Alison Lee vents her frustration at the aloof ‘college-gig’ crowds.
Let me set the scene: A few guys assemble close to the stage and proceed to hurl themselves at each other, much to the annoyance of anyone standing nearby. This bunch is surrounded by a nervous-looking circle of girls and guys (those males who aren’t acting like kamakaze lemmings on speed, that is).
These unfortunate audience members are paying more attention to avoiding death-by-indie-rocker than to the band onstage. Then down the back are a few rows of expressionless, motionless scenester zombies, who stare with a strange glassy-eyed fixation at whatever poor act has been summoned to the torture chamber this time.
Now and again one of them will nod their head to the beat, and then hastily desist as they realise that none of their counterparts have been similarly moved by the music. And of course about a hundred-odd students are talking, laughing and drinking at the adjoining bar, completely oblivious to the fact that there’s a gig on in their immediate vicinity.
The audience has a huge effect on how you perceive a live show. Think back to your favourite gig of all time. Whether it involved a moshpit at Metallica or waving your hands in the air to Westlife, chances are your fellow audience members danced, sang along, screamed, whistled and gave a shit. A huge proportion of the atmosphere at a gig derives from the audience’s feelings of excitement, expectation and anticipation.
Unfortunately such an atmosphere doesn’t feature often at a college gig. The music acts simply as a backdrop to chatting to your friends, to eyeing up that girl in the short skirt, to ordering that vodka and lime that proves to be the one-too-many.
Some students who are a few rungs behind on the evolutionary ladder see live music as an excuse to break a few limbs – their own or someone else’s? Doesn’t really matter. And of course the indie kids like to peer through their fringes and look supercilious while hoping someone notices how cool they are.
This apathy is an obvious by-product of the free or low-price entrance to gigs on a college campus. Three quarters of the people that show up probably aren’t even aware there IS a gig on – they just wander in, and why shouldn’t they? But there’s something saddening about the way bands, who have spent years writing songs and practicing their composition, are simply ignored.
These guys probably began their musical careers in the hope of someday holding the attention of an enraptured audience, of moving them with their lyrics and melodies – little chance of that down at your university watering hole.
Where did the indifference come from? Has the instant-access technology that allows us to carry thousands of tracks around in our pockets on mp3 players left us bored by music? It’s easy to let your interest in music stagnate when there’s such an endless array of songs and new bands fighting for your attention. And nowadays the ‘music scene’ is as much about what shoes you’re wearing as what bands you like.
But the next time that you happen to wander in to a student bar or are attending a college ball and see a bewildered group of musicians confronted by the less than captive drunken student audience, maybe try listening. Give them an encouraging smile, squeeze up the front, and make your friends dance. Enthusiasm was never cool but have a heart and give it a try. Who knows what you might be missing?