red Nose Day,” he said, “I’m going to do the funniest thing I could think of. I’m going to read W. H. Auden’s Stop All the Clocks…” – that got a good laugh – “…with an increasing number of ice cubes in my mouth.”

And so he did, and it just got better and better, starting with “Thtop aw the c’ockth” and ending in an incoherent series of vowels and gurgles. I was laughing so much I couldn’t breathe, it was brilliant.

Did you notice how he began, announcing Stop All the Clocks, then pausing? He got the laugh, and got the measure of the audience at the same time. Canny. I think we measured up pretty well, even if most of us (including me) only knew it as the funeral poem from Four Weddings and a Funeral. I think we came across as attentive and receptive to fairly subtle literary humour (come on, this is Friday night in East London), and matey proceeded with confidence.


As the night wore on…no, it didn’t wear or drag, it rattled along like a square-wheeled school bus with no brakes…the four starters were whittled down to two finalists, and an interval was called. Matey, who’d established himself as a hero at the start of the night with his ice cube poetry, took the mike – and was ignored. Totally drowned out by the chattering classes; I think he gave up eventually. It was hard to tell, because between the rather quiet PA system and a couple of hundred jabberers, I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Even LDM founder Todd Zuniga dropping his trousers to reveal a splendid pair of red-nose-red G-Star boxer-briefs didn’t get much attention.

Now. I don’t want to be Funcrusher Plus (sorry, what? Too late? Shut up) but please, people, a little decorum. A chap who made us laugh our lungs up earlier is trying to make himself heard, the bloke who invented this whole thing has dropped his bags, and you’re just talking and talking.

Er. Um. I think…I think I might have been a bit hasty. This was, as I’ve said, a Friday night special. A lot of the crowd may have gone there for a drink and a pizza and several more drinks, and found that there was an event on. They wouldn’t begrudge Comic Relief a few quid in exchange for a bit of background entertainment; so maybe I’d found myself (to an extent) in the middle of a normal end-of-the-working-week drink-up, So really, I might as well have gone to an adventure playground and complained that it was a bit lively and everyone was younger than me.

(An aside, regarding links. I remember when I first read about something called “hypertext”. I mean, I don’t remember the precise time and location, it wasn’t a JFK/9/11 moment, but it seemed so futuristic, like something from a William Gibson novel. In a block of text, some of the words are blue. And if you click on a blue word, you get more information on that word. Wow! It sounded pretty amazing – and it sort of is, only it didn’t really work out quite the way I anticipated. I imagined (rather vaguely) another layer of information, maybe something as simple as a little window that popped up, then went away, something brief and simple which was part of the main document. A footnote, near enough – but that’s not how it worked out, is it? A link takes you to a whole nother page, probably another website, with its own home page and more links leading to more links, and before you know it you’re miles from shore, it’s getting dark and you’re drowning in a sea of metaphors. And you may say to yourself – “Well? How did I get here?”

Only you probably won’t. Actually if you’re like me you’ll open tab after tab, and then they’ll stay open for a couple of months, until you look at them, can’t remember why you opened them in the first place, and close them. Right now I have sixteen open, two of which are called “Fuc…”.

OK, getting to the point, I don’t like to put links in essays. I want to tell you all about the Literary Death Match and so on though, so what I’ll do is, I’ll provide some links at the end. Like an appendix. “Further Reading”. Old Skool!)

Here’s a better example. The Gallery Café is part of a “community space” (words that set my teeth on edge almost as much as “organic vegetable box”), it’s vegetarian (vegan where possible) and overall maybe a little bit earnest. But the coffee’s good, the staff are friendly, and the food’s decent – apart from the pizza, which is PHENOMENAL, even without the flesh of beasts. Now they just need to introduce a “Bring your own meat” policy.

On Sunday evenings they have jazz. Not difficult freeform hepcat stuff or jovial tweedy trad, but easy, familiar sounds with a female vocalist and at least one band member wearing a waistcoat. Nice. Nice and, crucially, quiet. We’re not talking about amps turned up to eleven or a self-important DJ, but they are making an effort to knock out some ear-pleasing sounds. And is their effort appreciated?

(I’ve been grinding my teeth for 1,755 words now, so you can probably guess that “And is their effort appreciated?” is a rhetorical question.)

