STFU: Forty Dollars to Babble: Air, Lisa Gerrard, Loreena McKennitt, Amiina

I went to a club in London called The Blue Note a few years ago to see the Gateway Trio with Jack DeJohnette, John Abercrombie and Dave Holland. In the middle of the club was a pillar with four block letters vertically emblazoned on it:


I turned to a patron and asked what that meant. “Shut the Fuck Up,” he informed me. Now why isn’t that in every venue?

Some concerts seem to bring out the babblers and others don’t. I just saw Lisa Gerrard in the Fillmore at the TLA (formerly just the TLA). Although the audience was distressingly small, barely more than half the house, it was hushed and attentive, leaning into every dramatic turn and incantation that Gerrard brought forth. The same thing at a Loreena McKennitt concert, playing to a sold out house of 1700 at the Sovereign Center in Reading, PA. Although the music was substantially more dramatic, the audience didn’t take energy and excitement as a cue to talk. In other words, it was an audience prepared to receive what the artist had to impart.
Two nights later, at the same club as the Gerrard show, I saw the French duo, Air. They turned in a nice set of their chilled, lounge-tinged quirky rock, dominated by synthesizer timbres. At least that’s what I got when I could hear it above the din of a crowd that just would not shut the fuck up. During the gentle, icey textures of Radian, the crowd babbled. During rockers like Mer Du Japon and Sexy Boy, they just babbled louder. On their last tour, an audience close to 18,000 at the Hollywood Bowl was quieter than the 800 or so people here.

I see a lot of concerts and I get into most of them for free on press tickets. If anyone should be jaded, it’s someone like me for whom concerts are just a normal, everyday event. Yet, I’ve never understood the need to talk at a concert or the logic of paying $40 to talk to your friends when you could just go to a bar and do the same thing for free. And why the utter lack of consideration for those around you who actually came to hear the music? Rhetorical questions, both.

Some concerts bring this out, but others don’t. You could hear the faintest whisper of rubbed wine glasses at the World Café Live when Amiina played, but an Album Leaf show at Johnny Brenda’s had a bevy of folks at the bar who were so loud that even the band could hear the babble, as TAL’s Jimmy Lavalle kept casting rueful looks over his shoulder. It turned out that the babblers were the opening act and several audience members and TAL’s road crew tried to quiet them down.

Most people don’t like confrontation, so the babblers prattle on oblivious, when they really need to just shut the fuck up.

Comment posted by
at 5/15/2007 4:39:03 AM

Here (hear)!

For the past few years we (Hungry Lucy) have used in-ear monitors on stage. These have the effect of hearing yourself perfectly, but the side-effect of isolating you from the audience. At our last show we skipped in in-ears and relied on house monitor wedges … I could barely hear myself during quiet passages, but I could tell you what the guy at the bar was ordering. I hate to even mention this as a performer, as it’s really fabulous that people even allow us to play for them … I do wish they at least pretend to listen though!

More on the subject:

Comment posted by
at 5/15/2007 12:02:36 AM

I hear you. I usually do confront offenders when it’s only a couple of people. I told two woman who were shrieking at each other during a Niyaz show to move to the back if they were going to babble. They did, but not before looking at me as if I’d just asked them to stand on their heads. Thought that might have reduced their noise level. But at Air, there were just too many to take on.

I was at the movies seeing the Departed a couple of months ago and a woman was talking incessantly. She was actually an aisle behind me and I got up to and walked over to her to ask her to be quiet. When I saw she was on her cell phone I completely lost it. “Miss, could you please be quiet… What?! Your on a cell phone!? What the hell is wrong with you? Hang up or get out!” She got out and returned with her boyfriend. I expected to hear something, but he was probably sick of her, too.

Comment posted by
at 5/14/2007 10:49:37 PM

Don’t get me started. I can only agree with you, John. Ah, the rueful memory of a Robert Cray concert at the Keswick (in Glenside, PA) a few years ago when I had to get up at least 8 times in the middle of blistering solos so fools could get out of their seats. I’m always hesitant when artists perform a quiet piece of music, expecting some idiot who is uncomfortable with silence and reflection to say something stupid as a response to their nervousness. In some venues, though, you can be pretty sure of a rapt audience. Sangha in Takoma Park, MD, outside of D.C., comes to mind.

This is one more small sign among many others that civilization is in trouble. We must, though, confront the offenders; subtly, if possible.

Comment posted by
at 5/14/2007 6:06:33 PM

dead on, john. i thought the irritation i felt was a sign of old age, but i didn’t do that when i was a teenager. in 1969 at an iron butterfly concert during the drum solo, i thought it was a drug reaction. now i think it’s just thoughtless people. i had thoughts of going to see buckethead, but then i downloaded a live concert. i couldn’t recognize some of the ambient pieces.

i thought when venues went smoke free i would venture out. maybe if they bcome “ambient noise” free.

Comment posted by
at 6/25/2007 10:19:03 AM

And if you’ll allow an addition to this major pet peeve:

“Some people” with their incessant need to yell (pardon me) “Free Bird!” at the most diametrically opposed performer. I do believe the humor’s lost its finish there.

Comment posted by
at 7/28/2007 7:58:57 PM

Don’t get me even started on this! This is one of my biggest pet peeves when going to shows (and I’m a frequent concert-goer). John expresses my viewpoint on this excatly how I feel about it. so i’ve got nothing to add really.

  1 comment for “STFU: Forty Dollars to Babble: Air, Lisa Gerrard, Loreena McKennitt, Amiina

  1. Earrach
    November 20, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I definitely agree with you on your main points but I do find it ironic that -anyone- pays $40 to listen to Lisa Gerrard herself “babble”. 😉

    Honestly, I found this post while Googling:
    “Lisa Gerrard, baby-talk, babble, bullsh** ”

    Sorry, I’m really not as snarky as that sounds.


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