Recently, I heard an audience member shout, “Are you here to play music or tell stories?” I wasn’t at an open mic night at my local coffee shop, nor was I at a poetry slam. No, I was one of several hundreds in attendance Friday at Austin’s Paramount Theatre for a concert by indie favorite Aimee Mann, hanging my head in shame for my city.
I’m noticing a trend lately that not only breaks my heart as a music fan but kills a sliver of my faith in humanity. Austinites have lost their ability to be respectful and gracious audiences. We’re a band of jerks, screaming comments and heckling the performers we so eagerly pay to go see. And I can’t take it anymore.
Austinites have lost their ability to be respectful and gracious audiences. We’re a band of jerks, screaming comments and heckling the performers we so eagerly pay to go see.
In 2012, comedian Dave Chappelle made a long-awaited return to the stage, including a super secret Austin show. Within minutes of beginning his act, Chappelle noticed a front-row attendee recording his set, which sent things into a downward spiral. A chain reaction of drunken audience-member comments set the comedian off, and his set turned into a strange combination of pauses and crowd work that was weird and unsettling.
Granted, Dave Chapelle is Dave Chappelle, known for his bizarre antics since he stepped back from the spotlight. But this is not an isolated incident. When Louis C.K. sold out not one, not two, but four shows at ACL Live at the Moody Theater, seemingly all of Austin scooped up tickets, eager to witness one of comedy’s biggest names and his curmudgeonly humor. Once again, things didn’t go so well. He was forced to stop one set when someone brought the comedian a drink onstage, interrupting the punch line. Even after the comedian protested, the audience member did it again less than 30 minutes later.
And it’s not just comedy shows, either. Aside from the recent Aimee Mann debacle, it seems every other show is peppered with behavior that makes Keith Richards look like Emily Post. At a recent concert for Scottish indie act Belle and Sebastian, one concertgoer got so obliterated that he fell over the balcony.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
At a She and Him show in June, some intoxicated jackass yelled “Go Spurs!” during a quiet moment. Go Spurs? Go die in a fire is more like it.
And while I used to adore seeing concerts at Stubb’s, now it seems I’m constantly in “shush” mode, scolding groups of people having a conversation at full volume throughout the entire show. It never fails. Quite frankly, I’m starting to get tired of the stink-eye.
You want to talk about the ugly bridesmaid dress that you have to wear? Go to happy hour before the show, for God’s sake. The band you paid to see does not care about how much money you had to spend and neither do I.
You want to have a good time? Hey, I get it. Let loose! Just don’t ruin it for the rest of us.
When did we stop being a respectful crowd? “It’s always like this at sold-out shows,” someone told to me recently. So now we’re supposed to root for mediocre ticket sales just so we can enjoy ourselves? We hope that our favorite artists don’t fill a room, so that we’re spared the constant chattering from Austin’s lowest common denominator?
But here’s the thing. I don’t think we’re dealing with the lowest common denominator, here. As I said earlier, many of the worst incidents occur at the highest-priced events. It’s as if all of Austin decided to take its “big night out” at the same time. It’s always somebody’s girls’ night, mom’s night with a sitter, boys’ night, date night, all rolled into one. You want to have a good time? Hey, I get it. Let loose! Just don’t ruin it for the rest of us.
If we don’t change our tune soon, we’ll be getting another town moniker, and I don’t think it’ll be as flattering as “Live Music Capital of the World.”