“I was talking to a mate, right...” is an ugly way to start any post, but I've never been ashamed of my ugly face, so I'm not going to start being ashamed of my ugly prose now. Because what I'm about to write about would genuinely never have popped into my mind had it not been for a post-Sunday league match chat with a friend about future gigs we had lined up.
What did said mate say that stuck in my mind? “Yeah, I don't really listen to the big bands any more because it's impossible to get tickets for their gigs”.
I went through a momentary patch of ambivalence about this. First it was “yeah”, then “no”, finally “wait, what?” Bit of background. I, like my mate, live in London. That's right, London capital of dreams, where the streets are paved with gold. I like it. And what you also find with London is the frequency of bands playing only one, two or three dates in the UK playing one of those in London. The example that sparked this was The National, and more specifically their gig at the Royal Albert Hall in May. Tickets for the RAH gig sold out in less than an hour, one Friday morning, and while some of those may be explained away by the tickets appearing on popular Internet auction sites, but the vast majority would have been snapped up by real fans.
To put this in context, as far as I'm aware The National are yet to have a top 75 charting single or album. I realise that's not a be all and end all of popularity indication but it still means something, right. A band who are completely off the radar of commercial radio and vast appeal should not sell out a 4,000 capacity venue in about 25 minutes. I'm not really sure why, but somehow it doesn't seem right. Maybe because I'm jealous I didn't get a ticket (although I did manage to get one for the Electric Ballroom gig, announced to the fanclub only at first, which I'm frankly psyched about).
And I can see the appeal of not getting attached to bands with big fanbases on those grounds, but it's a bit like...well, it's a bit like insulating yourself against disappointment. It's a bit of a cowardly approach to life. Granted, in music you can get away with the aforementioned nose-biting/face-spiting because there's that many bands, that much music, that you can pretty much guarantee if you try hard enough, you'll find something you can really engage with, fall in love with. And yes, at the same time the atmosphere of intimate gigs is one of the highlights of modern music, and of living somewhere with as many gigs and venues as London...although it is worth pointing out the different between a buzzing, intimate gig, and a shambolic show in the half-empty back room of a pub.
But...you're ruling bands out because you'll never get chance to see them live? The more I turn this over in my head, the more I'm starting to think I misheard the comment, because the person who made it is a pretty level-headed guy, and he's a big fan of music. Maybe he meant he doesn't try to get tickets for big bands' gigs? I'm not so sure, though.
There's a wider issue here, one perhaps relating to over-hyping bands, and allied to that the fact that some bands become trendy and attract a certain type of special (needs) individual to whom being seen at – or moreso merely having been there at – a certain gig. You can generally tell who these people are, they're a) on cocaine, b) talking all through the gig, and c) utterly dead inside with an unfaithful partner that is if they've got one. It also raises a point that my friend is a pillock, albeit one that's only sabotaging himself. It also raises a point about London, the fact that there's maybe too many gigs – or not enough? Don't forget, there's 7 million people in London, and many more in the immediate surroundings, but I doubt we get, say, 12 times as many touring band gigs as Sheffield, which has a population of 534,000ish. That said, I don't expect much sympathy if I'm playing the “London needs more music scene focus” card. I think people will laugh at me. And throw eggs. Anyway, talk amongst yourselves.