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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Orleans: Can we talk about talking at concerts?

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 4:46 PM

click to enlarge A cheesy stock photo illustration of talking during concerts. - THINKSTOCK
  • THINKSTOCK
  • A cheesy stock photo illustration of talking during concerts.

At this year's Ponderosa Stomp, I was sitting in front of two couples who were visiting New Orleans. They were staying in the Bywater, and had enjoyed a meal at Sneaky Pickle. They were thinking about going to Turkey and the Wolf. They wished the Orpheum Theater had more of a beer selection. They were planning what other concerts to see and what other things to do while they were in town.

I never met them. I wasn't eavesdropping. I was trying to listen to Barbara Lynn. I just heard them throughout the show, because they never once shut up and listened to the music. They were louder than Barbara Lynn on stage — and we were in the balcony.
This wasn't a one-off. At the Pretenders/Stevie Nicks concert at Smoothie King Center earlier this year, the audiences for the two acts couldn't have been more different (one glance around the lobby, which was equally split between tuff girls and witchy women, told the tale).

I was there for the Pretenders, whose lead singer, Chrissie Hynde, is famously death on people who spend the evening photographing, taping or on their smartphones. What she had no control over was the number of Nicks fans who treated the Pretenders like some disposable opening act. A group behind me (six rows from the stage!) spent the set not just talking, but shouting so they could be heard over the music. (I eventually moved and explained to a scowling security guard exactly why, and received a grudging dispensation.)

Are New Orleans music audiences louder and less attentive than audiences in other cities? Bantam Foxes went to the Spoon show last night at House of Blues and experienced the same thing:

click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-10-18_at_4.17.47_pm.png

As the BFs point out, this doesn't seem to be as much of a problem at smaller shows. When Nick Waterhouse came to One Eyed Jacks on a Monday night, only about 50 people showed up, but they were there to listen. Same with John Doe at Chickie Wah Wah, who drew a bigger crowd, but people who wanted to have conversations during the music seemed to drift out to the smoking patio.
Several years ago, Alex Woodward asked a similar question about the people who stay glued to their phones during concerts. (At Bryan Ferry's performance at the Saenger a few months back, a woman down the row from me was threatened with ejection by a pissed-off usher because she wouldn't stop checking Facebook or texting, with the screen turned up to full brightness.) And don't get me started on people who try to record a show by holding up a frigging iPad.

A rock concert is not the symphony. Crowd noise — enthusiasm, cheers, response — is part of the experience. But this having-a-nonstop-loud-conversation while others around you are trying to listen to music — is New Orleans unique in its disregard for musical performers, or is it just society in general, just the way things are nowadays and I am just a crotchety old fart? *

* (I'm not a crotchety old fart. Even if I am, shut up at concerts. Thanks.)

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