Why Would You Pay $13 Just To Have a High-Volume Conversation?

The topic of talking at concerts certainly isn't a new one, but you can't help but bring it up every once in a while. Last night I attended a show that made me need to bring it up.

I'm not a hardliner. I don't feel that concertgoers need to take a vow of silence before stepping into a venue - it's a concert, not a worship service. If you feel the need to say something, then say it. Just do it with some tact. Lean in close to the person you're talking to, wait until between songs, go stand in the back of the room if you must have an extended conversation. Those are my basic rules.

A group of three young women blatantly broke every one of those rules last night at Iota. It was one of those situations where I just couldn't understand why they were there at all. They sat at the bar (in the middle of the room, for those not familiar with Iota) for the entire performance, engaged in what must have been an enthralling conversation, because they didn't turn to look at the stage even once. They laughed and carried on at a high volume, even at quieter moments during the performance by Mirah and Specratone International. They stayed for entire show, too.

I just don't understand why anyone would pay a $13 cover to do all of what I described above. My only theory, at least in this case, was that some people are simply used to paying a $10 or so to get into a bar and this evening was treated as just another bar outing, not a show. Y'know, even though it was clear that every single other person there was there to see the band. A few people shot the group some dirty and incredulous looks, but they were too wrapped up in themselves to even notice and continued to yap away. I was originally standing near them but quickly moved to the other side of the club. That only made things worse. Now I couldn't even hear what they were talking about, so it was pure distraction.

So there's my rant for the day. Anyone out there have any especially bad concert chatter stories to share?

By David Malitz |  January 16, 2008; 3:36 PM ET Screeds
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I couldn't agree with you more. It seems that is has gotten worse of late, I am not exactly sure why....

I think my worst experience in the past year was at The Veils show at DC9. Typical drunk doofus having a conversation with his friends during the set. I think it seemed a lot worse because there were only about 50 people in the room.

Worse than talking during the movies IMHO....

Posted by: sacklunch | January 16, 2008 5:56 PM

Why do people pay $100 (or more) to "sing" along (i.e., shout/scream) at concerts, rather than listening to the musicians who have actual talent?

Posted by: ah | January 16, 2008 6:06 PM

I'm not familiar with "Iota", but from the description, it's a bar, not a concert venue.

If that's the case, I've no sympathy for your complaint. For that matter, I've never attended a rock/jazz/blues concert where people were obliged to sit in reverent silence. Instead, the air is filled with whoops and hollers, and, generally, thousands of people who can't sing trying very hard to do so - and that is for a lot more than thirteen bucks.

If you can find enough people that feel like you do about it, rent the club and hire the band for a night and make it by invitation only. Good luck keeping the price at 13$ a head...

Posted by: Didius Falco | January 16, 2008 6:35 PM

Iota is a rather reputed area performance venue, though...more than just "a bar with a stage." Maybe it's naive to hope that people would know better...

I have a cousin who's a professional singer-songwriter, and one of his show elements is to do an unmiked, unaccompanied song, usually standing on a chair in the middle of the room. Typically, he'll ask the audience to give him a few minutes of silence for him to do his thing, and typically, they do, but I've been in rooms before where people are still jabbering when he's starting his song, and almost inevitably, a female in the crowd will turn, yell "SHUT THE F*** UP!" and stare daggers at the offenders. It usually works, but occasionally, you can cut the tension with a knife after that.

Posted by: 23112 | January 16, 2008 9:47 PM

I've been to some horrible shows at Iota. I think it has something to do with its proximity to Whitlow's and Clarendon Ballroom.

Posted by: HoyaParanoia | January 17, 2008 12:16 AM

Alcohol has a lot to do with high-volume conversations during shows - doesn't matter how much the tickets cost. But without alcohol sales, most clubs would go out of business.

Sometimes, a girlfriend/boyfriend gets dragged to a show that he/she wouldn't attend otherwise, gets bored, and starts talking to pass the time.

Also, a certain percentage of people in this world just can't shut up in social situations, no matter what's going on around them. They're absolutely clueless about respecting the rights of the people near them, and apart from direct confrontation, there's very little we can do about it.

Patience, and the ability to confront a loud talker directly but politely, are very valuable traits. I need to work on both myself.

Posted by: SSMD | January 17, 2008 9:25 AM

I've also seen a performer hand the mike to a guy who was singing along with her at the top of his lungs and tell him to finish the song (which he did).

