Like many aspects of our modern society the ease and convenience we enjoy in purchasing items has ironically reduced the value of those items. For instance, back in the way back to get the newest album you had to somehow get to a store that sold music. If your only choice was a big box retailer and you were looking for a release that was outside of the Top 40 you probably needed to find an actual record store before you could complete your purchase. Transaction complete and CD/record/tape in hand (along with a couple of stickers and poster possibly) you make your way home giddy with anticipation to start listening to music, reading the liner notes, and taking some time to just enjoy the experience.
That was then.
Now, with streaming services, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, and a myriad of other ways to acquire music at the literal click of a mouse button, the value that was once inherent in the music because of the effort it took to get it is gone. With torrent services you don’t even have to PAY for the music anymore if you are so inclined. And that has destroyed the esteem we used to put on music. Don’t believe me? Let’s do a little exercise right now. Take a look at the music in your digital library and tell me how many albums you either don’t remember buying and/or have never listened to. If you are anything like me you are constantly “discovering” bands and albums that you didn’t know you already had that were purchased in a spur-of-the-moment decision and promptly forgotten. Not only is this a consequence of reducing the value of the music but reducing the music to something that only exists as a series of 1’s and 0’s on a hard drive or server.
Without physical media its tough to think of the music as something you ”own” because there is nothing that can be touched and held. In contrast if you still own physical media take a look at your albums on your shelves and I would bet most of those have some memories tied to them. Either of listening to them, or who you were listening with, or when you first heard the songs. Maybe the show you went to for that band, or the person in your life that one song is inextricably tied to. I don’t own any CD’s I’ve never listened to but I have hundreds of songs on my hard drive that I’ve never heard.
I think this devaluing of music has carried over in to the live scene as well. I’ve lately noticed a rise in concerts being treated as an excuse to act like a jackass and make everyone around you as miserable as possible. I’ve been going to concerts for the last 25 years and audiences today are ruder, more self-absorbed, and drunker than ever before. And ironically it’s not the kids who are the problem.
For example, I went to a show in February for three of my favorite groups; Stone Sour, Red Sun Rising, and The Dead Deads. All 3 bands put on terrific shows and sounded great. They were the best part of the evening, it was everything else that sucked. The Egyptian Room in Old National Center is essentially one big rectangular room with a 2,000 person capacity. It was pretty close to max this night. The stage is at one end and the exits are at the other. It’s all standing only other than a row of tables on an elevated VIP section on each side of the room. Because there are no aisles there is no way to get through the crowd easily if your bladder is undisciplined and you cannot hold your water over the course of 4+ hours. So you end up staying in the same spot for as long as possible because you know you will never be able to find your way back if you leave and the crowd around you will fill the void you left once you are gone attending to your needs.
Rock shows of late have been infested with a breed of dipshit I have labeled “The Aging Dude-Bro”. While I refer to them as “bro” this is really a gender neutral term. These are people in their late 40’s and 50’s that have arrived to the concert with the singular goal to get as drunk as humanly possible and party like they are still a teenager. Which is ironic since they act more immaturely than the teens in attendance. These are the folks that think shouting “I can count too, motherfucker!” at the mic tech during sound check and then high fiving each other is the height of wit. You can easily identify these people because they are collecting spent cups in one hand while balancing an always-on cell phone camera in the other, screaming nonsense, sloshing $11 cups of light beer as they bounce around and in to other people, completely heedless of the way their asinine behavior is impacting everyone in the audience that also paid to enjoy the show.
Then there are the crowd surfers. I enjoyed mosh pits back in the day but the difference is most moshers were aware of who was and who was not in the pit. A ring would form around the mosh pit and the moshers would bash and throw themselves in to each other. If you were in the pit, you were moshing. If you did not want to mosh, you got out of the pit. It was simple and courteous. Crowd surfing on the other hand is a perfect example of the “it’s all about me” culture that social media has infected our lives with. At some point over the last few years concert tickets have come with an unexpected obligation in tow. Apparently attending a concert now also obligates me to serve as unwilling Sherpa for every sweaty moron demanding to be hoisted on to the hands of the crowd and passed from person to person like a venereal disease until they reach the front of the stage. It takes you out of the moment to be forced to have your head on a swivel watching for a boot to the head or some asshole falling on you from behind. I’m speaking from experience on that one.
Rounding it out you have the general rabble at these shows. The run of the mill drunks, the posse of people that wedge their way in front of you to get that one extra foot closer to the action, the vapers, the out of it stoners, it all adds up to an exhausting evening. About 3 songs in to Stone Sour’s set my wife and I were so pissed off and exhausted from jagoffs around us that we left the room entirely heading to the lounge/concession area near the only bathroom in the place to catch our breath and get some respite. After a few minutes we headed back in to finish watching the show from the back of the room with everyone else that didn’t want to deal with the chaos and crowd shenanigans. Annoyed, disappointed, but happier having escaped the throng.
At least the bands were good.