can't dance, can't see, can't stand it

If cattle went to gigs, most of the nation's venues would find themselves picketed by the animal-rights movement. So why do we put up with it, asks Nicholas Barber

YOU KNOW what it's like. You're in your bedroom, listening to your favourite record of the week, dancing with your reflection in the mirror, adding that vocal harmony that the track really needs. But there's still something missing. Thank goodness I can't see the band, you think to yourself, but if only I could see the back of someone else's head. If only I were choking, sweating, bleeding, immobile, deafened, and broke.

You don't think that? Funny, neither do I, so why do the people who run Britain's rock venues seem to think so? They charge, say, pounds l0 a ticket, plus a pounds 2-per-ticket medieval tariff called a "booking fee", plus the pounds 6 car park charge (at Wembley Arena), and in return they subject us to conditions that no one who does not use the London Underground at rush hour should have to endure.

Speaking of London, it's invariably the metropolis's venues that are worst. Many are converted theatres, with the seats ripped out and a bar and / or mixing-desk deposited at some view-obscuring point in the middle. From there you can buy overpriced mulled beer in special novelty plastic glasses, guaranteed to bend into all sorts of shapes.

An hour or two after the scheduled show time, the band will come on to a stage so low as to render them invisible to those not in the front row, and play at a volume that ensures that even the hard of hearing will pick up every last subtlety - assuming that the distortion hadn't thrown out every last subtlety in the first place. If you want to sit down, that's fine if you have a ticket for the seated section. Otherwise, feel free to have a rest wherever you pass out.

The audience for any other type of performance - dance, opera, drama, comedy - wouldn't stand for these conditions, wouldn't stand for standing. But at rock concerts, the received wisdom is: You wouldn't want seats, you wouldn't be able to dance.

Which makes sense up to a point, but even the mellowest, most laid-back, trancey-type dancing must, by definition, incorporate some element of bodily movement, and this is all but precluded in venues where the punters are packed tighter than the lead-singer's leather trousers.

No wonder that the punk dance, the pogo, originated in London. Jumping on the spot is all there's room to do. Nowadays the vogue is for crowdsurfing, where your prostrate body is passed over the heads of the crowd. There's not enough room to dance at ground level, so you dance on other people. If we were cattle, animal rights protesters would picket.

As the venues get bigger, the situation is not ameliorated. Rather, it gets more dangerous. More space to go around? No, just even more people painfully crammed in. This graph stretches until its axes boundary whole fields.

During Oasis's set at Glastonbury last year we were at least as cramped as we are in any tiny club - and this was so far from the stage that the band were all but invisible. No great loss where are Oasis are concerned, but you see the principle (even if you didn't see anything else). The organisers haven't learnt the lessons of the Donnington festival in 1988, when two fans were crushed to death.

At least outdoor gigs have air. Indoors, in the infernal, sweltering pressure cookers that pass for venues, the only cooling system is sweat: your own and everyone else's near you. Maybe I'm just getting old, but if no one else suffers, why has it become a ritual at Blur gigs for Damon Albarn to throw bottled water over the frying crowd? How come tough, hard- bitten Liam Gallagher had to ask the crowd at Oasis' Earls Court gigs to move back and alleviate the ferment at the front? These are not measures that should be left to a few responsible stars.

So, what are the management doing to enhance our evenings? If you're lucky there may be a cloakroom. If you're luckier it will charge only pounds 1. pounds 1 PER ITEM a sign will add, testily. Oh, and "The Management Accepts No Responsibility for the Loss or Damage of Any Items". Why not? I'm paying you to look after my coat - is it too much to expect you not to tread on it and go through my pockets?

Until proprietors are willing to undertake some structural readjustment with a crane and a wrecking-ball, the answer is to admit fewer people. Fewer people will be able to see their favourite band, but more people will enjoy themselves. Is it a fair exchange? I think so, but not one that will appeal to the greed of pop promoters, the callous arrogance of pop musicians, or the ludicrous, archaic mythology that decrees that any gig whose conditions do not expedite the catching of at least five diseases is not an authentic rock'n'roll experience at all.

Rock tradition being as inflexibly hallowed as it is, nothing has changed since the Beatles' manager-to-be, Brian Epstein, first glimpsed them in the Cavern Club. "This was quite a new world, really, for me," Epstein told an interviewer. "I was amazed by this dark, smoky, dank atmosphere."

But the Cavern was a jazz and folk club, never intended for the crowds the Beatles drew. Wasn't this murky atmosphere a signal to club owners that conditions had to change to keep up with the revolution in popular music?

Epstein first visited the cellar full of noise on 9 September 1961. This is the Nineties. We have air-conditioning. We have an extra 30 years' experience of what a rock venue should be.

There's no reason why a gig should be indistinguishable from an attempt at the world record for Most Clothed People In A Sauna At Once. No reason why we should emerge from a febrile club and into the night air - having queued for an hour at that cloakroom so lacking in responsibility - so damp that the temperature drop will freeze us in our tracks. No reason why, when we awake the next morning, our throats should sting, our ears hum like a faulty fridge, our clothes stink of smoke and lager, and be ventilated with cigarette burns.

On the other hand, maybe it's lucky we've these mementos, because the programme we paid a fiver for will be a crumpled, pulpy mess.

barn to throw bottled water over the frying crowd? How come tough, hard-bitten Liam Gallagher had to ask the crowd at Oasis' Earls Court gigs to move back and alleviate the ferment at the front? These are not measures that should be left to a few responsible stars.

So, what are the management doing to enhance our evenings? If you're lucky there may be a cloakroom. If you're luckier it will charge only pounds 1. pounds 1 PER ITEM a sign will add, testily. Oh, and "The Management Accepts No Responsibility for the Loss or Damage of Any Items". Why not? I'm paying you to look after my coat - is it too much to expect you not to tread on it and go through my pockets?

Until proprietors are willing to undertake some structural readjustment with a crane and a wrecking-ball, the answer is to admit fewer people. Fewer people will be able to see their favourite band, but more people will enjoy themselves. Is it a fair exchange? I think so, but not one that will appeal to the greed of pop promoters, the callous arrogance of pop musicians, or the ludicrous, archaic mythology that decrees that any gig whose conditions do not expedite the catching of at least five diseases is not an authentic rock'n'roll experience at all.

Rock tradition being as inflexibly hallowed as it is, nothing has changed since the Beatles' manager-to-be, Brian Epstein, first glimpsed them in the Cavern Club. "This was quite a new world, really, for me," Epstein told an interviewer. "I was amazed by this dark, smoky, dank atmosphere."

But the Cavern was a jazz and folk club, never intended for the crowds the Beatles drew. Wasn't this murky atmosphere a signal to club owners that conditions had to change to keep up with the revolution in popular music?

Epstein first visited the cellar full of noise on 9 September 1961. This is the Nineties. We have air-conditioning. We have an extra 30 years' experience of what a rock venue should be.

There's no reason why a gig should be indistinguishable from an attempt at the world record for Most Clothed People In A Sauna At Once. No reason why we should emerge from a febrile club and into the night air - having queued for an hour at that cloakroom so lacking in responsibility - so damp that the temperature drop will freeze us in our tracks. No reason why, when we awake the next morning, our throats should sting, our ears hum like a faulty fridge, our clothes stink of smoke and lager, and be ventilated with cigarette burns.

On the other hand, maybe it's lucky we've these mementos, because the programme we paid a fiver for will be a crumpled, pulpy mess.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Project Manager

    Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    IT Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album