Posted by: 23112 | January 17, 2008 9:49 AM

Jeff Tweedy to talkers at his concert from the Sunken Treasure movie. Priceless.

Posted by: Yes, I am Better than You | January 17, 2008 10:28 AM

There's a big difference between people singing along with the music, as long as they're not overpowering it, and people who are talking about stuff that has nothing to do with the concert. I had a few peoplw like that near me at the Bob Dylan show last year and I had to shush them a few times so they wouldn't totally distract me from the show.

Of course, singing along is no excuse if you're not facing the stage/musicians. There was one guy at the Godsmack show I went to at Constitution Hall who kept turning around and acting like we were there to see him.

Posted by: EricS | January 17, 2008 1:28 PM

The IOTA has had this problem for a while. Clubs that are intimate and serious about music have a no-talking policy which they enforce (e.g. Birchmere). IOTA is perceived by many as the neighborhood hang out bar. The problem is partly its size- there is a small space in the adjoining restaurant bar, but not big enough to accomodate all those who just wanna hang out. Only see loud bands that drown out talkers is my solution.

Posted by: clarkelly | January 18, 2008 4:00 AM

I know that you're really really not supposed to talk during classical shows, and particularly during concerts of 16th-century religious music, but I always enjoy thinking back on this story, which I am cut-and-pasting from my blog because I am bored:

[A]t a certain point, the two people sitting behind me became confused about what piece was presently being performed, and they narrated this confusion to each other while musicians were performing. They looked to be retired or nearing it; the man was silver-haired and wearing a slouchy sports jacket, while the woman had dirty-blond hair. That was about all I saw of them.

The first time, the man was talking, and I turned around and glared. The second time, I shushed him. The third time, the woman was talking, and I turned around and glared at her. (This all took place in the space of about ten minutes.)

Apparently my demanding that his wife be polite was too much for the gentleman. "Hey," he said to me as the organist played the first of his solos. "Lighten up."

My instincts took over. "Screw you," I said (I apparently had the profanity governor on). Then I turned exaggeratedly to watch the organist, who was at the keyboard on the right of the church. I let my elbow go way into their pew, and I clenched my fist. The guy shrank backward. I hadn't made a conscious decision to do anything since the last glare. When I realized, a few seconds later, what was going on, I slowly declenched my fist, then removed most of my elbow from their pew space. They were quiet as dormice for the rest of the first half of the program. I moved to another seat at intermission.

Posted by: Lindemann | January 18, 2008 11:09 AM

It's particularly baffling at the 9:30 - a lot of times these people have paid a significant amount of money to get in, so they're certainly not just there to hang out, yet they act like their conversation is the most important thing to them and to anyone else within earshot since they're having to yell so loud to be heard.

Also, people have gotten worse over the past couple of years about being a**hats during the opening bands' sets. A lot of times we'll go to shows specifically to see the opening bands because it's the first time they've played in DC, and it sure would be nice to be able to hear the songs rather than the conversation of the people standing behind you.

There's going to be some noise, sure - it isn't the Birchmere, they don't have "no talking" signs posted all over - but I totally agree that a little common sense and courtesy would go a long way. Unfortunately, the talkers seem to live in some kind of bubble where only they and the people they're talking to exist, and the rest of the crowd and the band are insignificant background noise to be drowned out or shouted over.

Posted by: hannnah | January 18, 2008 12:03 PM

I had the same problem at Iota once. Wonder if it was the same group of girls. The place was practically empty; my boyfriend's band was opening, and I was sitting at the back of the bar, by myself, singing along. Three women approached the bar, gave me weird looks, then sat down right next to me and started talking pretty loudly. Ok, they're just the opening band, but was it necessary to sit next to the only person in the whole bar who cared about the band?? I guess I shouldn't take it personally; the girls did talk through the main act, who they were there to see--they cheered quite a bit when they came on, before returning to their conversation.

But the Rufus Wainwright show at 9:30 in December was the worst I've ever seen talking--and I've seen some terrible, rude talking at shows.. At $41 a head, I couldn't believe how many people were just ignoring the performance.

Posted by: EB | January 22, 2008 4:13 PM

It seems like the the concerts with standing patrons are the worst for talkers but its not an absolute. I have attended shows at Jammin Java that were SRO (seriously - no chairs on the main floor) and not only could I not see the performers, I could not hear them either. Too bad - while I went to see the headliner, I think the opener might have been better!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 22, 2008 4:24 PM

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