U2, the Strokes — sit down already, I can’t see!
A few months back, I went to see the Strokes when they played at New York’s famed Apollo Theatre. Now the Apollo is a comfortable, intimate venue with plenty of seats, but as soon as the Strokes hit the stage, the audience was on its feet en masse, and remained standing for the duration of the show. ”Jesus, even when they give you seats, you stand,” cracked Strokes singer Juilian Casablancas, nailing one of my pet peeves about the modern concert-going experience.
People’s fondness for standing during concerts has always bugged me, and it seems to have gotten worse over the years. It just doesn’t compute: Why, when you’ve paid good money for a seat, would you choose to stand for an entire show? And don’t tell me about the galvanizing qualities of rock music; I can get plenty galvanized sitting down and drinking in the sounds, thank you.
Of course, these days, with so many rock venues standing-room-only, sitting down often isn’t even an option. There has got to be no worse experience than being packed into a sweaty rock club like sardines, facing the stage for the privilege of watching musicians ply their craft. And with the harder varieties of rock, where moshing and stage diving are de rigeur, the experience can potentially be physically harmful.
‘Twasn’t always thus. I remember great shows back in New York back in the ’70s, at places like Carnegie Hall, the Academy of Music, and Avery Fisher Hall, where audiences actually sat and listened to music. They might have stamped their feet, but they kept their seats. Hell, even CBGB and Max’s Kansas City had tables (although, admittedly, they always seemed reserved for VIPs of some sort).
How did we reach the current state of affairs, where the right to sit down at a rock show is all but unheard of? Partly I blame greedy club owners, who can pack more people into a venue without seating than into a regular theater. Because of this kind of thinking, many young concert-goers can’t even remember a time when sitting down at a show was the norm. It’s not entirely their fault that they feel compelled to stand even when they have an assigned seat.
Imagine people standing up to watch a movie, or read a book. Absurd, isn’t it? But why should seeing live music be any different from partaking of any other art form? Until people alter their way of thinking, though, things aren’t likely to change.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go soak my feet. They’re just killing me after last night’s White Stripes show at the Bowery Ballroom.
What do you think: Should people sit down to enjoy live music?