Anyway, no, it isn’t appreciated, at least not by a few punters. It’s not a big place, and as I said, the band’s quiet, and it doesn’t take much to drown them out. In fact, all it takes is two pairs of noisy conversationists, strategically positioned at opposite corners of the café, to properly dick things up, and dick things up they did. I observed them. They weren’t particularly loud and obnoxious; they were chatting in a normal fashion. There was no hair twirling, no head-thrown-back laughter or furtive glimpses to see whether anyone was looking – no apparent awareness, in fact, that there was anyone else present. And that was the problem.

The fact that there were other people present, people who wanted to listen to the band, just didn’t register. All that mattered was them themselves, right there, right then. They didn’t even lean towards one another and talk into each other’s ears, they simply increased their volume a bit to overcome the background noise.

Did anyone ask them to keep it down a bit? No. Why not? I don’t know. Too middle class, too polite, too concerned with others’ right to self expression? Whatever the reason, these were my people, and they were pissing me off.

Did the band or the café staff ask them to keep it down a bit? No. Well, fair enough, it’s a café, not a hardcore jazz club.

Did I ask them to keep it down a bit? No. Why not? I’ll explain later.

Did I mention that it’s all the internet’s fault? I know, I know, it’s an easy catch-all scapegoat, and I sound like my parents, who see “The Internet” as some sort of society separate from the real world, populated by a few thousand people. But again, I’m holding it responsible – particularly (again) social media.

Online you can say whatever, to whomever, whenever you like. You can SHOUT AND FUCKING SWEAR and u can b as inarticulate as u want omfg lol bcos…nobody else is listening. If it’s a private conversation, well, it’s private, and even if it’s public anyone else within range can block, mute, temporarily unfollow, or simply ignore the participants. Listening (reading) is entirely optional – but not in real life. And I think some people have forgotten.

So I have a satisfactory explanation for this behaviour, but I don’t understand this: Why pay to get in (and pay venue prices for drinks) and behave as if it’s just another night at the pub with your mates, when you could have, well, a night at the pub with your mates, with no entry fee and slightly less outrageous drink prices, in any of a million pubs and bars in London? Actually Koko’s in the borough of Camden, and there are a million pubs and bars in Camden alone.

I used to teach a Summer course at the art college where I worked, a one week introduction to workshops. Metalwork, plastics, wood – we covered a lot in a short time. The students (members of the public, each paying a few hundred quid) all seemed to have one of two attitudes. The majority were determined to get as much value as they could; they were at the workshop door at nine every morning, champing at the bit, eager to try out new materials and processes. A few, though, took an approach that, while it seems valid, I can’t really understand: That they’d paid their money, and so as far as the course went they could take it or leave it. They turned up for the first day, shrugged, and were never seen again.

I don’t get it.

End of part one

In part two (which is written, formatted and ready to roll, so stay tuned) I’ll explain why I didn’t ask the jazz café chatterers to keep it down, and why the business of bad audiences has got me so worked up in the first place.

Edit: Here it is. Part two.

Further reading, listening and viewing

This two-part monster rant started as a comment on a Nervous Breakdown post by Nick Belardes. Nick’s article on public speaking – specifically, reading prose – got me thinking, perhaps a bit too hard. In the accompanying video, he reads the entire first chapter of his book Anhinga (accompanied by his son Landen on guitar) – and the audience talks. A lot. Here’s Nick’s piece, Some Thoughts on Performing Prose.

Elsewhere on TNB, Matt Baldwin observes that there’s no shortage of cinemagoers quite happy to spoil the viewing experience for everyone else in When Stupid People Go To Smart Movies.

Here’s the website of the Literary Death Match.

And here’s the slightly disturbing video for Joy Zipper’s Out of the Sun.

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Formerly a professional modelmaker, STEVE SPARSHOTT turned to writing after brain damage sustained in a 2003 road accident removed much of his physical function. Typing with the three middle fingers of his left hand at a blistering fifteen words per minute, he has had work printed in London literary magazine Smoke, and various academic publications have featured his design-related social criticism. He has reviewed films for Screenjabber.com and Nude Magazine, and because his life just isn't difficult enough, he's writing a memoir called Get Well Soon. He is well chuffed to have an essay called Fin in the Nervous Breakdown compilation The Beautiful Anthology.

