Top Ten Awful Things About Music Venues: A Rant by Carrie Quartly

Highline Venue PhotosAll music venues have their role in the magic or misery of the live experience, whether it’s an unassuming dive bar (my favourite), a stately theatre with an ornately frescoed ceiling, or a soulless outdoor stadium.

As an avid concert-goer, here is a look at some of the things I find can, and often do, go wrong with them…

1. An overpriced bar or woeful drinks selection. You pay more than the cost of a band t-shirt at the merch table, and usually what you get is a thimbleful of ice cubes over-garnished with 3 day old lime wedges and girly plastic straws, leaving very little room for the actual mixer. I end up using the straws as some kind of ineffectual ice pick just so I can sieve a few drops of precious nectar from beneath the iceberg at the bottom of the glass. My other option is almost always the virtually tasteless piss popular at college frat parties, or cheap skunky beer served in a warm can (which admittedly sometimes goes down well, but other times has an unpredictable churning affect on my stomach which feels very much like the powerful swirling pull of a black hole). I guess beggars can’t be choosers!

2. Sterilised ‘rock clubs’ which attract a variety of bland bluesmen specialising in hour-long self-congratulatory meandering guitar jams. There are VIP leather booths lining the interior, and a chintzy mock crystal chandelier dangling flaccidly overhead, sparkling like a collection of tiny coked-up glam rock cocks. Even worse, these places give out GLOW STICKS to the aging squares and bored businessmen looking for social opportunities that frequent there, as if somebody’s dad took field notes at a rave one day and decided this is what happens at rock shows and that it should naturally be implemented here. There is almost NOTHING that drives me to homicidal distraction quite like seeing a stiff-limbed middle aged man in a suit wearing a glow stick collar and cuffs, body popping. GRRRRRRRR.

3. The social clique club. Everyone there apart from you is friends with the band or the organisers, and while the doors were at 8 PM, it’s approaching 10 before any equipment is assembled or dragged up on stage (and carelessly rolled over your feet on it’s way there). I just sit there in an out-of-body misanthropic fugue of unbelonging, thinking to myself that if I have to witness one more overenthusiastic hug or hear one more vapidly boastful conversation about some skinny twerp’s photography ambitions (he mock casually yells terminology that could be impressive like “DROPPING ROLLS”, but to me it just sounds like he’s talking about taking a shit), I might just do something totally crazy, like leave before the show starts…IF the show starts…

4. Church gigs. The austere atmosphere, stunning Gothic revival arches and high glass windows, and the intimate clarity of acoustics can be pretty spectacular at church gigs, displaying all the holy purity of a chaste nun’s supple bosom…but really it’s all about suffering and martyrdom. The atonement for our sins is never-ending it seems, as you settle into the ancient and unforgiving English oak pews for a maddening night of indeterminate duration, the side effects of which are a SEVERE case of numb arse and dead leg – next time make sure to bring a cushion.

5. Toilet attendants (often seen at the sterilised clubs mentioned above). People actually employed to make washing your hands easier for you after you’ve done your thing – they pump a big blob of soap into your hand before you can protest, turn the water on for you and give you a paper towel, leaving you with the burden of guilt for not having money for the tip jar…I am fully capable of washing my hands without assistance, in fact I HATE other people being in the same public toilet facility with me at all, so to be aware of a toilet attendant sitting out there in their little chair, waiting for me to do my business so they can wash my hands for me, freaks me the fuck out. Perhaps I would tip if they offered to wipe my ass for me, but then I’m pretty sure I don’t need any help with that, either…

6. Overzealous bag checking/pat downs by controlling door staff role-playing their fantasies of Nazi Germany on the smallest scale imaginable. Big, burly, unfriendly types who thoroughly rifle through the contents of your bag or purse, and, disappointed in not having found some kind of contraband in the form of an unopened pack of wintermint chewing gum, they have ANOTHER root through, carelessly dislodging things from each compartment and scrutinising every used tissue, pocket mirror and hair brush. Yes, they’re doing their jobs – but do they have to do them so intrusively and with such obvious power hungry pleasure? Almost tempts me to line my bag with tampons, used prophylactics and other disgusting items of an embarrassing personal nature before queuing up at the doors…

