Wednesday, March 12, 2008

It's hard to drink to ambient electronic music.

What was I thinking going to see M83 do a support slot for Midnight Juggernauts?
I didn't know that his band's gear would have been AWOL because of an Air France messup, and that he would be doing an ambient solo set.
But still, it was always going to be a stretch for it to be worth the $35/evening in the city.

But how hard to watch it actually was, probably couldn'tve been predicted. I've never seen a crowd gang up on a support act before, particularly a support act that is actually a fantastic act - M83 is a great performer, even when he's doing a solo set of Digital Shades material. But the audience at this show absolutely destroyed him. I'm not talking "I went to see _____ and there were SO MANY TEENYBOPPERS who were talking and omg so annoying" type of crowd.
I'm talking about a crowd that did slow claps during songs. The kind of slow claps that are fantastic at cricket matches when a bowler is running to the crease, or at the climax of a trashy teen movie when somebody made a rousing speech about acceptance and togetherness. But there was no togetherness, just a pack of arrogant boys treating a musician in the way that is usually reserved for a substitute teacher.

But a gig is not a classroom. The complete dismissal of M83 doesn't even particularly relate much to his act - the most excitable reaction from the crowd had come 20mins earlier, when somebody from The Valentinos dropped "Atmosphere" by Joy Division during a DJ set. And even (perhaps thankfully) that reaction was pretty muted - everyone around us seemed way more interested in either picking up, getting drunk, or taking fantastic social pics.

By the end of his set, after just 25 minutes of his 50 minute set, a completely frustrated and drained M83 stood up, half-heartedly waved, and promised to play "a rock show" with his proper band next time he's down here. (Here's hoping he actually comes back - it was a tough way to see him after waiting for 5 years, personally).

The whole night was pretty pointless for M83 and his fans - and i can't see how the time before Midnight Juggernauts could've been much use to those who came to dance to them either (i hesitate to label them a fanbase, it would be unfair to MJs, who are a genuinely good band). Hopefully all of the boys there completely failed to pick up, and the girls all look really fat in their photos and won't be able to bear to upload them to Facebook. At least next time they think about checking out some live music, they may decide to actually participate in it - and if not, hopefully they will do us all a favour and decide to just spend the night at The Fiddler like every other outing. At least there, being obnoxious, drunk, and desperate for a lay is basically the point of being there.

As a side note, I don't want to hear people attributing this to it being an all-ages shows. Some of the best gigs i have -ever- been to have been all-ages - in the same venue i've seen Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth and a whole lot of other amazing acts play to fantastic all-ages crowds. And my very favourite type of crowd is usually at smaller all-ages gigs, particularly DIY/art space ones. Probably the BEST crowd in my mind was Unicorns at Space 3, and i've never run into a bad crowd at Hibernian House, Frequency Lab, or anything else like that.
The problem with the crowd last night was that it seemed to draw in people who treat music as more of a service than an act of participation - it tends to happen more with bands that attract more "casual" music listeners (and i'm aware of how elitist that sounds).
Where the crowds at the aforementioned shows generally treat performances as something they not only watch, but are complicit in, crowds such as last night's seem to see their investment solely as the $35 ticket price they paid - other than that, they are there to spectate, and they expect performances that entertain. But beyond that, they also have a particular type of narcissism to their watching, a kind of "customer-is-always-right" type of attitude, that tends to result in little personal regard for whoever is on stage, or trying to watch who is on stage.
To me, live music is an exchange - it's hard for an artist to be effective when they feel alienated from their audience.
And age is irrelevant to this. In fact, i find that disinterest usually happens more in overage crowds. Underage crowds spend too much time being cheated out of tours, so when they get a decent act, they tend to suck everything they can out of the evening. Their enthusiasm can occasionally annoy, but i'd take it any day over the stereotypical jaded twentysomethings chatting about employment and relationships in front of the bar all through the support acts.

Rant over. Let me know what you think.

Tomorrow i will blog about Melbourne.

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