43 responses to “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP – Part one of two”

  1. Captain Con says:

    Mate… it isn’t about the performers in Camden. It is all about Camden and being seen to be in Camden.

    It is about buying the tickets and telling everyone on BookFace (which is where your friends live now) that you’ve bought the tickets. It is about the day after when you tell people how brilliant it was, preferably with a proviso that you agreed upon with the securitygroup you went to the gig with while on the way home.

    The audience aren’t there to see or hear the performers they are there to see each other seeing or hearing the performers. The performers are no relevant or required. They just need to be of sufficient standard that they don’t actually interrupt the audience or offend.

    It could have been worse. In Hoxton for a while there the audience had to actually entertain the performers or they got thrown out.

    Some of my friends have started inviting people around to their houses to watch TV with the sound down.

    On a Friday night everyone wants their fifty minutes of anonymity in a crowd because they spend so much time alone and contacting everyone digitally. The crowd is the thing. The smell of it. The unexpectedness of what happens next of it.

    The exultation of getting out of it without being killed or harmed. Or worse. We’ve reached the end of the road. In an overcrowded and tired western city we are paying intermediaries to allow us to stand in a crowd.

    The amp now goes all the way down to minus 11. And we don’t care.

    • Nicely put, Captain (*salutes*). “Paying intermediaries to allow us to stand in a crowd” is a disturbingly dystopic scenario, but you’re right, there’s a lot of that going on.

      I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of creating evidence rather than memories – the royal wedding flypast came right over my flat and I was up on the roof videoing it; I couldn’t see the LCD screen in the bright sunshine so I just vaguely pointed the camera towards the planes.

      Of course the video was a bit crap, and when I saw it I thought “Why didn’t I just watch them?” Yeah, I was there, they flew right over! Did I see it – did I experience it? Not really.

  2. Oh man, this is a great beef I have with society. Noise, depending on the where/when/who/what can be really annoying. I’ve been to events where bands or poets come in and you can hear every breath when the stage is silent. But then, I’ve seen bookstores, bars, concert venues and more where people just use the time, as Captain Con suggests, as just a big mess of social interaction. They show up. There’s a stage, but no one gives a crap.

    In my case with the Anhinga vid, I blame two things. 1) Anhinga wasn’t right for that audience. I just wanted a good stage and the best sound system around to record the video. Kind of dumb of me to do it there because noise became an issue and I knew my piece wasn’t right for the crowd. But then, the recording from there has sparked conversations about crowd noise and rude assholes, and I think this is a worthy conversation. I have shut up that crowd in the past. But that’s with cursing and in-your-face rapid-fire spoken word.

    2) I will address in your part two…

    I think you are onto how social media is changing societal behaviors. But then, crowd drunks and loudmouths are just that (and social barflies are just that). Heck, I was at a church a few days ago, where an awesome band was invited. Only, for the idiots at the church, it was social hour. They ignored the band. Dumb people. They just wanted their coffees and to gossip like a bunch of chicken coop hens. The kids too. Embarrassing.

    • It occurred to me when I watched your video that it was shot from within the crowd so it was bound to pick up some crowd noise. I was once looking for a particular Mogwai live track on YouTube, and I had to shuffle through a few videos before I found one that wasn’t punctuated by audience chatter. And Mogwai really go up to eleven!

      In your clip, something I found disappointing – aside from the usual complaints – was that the people were getting quite an unusual act (you reading nineteen to the dozen while Landen played a relaxed accompaniment), and they still didn’t shut up and listen. What does it take to get people’s attention? Juggling chainsaws? Maybe, if the chainsaws are on fire.

      You say “Anhinga wasn’t right for that audience” – that’s a bit worrying too, the idea that the material has to be just right for the venue and audience. Are they (we) becoming more narrow-minded as well? I’ve paid my money, I want to hear exactly what I want to hear – and I’m gonna talk.

      • It was shot from the front of the crowd. The mic worked too well. You’re right, they were getting an unusual act. But then, I knew winning the drinking downtown crowd would be really tough without getting in their face. Landen, performed a song right after me and wowed the crowd with his rendition of “Shot In The Arm” by Wilco. The kid freakin’ rocks. And yes, I was jealous. Probably, if I were smart, he should have wowed them first to shut them up. Then we would have had their interest. Hindsight is everything. And yes, juggling flaming chainsaws would have helped.

