Have you ever been in a nice restaurant and attempted to have a conversation with your dining companion but couldn’t because the table next to you was so loud? Have you ever tried to give an important presentation at work, only to have two co-workers busy with their own conversation? That’s what I feel like when I’m on stage performing my music and the crowd is so loud I can’t hear my guitar.
Mostly I’ve played to wonderful audiences at coffeehouses, colleges and in concert halls but there are those gigs, mostly in bars, that make me want to throw my guitar across the room. I once stopped a performance and stated bluntly, “I am NOT a TV” and fortunately, the fierce drag queen who was running my sound came over his mike and said “Listen up! She’s working hard up there.” The crowd only quieted for a song or two, though.
Another time an audience member had a very loud cell phone conversation though three of my songs as the rest of the crowd strained to hear me. I put my guitar down, walked into the audience and asked with a smile, “Who are you talking with?” She cheerfully told me and asked if I wanted to talk with them. I replied, “Sure,” then calmly said into the phone, “She can’t talk anymore; she’s listening to live music.” Then I slapped the phone shut and handed it back to a very surprised woman.
I spend hours writing each song and preparing for a performance. I sometimes drive for miles to get to a gig. I spend thousands of dollars on equipment, recording and promotion. I don’t want a few jerks to ruin it for me and for the folks who want to hear what I’m doing.
I don’t sell many CDs and downloads after a gig in a noisy bar. It’s not because I stunk up the place; people aren’t invested in what I’m doing because they can’t hear it well. When I play for a listening crowd, I sell a lot of CDs and the audience walks away smiling. They remember my performance. They’ll support that venue and my concerts again.
Loud dance bands doing covers or solo instrumentalists are sometimes different. They are meant to be that booty driving beat in a rowdy bar or that soothing music in the background at a quiet party. I write and perform original songs. You’ll miss the jokes, the emotions and the other subtleties if you’re busy yelling at your friend across the bar.
Next time you come to a show, use what your mama taught you. If you want to talk, go into another room. If you want to hear the music, listen quietly and encourage those around you to do the same. The rest of the audience will thank you. Me too.
Thank you for reading my rant. Writing it saved me hundreds of dollars in therapy bills.
Tell me about a time you were angry at a concert crowd, whether as a performer or an audience member. I’m happy to save you some money on therapy too.