I took the title from that obnoxious tee shirt we’ve all seen, “Welcome to America, Now Speak English”. It’s usually worn by young men whose grandmothers have been here since 1950 and still don’t speak it.
I’ll put it to better use.
Welcome to the....”Guy Sitting Next to You” Show:
Perhaps you’ve had this experience, too. You pay a small fortune for tickets to a concert and go, only to find you’re sitting near someone who talks constantly throughout the entire show.
He’s a first cousin to the guy who takes phone calls during a play. The person who ignores the call, and turns off their phone is to be forgiven. The one who actually answers the call should be summarily executed. And, no, I DON’T care that he was passing on the antidote to prevent a zombie apocalypse. He should have taken care of that before he left the house.
Clearly, I’m on the far end of the tolerance spectrum. I get annoyed, for instance, watching youtube videos of concerts recorded on a smartphone, where the performance is competing with conversations taking place near the phone. The further away the phone is from the stage, the more understandable the background noise. I once saw a video taken not twenty feet from Robyn Hitchcock, with a the sound of an avid conversation at least as loud as the song. I half expected Robyn to climb down and kick their asses. The English don’t seem to do that, unless it’s Motorhead. A shame.
It happened more recently at a couple of shows I attended. And I fear we’re talking epidemic proportions people.
Mrs. Jaybee and I caught the (musical, not apocalyptical) Zombies at Central Park over the Father’s Day weekend. There were other old folks like us there, and one poor schmuck made the mistake of dragging his teenage daughters to the show. In appreciation, they chatted through the opening act, but saved their most intense conversation topics for the headliners. Me and the Mrs.decided to leave those seats to brave the standing only area, but not before muttering insults and curses.
It happened again at a tribute to Big Star’s “Third” album, where two men were more into getting to know each other than the music they purportedly loved and came to hear. Get a room, I said, preferably a sound proof one. They eventually complied after ruining a couple more songs.
I had begun to feel self-conscious about my apparent obsession with, ahem, ACTUALLY HEARING THE MUSIC, when I was thanked by someone. I guess I could have said “you’re welcome” instead of “hey you wanna keep it down?” But I think he understood.
Like zombies, though, their numbers grew.. So again, I found myself (no wife this time) leaving the cheap seats, where this kind of thing is rampant, to the standing-only area. But even there, I found two guys talking during the concert highlight. ‘So, let me get this straight,’ I pretended to ask them. ‘You go to the trouble of coming to a show, and stand for hours only to have a conversation during the best part?’ Who ARE these people?
I understand that these concerts are also social events. The performers interact with the audience and audience members interact with each other. And that this is a good thing. (No, the more I think about it, the less I think it’s a good thing. Human interaction is so overrated!) Couples should be able to exchange endearments, and friends should exchange pleasantries. Hell, I even want to sing. And someone else should be able to write a blog post telling me to shut up.
The overly obvious point-that-shouldn’t-require-a-blog-post-but-since-humans-are-assholes-it- clearly-does, is that I’m there for the music, not you.
I realize that this differs somewhat from the view of a lot of people. Their main purpose in attending a show is to...be able to say that they attended the show. The show itself holds little interest for them. These people are event collectors, and I hate them more than Anakin Skywalker hates the Sand People.
I’ll admit I may err on the side of anti-sociability.
Just One Look:
My kids tell me I have “a look”. One that has probably scarred them during childhood, when it rightfully should have been directed at the outside world, where it could have done some good. So I tried it out, and sure enough it did!
We recently attended a Jerry Seinfeld show, with Colin Quinn opening. The young couple directly behind me apparently felt that Mr. Quinn had nothing to contribute to the evening, and happily continued to chat when he came on. I turned around and shot them the look. Damn if they didn’t stop talking in mid sentence. Mid word, actually
Which in retrospect is a shame, because I suspect that Mr. Quinn is quite capable of addressing this situation himself. That would have been fun to see, but it was good to know I possessed this super-power.
I also tried it on an otherwise nice couple at the Big Star show and it had a similar effect. Proximity seems to help since people sitting further away, don’t seem to notice it. It becomes a garden variety old man glare that is ignorable. Up close, though, it’s devastating.
Even at a recent Belle and Sebastian show in Prospect Park, a young couple stood behind me, chatting amiably in another language. I glared at them several times, not using my full power, which could have killed them. A good thing, too, because, they then asked me who the artist was, and I realized they were experiencing that most rare happy accident - stumbling upon a new band they immediately liked. How could I stay mad? So once I extracted a promise that they never again speak at a show, and an invitation to their wedding, I told them who it was. May they have many intimate conversations very far from concert venues!
Go Forth and Shut Up!:
Such circumstances are rare. So, if you’re heading for a show, go to dinner first and exhaust all your conversation topics beforehand. If you’re like me, it should take about five minutes. Then come to the show feeling completely drained and mute, stay that way for two or three hours, and then on the way home, talk all you want about how great the show was. And be proud, because you helped make it that way. At least for me you did.
The (non musical) Zombie Apocalypse can wait for the end of the show.