        I agree, it is worrying. But it also shows how boring people are who don’t or won’t appreciate literature. They’d rather see a viral YouTube video blasted onto a wall than to see someone local from their own town trying to make it in the literary arts.

        What I do get out of it is that sort of respect. “Nick, out of all the local Bakersfield writers, is brave enough to go to an open mic of mostly musicians and comedians and create a video, knowing full well that the hipster drunks don’t give a shit.” And that respect earned that video on the homepage of Redroom.com, Bakotopia.com and your wonderful shoutout.

        From the streets of Bakersfield onto the Interwebs!

        • I forgot to say, I really liked Matt Muñoz (sp?) at the start of the video. Seems like a top chap, and extra points for not referring to himself as “curator”. And for promoting reading events, of course.

  3. SAA says:

    People were texting during Queens of the Stone Age. Texting!

  4. James D. Irwin says:

    It’s a constant source of frustration to me at my monthly comedy night that when I start each show almost everyone in the audience just carries on talking in their private groups. It’s the same after the interval. They just talk and talk and talk…

    Of course what I can do on stage, which is harder to do as an audience member, is tell people to shut up. Although there was a nice moment at one show where one half of the audience scolded the other half for talking so much…

    • Ooh yeah, how did your London night go (25th Jan)? The one I couldn’t attend ‘cause it was two friends’ birthdays, one of which was a 40th? Captain Con up there suggests it might have been the worst possible crowd – the Hoxton/Shoreditch Twat massive.

      You can actually get people to shut it! You’re, like, Miles Davis or something! Really, though, that must be so dispiriting, when people just keep yapping. Have you tried staring them out? Or maybe letting off an air horn for a quicker result?

      • James D. Irwin says:

        The London gig was a weird one. It was a tiny venue and not very full. There was a divide in the audience roughly 50-50 between people who were really up for some stand up and those who were far too cool to laugh in public.

        I only lost it with the audience once, a few days after london. I had the only good bit of stand up I’ve written and the whole show a section of the audience kept talking. My routine was quite quiet and needed attention to work. It built slowly towards a payoff. So I got angry and shouted at them and swore and told them to shut the fuck up. It worked particularly well because suddenly I had all the authority and all the attention and everyone was on my side.

  5. dwoz says:

    I agree with your essential premise.

    I see it in other, tiny ways.

    The way the twenty-something young lady, back for a visit, not having seen us in a few years, spends her visiting time with us on her Blackberry, texting.

    I’m too removed from the euro club scene to have a valid opinion, but I almost think that the DJ culture, as much as the Internet culture, may be responsible for the sad state of audiences. With a DJ, the discernible differences between listening to music on earbuds on the train, and listening to a DJ spin at a club, are null, except for the fact that others can hear the same thing at the same time.

    ALSO due to DJ culture, there is another problem: musicians coming up through the ranks these days are not learning some of the essential life skills. Care And Feeding Of Your Audience being one of these. The typical performing musician from my era had to hone their skills in front of people, and received instant feedback, good or bad. Musicians today almost certainly have not developed their stage skills in front of an audience, and simply don’t know how to control and engage them.

    So, audiences with no audience skills, performers with no stage skills, and enough vomitous self-produced amateur social site content to reach Alpha Centauri and back, if laid end-to-end.

    • Oh no. The girl, texting; that makes my heart sink. I mean, that really makes me sad. Again, my first guess at the root of her behaviour is the easy availability of the thing she wants – in this case, communication. When you can instantly text anyone, anywhere, why should you concern yourself with something as outdated as physical proximity?

      The tragedy is not so much the rudeness, it’s the fact that in-person communication has so many more layers than…well, certainly far more than text, but more even than a Skype or iChat video call. I know this is a recurring complaint of mine, but I fear for the loss of subtlety, nuance, variation and shit in language. If teenagers never learn to communicate at a level higher than that of YouTube comments, we’re doomed.

      (“I fear for the loss…” – I sound like a swooning tragic Edwardian lady.)