7. Chatty security staff. This is a new one for me. Usually when I think of security staff, it’s joyless, unmovable mountains crudely hammered and chiseled by the novice sculptors of ancient civilisations to roughly resemble human beings. These days, it seems to be a younger, whinier breed of attention seekers who will routinely distract the audience in hopes of conversation, flirtatious encounters, or even pain killers for their head cold. Shut the FUCK up and just make sure some asshole doesn’t land on me when the stage diving starts.

8. The bad DJ or looped 30 minute album / playlist before showtime. DJs can be a godsend before a gig, a thrilling prelude to a great night – you can’t believe you’ve just heard Giorgio Moroder segue into The Cramps (or something similar) and it totally works. Or you can get the same album played 20 times in a row, or even worse, the unimaginative self-worshipping guy spinning the hits; you know he’s into what he’s doing because of the absurdity of his incessant head nodding, like a feral pigeon on speed, but he might as well be the only one in the room. The longer you have to wait, the stronger the urge to kill this guy becomes.

9. The concrete sweat box with no windows. Proper ventilation and air cooling facilities are details normally left to the health and safety inspectors, but on a particularly humid day at the height of summer, when you are sweatier than Beelzebub’s ball sack as he soaks in his hell-fire hot tub, you’re wishing something had been done about it, but mainly just hoping you survive the night…Bodies are packed in wall to wall, allowing very little movement (and oxygen was scarce enough to begin with). Amps blow up, it smells unpleasant, and people die.

10. The shambolic little club where nothing works, not even the sink in the ladies’ toilets. These places sometimes have their charm, but the feeling overall is one of frustration. The PA/mixer is crammed in a dark little corner by the fire door, the sound is constantly bouncing off the side walls in a deflected failure of amplified drones, and vocals are inaudible no matter how much they are turned up…How many times can the house drum kit collapse or the power system completely fail (leaving the whole room in darkness while a backup generator is brought to the rescue) before everyone just gives up and goes home?

The list is ongoing, but thankfully the pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to sucking up these little annoyances and seeing your favourite band!

Did I miss anything? Go on, have a moan in the comments below!

All words by Carrie Quartly, you can read more of her writing on the site here.



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6 comments on “Top Ten Awful Things About Music Venues: A Rant by Carrie Quartly”

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  1. Agree with all of these, but you did miss something quite major (though I appreciate you might not have a perspective on it) – and that is accessibility for disabled gig-goers. Many bands I like play small clubs – fair enough, they’re not big enough to play larger venues – but it’s disturbing how, in 2012, many of these venues still remain fundamentally inaccessible to people with mobility problems. So many of them, for instance, are basement venues. I’m not suggesting there’s one quick way to fix this, but I would like to see venues do more – for instance, putting full details of how accessible they are on their website (very few do). I’d also like to see bands and artists take a bit of a stand, too – one band whom I love and have always wanted to see, but they so far haven’t played an accessible venue, went so far as to REMOVE a post I put on their Facebook wall when I very politely and in a very friendly manner asked them if they’d look into playing more accessible venues in the future.

    • Carrie Quartly

      Thanks for pointing that out UW, definitely a massive oversight on my part, but also something very important which deserves far more serious consideration than a snarky blog post! Thanks for reading.

  2. Digital Spirit

    Bars in venues that run out of beer!

  3. twitter_PaterHenryk

    At least a vague attempt to do something with the acoustics would be a start.Some small venues with hard walls, hard floors, high ceilings & not a soft furnishing in site just turn the whole thing to mush.

  4. Having lived on both sides of the Atlantic, I would say this list is definitely Americentric. Number five doesn’t exist in the UK, to my knowledge, but is common at House-of-Blues type venues in the States. The security patdown has also become increasingly rare in Britain. I attend upward of 50 gigs per year, and cannot remember the last time I was felt up upon entry (despite repeated requests on my part).

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