Recent times have seen my spleen being vented on many occasions, usually related to my own personal live music wars. Now, with the ongoing state of the world – refugees, bombings, new diseases and the old ones coming back – some might say this is self-indulgent or even downright uncaring. Not at all, if anything, my internal strife has been exacerbated by the world’s struggles and pain, or more exactly by the filtered and selected examples of it that we either see on mainstream news or on the internet, which is increasingly the same thing. It may sound odd but Im finding it harder to keep my own small problems in proportion and under control, when I see a world on fire and with much of it under the jackboots of bigoted unfeeling zealots. Trump, Osborne, IS? take your pick.
All of the above is really a pathetic attempt to justify what Im about to write. A deliberately over-the-top fantasy involving unacceptable unpleasantness happening to groups of people who irritate me, almost beyond endurance.
It started with myself and the lovely Eryl drinking coffee in a cafe/converted large shop floor on a busy street, right on the edge of Glasgow’s West End. Coffee can be a dangerous drug for me, my imagination tends to spiral off, leading to lengthy diatribes which only stop when I’ve bored myself. Poor Eryl, shes a saint, never interrupts….
A large open space but with reasonably low ceilings, at first glance it looked ideal for live performance. It even had a separate long narrow smaller room seen through a low arch. Small performing area away from the bar/serving area at the back of the room. My ideal performance cafe bar, I was thinking…Then my darker pessimistic experienced side kicked in.
Which brings me on to the main theme of today’s symposium [to quote the great Tom Lehrer]…Dave’s ideal performing place…called, “Dave’s Ideal Performing Place”. Now a wonderful name like that would attract and encourage those persons who inevitably clog up any live performance – that group who want to be seen at the trendy happening action, but then go on to wreck it by braying at each other about how wonderful it is and totally ignoring the act on stage.The musician/actor/poet can’t hear their own efforts and therefore put in a poor performance. If experienced, they wait for the well-timed applause as the trendsetting noise mongers become aware that there is a pause in the proceedings. To the inexperienced performer this comes as a shock and pleasant surprise, although the applause often drops off later in the evening, as the conversation gets juicier and the alcohol gets a grip. What the inexperienced performer doesn’t realise is, that these folk arent appaluding the skill of the performer, they are applauding the ambience of the place and their own superb taste in choosing to patronise it. Meanwhile the experienced, and therefore probably more skilfull, players are turning in a lacklustre night as they realise that they could be miming to a recording of a noisy night in a cafe, for all the attention that they are getting…and thus the cycle of mediocrity is perpetuated.
Now, some of you, if you’ve got this far, will be thinking…poor old Dave moaning again. Yes, he is..rage against the dying of live music, I say…and Im going to take that rage much further….Dave’s Ideal Performance Place would have punishments for those who chose to ignore the necessarily strict rules of conduct needed to guide audiences back to my idealised time, when there was an unspoken contract between audience and performer. That performer, be they lone musician, poet or actor didn’t have to beg for a listening – they seemed to get it by right. They had the courage/bottle/arrogance to stand in front of an audience and “do something”. I did see the undeservingly awful get basic respect…but I also saw the undeservingly awful get ignored or even heckled – no one had the right to be unrelentingly bad….but at least they got a listening…not in these modern times though…
So here’s how it will work…
There will be a bar at the back of the main room, with enough efficient bar staff to make sure no one has to wait more than two minutes for their drink. Anyone tempted to hang about the bar, chatting loudly during a performance will be approached by an efficient bar staffer, who will warn them to lower their voices. If they ignore this, the efficient bar staffer will spray ice cold water over the offender[s], moving onto spraying them with Mace [thank you, the late great Hunter S. Thompson] if they are large and aggressive. Meanwhile, in the main body of this larger room, similar rules will apply – I am not of course talking about normal low volume chat, which would be encouraged in the outer bar…we all know I’m talking about those cretins who move from a loud whisper to shouting, within two drinks..those guys..and gals…there will be full equality in “DIPP“.
Moving on to the smaller performing area with its slightly banked seating, gently raised stage, superb in-house PA with optional mic-ed up backline amps and foldback speakers, variable house lighting, stage lighting, superb acoustics..and all operated by a fully professional sound engineer, who actually likes the music being played and understands the routine stresses and strains of performing and has “ears”. The audience, while not all sycophants, are actually capable of enjoying intensely a well crafted and well presented performance. They notice mistakes but they also notice particularly good passages of play.
So far, so bloody great…but…any audience member who approaches a performer before the gig and says “you’d better be bloody good!”, even if he thinks its a joke..will be removed to the alley at the back of the premises and beaten to a pulp by our trained ex-military bouncers..and denied re-entry, for life.
Any audience member aggressively heckling/chatting to their neighbour during “quiet bits”/answering a mobile phone/texting ostentatiously/falling asleep will discover that their seat is above a trap door. The floor manager spots the offender, presses a button and the seat and occupant plummet into darkness, the door springs back silently and the show goes on. We will never know where they have gone..and we do not care.
I should also mention that all performers get paid. An absolute rule. Anyone suggesting having ” an open mic, they’ll do it for the exposure” or the truly disgusting, “pay to play” – will be hustled from the premises, at the end of a cattle prod [again, many thanks to HST].
The above of course, is a fantasy – “its only a joke!” [see Stewart Lee’s attack on Top Gear]….none of us would really want these things to happen?..would we???