      I was never much of a clubber in the traditional fuckin’ ‘avin’ it 4AM Ibiza sense; the clubs I attended were either rare groove/funk or indie/mod places where it was all about the tunes (rather than just retaining the 4/4 beat momentum), or more chin-strokey breakbeat/drum’n’bass nights with visuals from the likes of Hexstatic and The Light Surgeons. There was definitely a certain smugness to all of those, a certain cerebral level.

      (That might be the wankiest paragraph I’ve written since I was a teenager.)

      A house DJ has a single objective – fill the floor and keep it filled. I never really experienced the total abandon – and total focus – of the house or rave scenes, so I don’t know whether that single-mindedness has blunted or narrowed the audience’s focus. You may be on to something.

  6. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    “Nobody wants to be that guy mercilessly captured in the Alanis Morissette concert video, having some kind of trouser epiphany to One Hand in My Pocket.” Now there’s a great line.

    I’m always impressed how you take and return back from tangents within a piece and end up with a twice as meaningful whole. Also, I’m glad to see someone hailing the excellent LDM events.

    I don’t know what makes people so talkative and prone to interruption, I think there’s more fear than ever at focusing on a single thought or emotion.

    But anyway, now I’m off to watch a clip of a breakdancing gorilla.

    • Oh, that poor guy. A strange editorial decision, to focus on him so intently. I hope his kids – or his kids’ friends – never get hold of a copy.

      The wandering-off-on-tangents thing is quite recent. I first did it because I was avoiding the real subject, and I was surprised people responded so positively. It suits my mental process (it is my mental process), so I think I’ll stick with it. Even though it means more typing.

      LDM’s a frequent thing here in London – there’ve been three more since March. I’ll definitely get along to the next one.

      “I think there’s more fear than ever at focusing on a single thought or emotion.” – I think you’ve got something there. Although people these days readily (often unconvincingly) call themselves “geek” (for instance), it’s rare to find anyone with the commitment to stick to one particular thing. So maybe that’s echoed on a smaller scale – we want to be pan-cultural renaissance figures, so concentrating on just one thing would be…uncool.

      It’s 11:31AM here. I really shouldn’t try to form sentences before 1PM.

      Anyway, the most important thing – thanks for the postcard! It was great getting cards, letters and tons of email when I injured myself a couple of months back. Definitely helped.

  7. Hello people, thanks for the comments – I’ll catch up tomorrow, which is only 29 British minutes away. G’night!

  8. Oh oh oh! I read this yesterday and thought I commented. But I think I must have only commented in my head. Or maybe on a Blackberry message to oblivion. But I agree with you, sir, and I think you should keep being a Funcrusher Plus so I don’t have to be. Looking forward to part deux! (my comment of yesterday was far more intelligent, trust me)

    • Cynthia, you are always witty!

    • I did the same thing on one of Meghan Dahn’s pieces a while ago. Took about an hour to write an elegant, eloquent reply, describing an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks – then inadvertently closed the tab. It was entirely my fault. I explained what had happened and put in a link to a video of a tractor instead.

      Part two is less griping and more coping strategies. After that, as a break from ranting, I have a fun story to put up. It’ll even have a picture!

  9. Captain Con says:

    Maybe its a developmental thing. In the fifties it was a competition to see if you could make no social mistakes- hold your cigarette right and be reassuring about Soviet Russia in the small talk. In the 1960’s it was about seeing how many social mistakes you could make before the inevitable arrest by someone who was brought up sucking the teat of McCarthy.

    Nobody gave a shit in the 1970s and everybody was much more into colour then anyway and wasn’t really listening or observing anyone else. The 1980’s? I’d really rather not speak about that except to say Wolfe was right about the X-rays. They couldn’t help but behave like Ukrainian tarts- it was the only way to make people realise that somewhere between those tailored shoulder pads there was the faint echo of a human.

    Maybe we have to be aspirational about this. Lets never go to anything we previously wanted to see. Only attend gigs that you don’t give a shit about. That way people will assume everyone is worldly wise and we can prompt a neurosis for the next generation.

    Anyone who says ‘I really want to go and see..’ should be roundly slapped down. This is our dystopian future- compulsory attendance quotas at poetry happenings in order to be able to get some peace and quiet to text people. The return of badinage, coquettry, a sort of digital Liaisons dangereuse where instead of the light filtering through the silk drapes of some 18th century chateau some asshole will bring up the lights and everybody will suddenly realise that we’ve been leaning our head on some stranger’s shoulder while texting someone they never want to meet.

