My iPod decided this morning on the way to work, that it was a decidedly David Bowie kind of day. I have therefore chosen to honour Mr. Bowie with a blog post title and a discussion of audience participation at live music events.
On this past Saturday, Ian and I decided to break our normal routine and go out to the Kitchener Bluesfest. I’ve been meaning to catch one of these since we moved up to the area in 2004. Wow…we’ve been here for almost 6 full years. I’ll save that for another ramble though.
The Kitchener Bluesfest is basically an annual free event, where loads of blues musicians gather for workshops and mini-concerts, and is full of vendor goodness. The City of Kitchener closes off much of King Street near City Hall, and has several stages downtown and at Victoria Park. When we arrived on the scene at the main festival stage, the place was packed for the Saturday night headliner, Jonny Lang. Wow. I felt a little jilted that I had left my party chairs in the trunk of the car (they travel with me in case of impromptu party invites), as I am getting old (more on that in another post). The entire area was jammed with people hanging out on folding chairs, leaning against buildings and just milling about while the stage was being set up for the final set of the night. Ian and I made our way towards the back end of the crowd, and finally came across some food vendors (we hadn’t had dinner yet). We grabbed some food to munch on while waiting for the show, and made our way back towards the stage.
Recognizing the fact that there was no way in hell we’d get anywhere near the stage, we found a comfortable standing area with lots of personal space and a decent view of the stage (and its thankfully large video screen behind). Jonny and his band hit the stage and put on an amazing show. I tell ya, that boy has an old, old soul somewhere in his body, and it comes out when he sings the blues. What a voice… Ian wondered just what the man could have experienced in his young life that had him singing so sorrowfully. I concurred.
Without even realizing it, I was grooving to the music as soon as the first notes hit the air. But as I looked around, few others were following suit. I wondered to myself, how could you come to witness live music, with this much soul, and this much passion, and not even have a little boogie in your butt? I pondered this aloud, and Ian suggested that perhaps it was those without music in them that weren’t dancing. In other words, if you play an instrument, you groove without thinking, but if you don’t, maybe it takes a bit more conscious effort to do so. A group of young dreadlocked and trucker hat wearing guys were standing in our immediate vicinity, and one of them was also grooving. We suspect he plays…well, SOMEthing musical. He fit the appearance of a guitarist or something of the like. I don’t make the stereotypes…I just recognize them when I see them.
What was more odd than not grooving to some blues music, which is probably some of the easiest music to groove to, was not applauding at the end of the songs. I mean, really…you come out to a free event and you can’t even show your appreciation for the musicians with the simple clap of hands? I realize the performers are getting paid in some way, but still. It’s not that difficult to put your hands together…even for a few claps. Musicians live for that…they want their performance to be validated…or why else would they play live? They wouldn’t care if they played for the people, so long as the money rolled in. There’s nothing better than hearing hundreds or thousands of people clapping for a performance you’ve just put on. It’s a great feeling!
In any case…I just needed to put those thoughts out there. Don’t sit like a lump when you go see some live music…dance, sing along…or at the very least, appreciate the musicians with a good round of applause!