Features Zone

Off the Record with Alan Cackett – June 2017

The straight-talking monthly column on all things country, Americana, roots and acoustic…



I have to admit that I rarely listen to the radio. Certainly not when I’m at home, as I have so much music I want to listen to that I cannot see the point of listening to someone else’s choice of music. But in the car recently I happened to have the radio on and heard news of a report published about the fact that parents’—and adults in general—impatient and angry attitude was having an adverse effect on children. Not quite sure why a university had to spend a small fortune of our money to come up with that. I would have thought it was plainly obvious.

For generations and generations, our offspring have picked up and inherited both the good and the bad traits from parents. The problem in the past fifty years or so is that the bad traits seem to outweigh the good ones. What I refer to as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ is becoming more common, and all too often by older people, who really should know better.

Moronic behaviour….

The lack of discipline within the family and in school has deteriorated to such a degree that plain good manners and common courtesy are becoming a rarity, with most people under the age of fifty not having the slightest idea of how to conduct themselves. Their moronic behaviour too often spoils a night out for the majority, and woe-betide anyone who dares to tackle them about it. I can speak from personal experience, having recently been physically threatened at a gig for politely asking that a middle-aged professional man talk quietly while a sensitive solo singer-songwriter was performing. The majority of the audience obviously shared my passion for listening intently, as they could be clearly heard ‘shhhing’ this inconsiderate pillock.

My musical passion is for country and Americana music, with the emphasis mainly for sensitive singer-songwriters. The lyrics of the songs are of paramount importance to me. When I’m at a gig, whether it be in a large theatre or intimate venue, I want to hear those lyrics without the kind of distraction that can destroy the emotional impact. I find it hard to comprehend why someone would pay good money to attend a gig, and then spend the whole evening talking. If they wanted to chat all evening, surely they’d be better off at the local pub, rather than spoiling someone else’s evening out.

A few days ago at a large London theatre, I was shocked at the way so many of the audience conducted themselves. I always thought that a theatre show was something rather special; with a certain unwritten protocol that we all naturally adhered to. It seems that I’m quite mistaken. Throughout the performances, there was loud, intrusive mindless chattering to be heard. It was just about bearable through the louder numbers, but when it came to the softer, more intimate ballads, it really ruined mine and many others enjoyment.

What surprised me most about this evening, was that the majority of the audience were of the older generation—mainly fifty-plus—and they seemed to think that having a loud conversation during an artist’s performance was not just acceptable, but the norm’. In addition, we now have those who obviously have ants-in-their-pants. A couple in front of us got up and left the auditorium at least a dozen times, for whatever reasons I cannot imagine.

Spoiling it for those who have paid good money to hear the music.

I understood that ‘theatre protocol’ meant that you ‘spent a penny’ prior to the show or during the interval. If you arrived after the show had started, or were desperate ‘to go,’ you waited until between songs before you disturbed the rest of the audience and the performers. Oh, and don’t get me started on mobile phones …

Quite often when I’m at theatre shows, I’m sat in the Press and Media area. I’ve discovered over the years, too many of these fellow ‘media people’ are not as passionate about music as I believe they should be. When it comes to talking and moving about during performances, they are without doubt the worst offenders. Maybe it’s because they’ve been dispatched to a gig that they have little or no interest in; but that’s no excuse for their bad manners and lack of courtesy.

Perhaps even worse though, is when either a group of the band’s family and friends or fellow musicians are in the audience. For some inexplicable reason, they tend to be the most vociferous; hell-bent on drowning out the performers and completely spoiling it for those in the audience who paid good money to hear the music.

Today’s support act may well be tomorrow’s superstar

Another thing that annoys me, is when members of an audience stay in the bar rather than go in and see the opening act. Every performer, from Elvis through to Elton John, Garth Brooks, Merle Haggard and Tom Russell was an opening act at one time in their career. Every performer at the outset of their career needs the support of the public. They also need the support of their fellow performers, and I get equally annoyed when acts that have ‘made-it’, decide that they will not have opening acts on their shows. One Americana performer has it written into his contract ‘that any opening act will be killed. Totally unnecessary, especially as that said performer owes his current stature in the UK to the fact that he developed a UK following from being an opening act for bigger names.

Those acts that have risen through the ranks to headline stature, owe it to those further down the chain to give them a helping hand. So I say to all acts; ‘Don’t get too big for your boots,’ encourage opening acts. After all; one day you just might slip back down that chain and you may well need some of those opening acts to cushion your fall.

Maybe I am beginning to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but I have to admit; standards in society have slipped alarmingly, and unless we all pull together to stop the rot, I can only see anarchy being the long-term result.

So, the next time you are at a gig and feel the need to chat to the person next to you; stop and put yourself in the shoes of the guy sitting in front of you who is listening intently to the show. Hold off until the performance finishes. A little bit of patience and good manners costs nothing, yet can be so rewarding for so many.

By Alan Cackett





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