    Delicious. Abandon all social standards. To the barricades and off with our heads.

  10. Dana says:

    And this is why I LOVE house concerts. My house, my rules. Shut the fuck up or get out.

  11. Captain Con says:

    Oh hell Steve has just reminded me with his comment about gigsnaps on mobile phones. People keep showing me photographs from gigs and parties and other eventful contrived oases. I’ve never shown any interest in these people’s lives I swear so why are they so hellbent on proving to me that they are far more rounded socially than I suspect?

    If I start showing any interest will they become suddenly shy and refuse to let me see their phones? But its too risky- they might become delighted, vindicated and then move in with me or something terrible.

    Remember all … if you can’t pixellate it then it never really existed. I’m not commenting here any more. I’m turning into Woody Allen and not the early interesting Woody Allen. The introspective one. Shit.

    • “Pics or it didn’t happen” applied to everything, not just hard-to-believe claims? Great.

      The most astonishing “What makes you think I’d want to see this?” picture (on, yes, a phone) was presented to me by a friend with a few-months-old baby. Junior had been having some bowel problem, and Dad had taken photos to show the paediatrician, and, apparently, me. My favourite was “This one’s got blood in it!” You know if you put mustard and ketchup on a hot dog…thanks mate, that’s great!

      We were having lunch at the time.

  12. Well done. I agree with you so hard. This is one reason why when I played in bands, I much preferred the loud gigs to the quiet acoustic ones. At least during a rock show, you can crank an electric guitar and amplifier up to blast your sound over the rude audience talk talk fucking talkers if you have a cooperative sound guy/gal. (:

    Really great piece, Steve!

    • Wahey! Thanks Tawni. Yes, I’d say turning it up to eleven is a good technique. Maybe stop short of Swans’ deliberately unlistenable volume (their amps went up to twelve), but it’s certainly one way forward.

      In part two I look at some (possibly) useful strategies for getting and holding an audience’s attention.

  13. Captain Con says:

    Decimation? Thats what Roman Emperors used to do with legions who hadn’t quite got the hang of the attention thing.

    Every tenth soldier was selected for execution and their colleagues would hack them to death. A minority at gigs would find the policy objectionable but the majority would at least have something to put on BookFace.

  14. Hank Cherry says:

    Pop music, muppet reference, Auden quote, word count teeth grind. Audience annoyance level appreciator!

    Brilliant. Thanks.

    I owned a club on the East Coast here in the States for a while. It was pretty easy to judge an audience by their cover.

    Do I yearn for the days of bic lighters and feathered hair? Probably not. But, still, this piece of yours rocked it solidly!

    • Cheers Hank! You owned a club? What sort of acts played? “East Coast club” makes me think of something a bit avant garde like The Knitting Factory, but I’m getting hints of hair metal…

      • Hank Cherry says:

        Oh nowhere near as interesting, or entertaining as the Knitting Factory or a hair metal hive. And I can say that guilt free, as I’m retired from that business. Most nights featured a gaggle of terrible indie bands playing music they should have escaped ten years before, or “avant” white hip hop acts with mundane names they thought were “inventive.” Peanut Butter Wolf, I’m looking in your direction. Some nights it was a mish mash of both. On rare occasions a retro hesher doom band would try to resuscitate the flames of metal’s past. Legions of black denim and leather clad twenty somethings with beards to their knees angrily swung their hair in cadence with the beast. But mostly, they stood around and smelled like cheap skunk weed and took pictures of themselves, so they’d have proof they were having a good time. Come to think of it, that’s what most crowds did. Bummer, dude.

  15. Erika Rae says:

    Preach, brother. Just wait’ll I post about this on FaceBook….

  16. […] If you haven’t read part one, it’s here. […]

  17. Captain Con says:

    All these adults playing tag via computer. We are going through a second infanthood.

  18. Captain Con says:

    Except this time we can haul the guy out of the ice-cream van if he doesn’t add the little flair twist on top and stomp his ass. We are the ultimate children and we are angry now.

  19. 泉州邮局 says:


    […]Steve Sparshott | SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP – Part one of two | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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