Being a concert-goer my entire adult life, I have always really loved the experience of live music. A good part of that experience relies on the crowd: this is not a private show, and the energy and behavior of the crowd can have a significant impact on the show. As of late, I have noticed that impact has been far more negative.
I saw Jane's Addiction last night at a small venue here in New Jersey. Back in December, I saw Clutch at another small venue. These two bands likely have little overlap in terms of fans, and they played two completely different venues and two completely different styles of shows. But one thing they have in common is glaringly obvious:
Concert-goers have become complete assholes.
It seems that short attention spans and the need to be constantly connected to media have completely soiled the experience. At both of these shows (and countless ones I've been to prior to these), people are at the venue, but not at the show. Phones are constantly in the air, horizontally positioned to capture video. God forbid the band/performer play a song the person doesn't know or like, and immediately they turn to texting, tweeting, facebooking...
People also feel the need, for a reason I cannot come up with, to talk throughout the entire show. Not just a comment here or there, but they scream at each other through the entire show. I have, on occasion, completely flipped out on these people. I paid for a ticket to this show. I didn't pay to listen to people yammer on and show each other stuff on their phones. But it's not even about the money. The concert could be completely free. These people are ruining the experience.
Part of me wants to ask them why they are even there. When people go to a show, and they behave in these ways, I want to know why. But then I realize I don't actually care. All I know is that my experience is ruined.
I am not just there to hear songs I know and like. I can do that at home, surfing YouTube for footage of other live shows, or listening to bootlegged tracks. I want to experience the live performance. For some bands, that just means the crew on stage, rockin' it out. And that's great. When you rock out as a collective audience, it's fun. But when it's fragmented and distracted, the energy is lost.
Other bands put on a show that appeals to all your senses--Jane's did that last night with characters who were swinging from the ceiling, dancing in the peripheral, etc. There were videos that corresponded with the music. Lights, smoke... it was theatrical. But apparently, not stimulating enough for the majority of the people there who were watching the show through the back of their phone, or not watching at all while they either texted or screamed at each other.
Music is a universal language. It is something that is supposed to appeal to a very primal aspect of humans. It's supposed to bring people together. One would assume that people bought a ticket because they are fans and want to see this performance. So, why don't they see the performance? I take the opportunity to escape from the rest of the world when I go to a show. A couple of hours of fun and entertainment, without having to be connected to anything or anyone but the music and those performing it. But we can't connect to the experience if we're connected to other things. It makes the point of going to a live show pointless.
And frustrating for those of us who expected to go to a concert.