Chitter Chatter and the Curse of the Talkies

After a recent Radiohead gig both Simon Tucker and John Robb made comments on those in attendance who seemed more interested in a conversation with their friends instead of enjoying the show. A spate of tweets on the subject by various people motivated Simon Tucker to ask…has it always been this way?

The live music event. That communal act of friends, families and strangers coming together as one to witness their favourite artists perform in the flesh. A chance to lose yourself in music and forget about life and its various ups and downs for a few hours  at least. Well that’s how I remember it anyway. Nowadays? not so much. A creeping annoyance has infected the gig goers night out. It’s not the selfie junkies and their desire to photograph every moment of their life (let’s face it, we’ve all taken photos of bands on stage over the years as an act of cementing the memory of those special nights) it’s not even those “fans” who climb onto the shoulders of friends even though these are probably the worst of the worst as their selfish behavior blocks the views of those who paid exactly the same amount of money to see the  band not some drunk lads arse (sorry I digress, as someone who is on the short side this has been a thorn in my side since my early teens.)

No, this new annoyance is Mr and Mrs chatterbox. Those gig-goers who turn up to a concert, stand right in the middle of the crowd and just….talk (and talk and talk and talk and talk). This fad  seems to have been getting worse and worse over the years. Over the last few years I have been lucky enough to see the great Bristol band Beak> live in Cardiff. Twice I have seen Beak> and twice they have had to stop their set to ask people to quieten down which on  one occasion led to them declining to play a song as it was one that started quietly and without being able to hear that bit the climax would have lost all of its affect.

Then we come to the recent Radiohead Manchester show. The gig was brilliant but as a reviewer I had to do all I could to tune out the wasp buzz of chitter chatter that surrounded me and just focus on the band. There were this particular bunch of people who didn’t even LOOK at the band and instead talked about work, friends etc and take consistent selfies throughout. What does this achieve? Were they wanting their “friends” or “followers” on social media to be all “oh how cool. Can’t believe you saw Radiohead”? What answer could they give if they were asked how were they? Because if they were honest their answer would be “not a clue mate but Roger here had a great night as you can see from these 1000 photos and I found out about Deborah’s run in with her bosses in work”.

The absolute worst experience I have had regarding this however was when I saw Slint at ATP. The audience talked ALL THE WAY THROUGH the gig and if you are familiar with the band then you will know how depressing this must have been. One guy in the audience was demanding the crowd “go nuts” throughout whilst also stating that if they “play  anything off Tweez I am leaving” . They did, he didn’t.

Is this the place we find ourselves in now? Has it always been this way and am I looking back at my gig going teenage years with rose tinted glasses? If this is a relatively new phenomenon then why is it so? Has music become disposable in every format? Has the fact that now music can be obtained in an instant for free changed people’s attitudes towards it in more ways than one?

People seem to now act like the band are there just as a supplier of background noise to their night out not the main focus of their gathering. In my younger raving days we would follow a DJ around the country and follow the calm and drops of his/her set religiously, shouting when that  drop occurred or those  strings came in. Yes it is fair to say the sound system help drown out any droning voices but I can honestly say I can’t remember a single time a night out was ruined by the bumping gums of a fellow punter (and let’s face it there were a LOT of chattering jaws in those days).

There’s the argument that people spend their money so they can act in any way they want but then you can counter that with the same argument by stating that people have paid money to see they band so they should be able to at least here them.

So, what are your thoughts? Has it always been as such or am I just now noticing it? Has it ruined your night out or do you feel you can act anyway you please as you’ve paid hard earned money for a night out?

Let me know in the comments below.

~

All words by Simon Tucker. More writing by Simon on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Simon on twitter as @simontucker1979

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21 comments on “Chitter Chatter and the Curse of the Talkies”

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  1. In the good old days if you weren’t interested in the band (usually just the support) you’d be at the back by the bar to waffle away without causing offence or fear of reprisal! These days it appears ppl can’t keep their traps shut for any length of time… Anywhere. Any place. Any bloody time. Sigh.

  2. I’ve been going to gigs for 30 years. People have always had the odd chat here and there, but the constant chatter has got noticeably worse in the past couple of years. It’s made me cut back on the number of gigs I go to: from 3 or 4 a month to 1, 2 at most. I pay to listen to the music and get lost in it, not to endure a domestic or listen to some twat drone on about everything and nothing.

    Worst example was during Martha Wainwright at Shepherd’s Bush. Woman next to me spent all night on her phone only to take a break in her conversation for BMFA: “Oh, I love this one.” She did not care she was ruining the evening for others, and ignored repeated requests to stop talking.

  3. Perhaps I am just getting old, but it does seem to happen more now. The younger generation of gig goers don’t seem to know how to act when at a gig, not all of them of course, but in general. If you want to shout in the ear of your mate for the whole gig, fuck off to the back or the bar!

  4. A few years ago a member of the Stranglers’ support band managed to get me an ace view of the gig backstage. Some other fortunates, instead of being grateful, didn’t even watch the concert.

  5. Firstly, I think there is more (and more) chatter at big gigs. The bigger the venue, the worse it is. James at the Norwich UEA last year was so bad, I haven’t been back to the UEA since. Smaller venues, such as the Arts Center and Waterfront, don’t have the issue to anything like the same degree.
    Secondly, as a gig goer for many years who (thanks to my own stupidity) only started using decent earplugs in the last few years, my hearing is damaged. One of the results of this is that I have a low tolerance for certain noises, one of which is conversation at gigs… I am sure that I am not the only one afflicted with this!

    • This is an excellent point James. I see more and more people wearing earplugs at gigs now. I may start wearing myself

  6. Frank Kaczmarczyk

    Chiming in from the USA – it’s terrible over here as well. Usually I find myself next to a couple of idiots who stare at their phones in silence until the band starts playing at which point they decide to begin their conversation. In the past 5 years the ONLY show I’ve attended with fixed seating was Paul McCartney – I simply refuse to be tethered to a location I can’t vacate for another vantage point. I’ve missed a few shows by adhering to my policy, but it’s safer for me (and the morons we’re discussing). Like so many things, yes, Virginia, it is worse than “when I was your age”. (I’m 57)

  7. No it’s not new but definitely getting worse.
    It’s disrespectful to the artist & to the genuine punters who have paid good money to see the artist/band. When I tell people they are spoiling the gig I generally get abuse. I’ve been at loads of gigs where the artist has asked people to shut the fuck up. Sad state of affairs. I think people definitely attend gigs just to say ‘I was there’ with no engagement on the night whatsoever.

  8. It hasn’t always been like this. I’ve been taping gigs for nearly 40 years and in the last 15 it is nigh impossible in a reasonably busy gig without hearing these arseholes. Some audiences like mogwai gig self regulate but listening to old tapes it didnt happen nearly as much. Radiohead at Glasgow was same. Like as if they were in pub and live music is just ambient noise. I’d sling them out if it were up to me. They have ruined gigs for me listening to inane ramblings about their girlfriends or work and shouting louder when the band get louder. They are wankers but i bet nobody admits being one.

  9. True comedy gold is however when a song ends they stop to applause or a woooohooo and then continue their conversation

  10. After my own Radiohead experience I was compelled to comment on social media in a less eloquent and more direct basis as to my feelings 5 days later the thread still rages with agreement and annoyance and the occasional ludicrous voice of dissent. As someone who runs a record label and runs regular events – our tickets will now be printed with a request for respect and silence and announcements will be made before the acts – hopefully empowering the less confident audience members to tackle this blight

  11. Having attended gigs for 25+ years I am convinced part of this is down to the advancement of speaker technology, volume and clarity now appears to be achieved with far less raw power or distortion, creating the void into which conversation has become possible.
    I’m not condoning it but fold in people who are there as only as a casual fan / to be with their friends or to lay claim to an occasion it’s no suprise.

  12. I was at the Radiohead gig and yes there was incessant talking and masses of people going to the bar during the lesser known songs ,personally I think people are into Radiohead and some other bands because it’s cool to be,the charlatans at the lads club ,pixies at Jodrell Bank and levellers at castlefield bowl were all different gigs but no chitter chatter , was a busy week though !!

  13. Couldn’t agree more but it’s not just gigs: only this week I said yet again I might have to stop going to the cinema as I get so riled at people chatting and reacting as if they were at home. And then the same thing happened at the theatre – is it something to do with the rise of home entertainment?

  14. I’ve been to a number of gigs over the past few years which have been affected by people talking.

    Maybe this has increased in frequency due to the way that we listen to music outside of gigs? Music is increasingly becoming used primarily for background noise, and presumably this naturally translates over to gigs. Also, this may have come about as a result of more people going to festivals, where you often see bands that maybe aren’t your favourite and so talk during it.

  15. Yes it’s definitely getting worse. I have already stopped going to the cinema for the same reason but I refuse to give up my beloved live gigs to the arseholes who talk

  16. I’m sure years ago the volume of many gigs precluded much in the way of audience chatter, and as the quality of PA systems has improved, the volume has reduced.

    But there is something else as well … I think sometimes some people at certain gigs are only there so that can *say* that they were there – rather than losing themselves (or possibly finding themselves) in the moment and the space between the band and the audience.

  17. There’s a new breed of punter who’ve heard of the band but not heard anything by them. It provides them with a story to tell in the office the next day so as to appear cool & groovy. Just don’t ask them any songs the band played.

  18. Have politely asked people at acoustic gigs standing at the front chatting to either pipe down or move to the bar. Been met with disbelief and/or threats. It’s not going to stop me asking though, everyone else is waiting for someone to say something. It’s a bit different at electric shows but I could still hear a lot at New Order. I just don’t get it really, especially with the price of some gigs.

  19. Simple answer is gigs are too quiet nowadays! When i was a kid no way you could have a conversation at a gig!

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