Monday, 14 July 2014

Is it time for a riot, girls?

Back in the olden days scraps at gigs were commonplace. Casuals would kick off, cause trouble, goad the ‘sweaties’ into fights. I never got hurt, especially, which explains how I am able to reminisce over such violent scenes from my youth with a contented sigh and a rosy tint to my cracked spectacles.

I recall Kirk Brandon halting an early Spear of Destiny set mid-song to call somebody a ‘wanker’.  I remember Ian Astbury imploring a terrified audience to get stuck in with the mightily violent-looking half-stripped chicken dancers occupying (and vehemently defending) the Southern Death Cult mosh pit – THEIR mosh pit. And relatively recently I was part of a scattering crowd who had a guitar targeted and lobbed our way, like some kind of six-string spear, by Noble from British Sea Power.

Violence is not a good thing, of course. It’s ugly and sad and I’m not here to endorse it in any way. But the atmosphere at gigs has since turned so far the other way that it almost seems as if a teeny weeny ruck might not be a bad thing.

Ticket prices, secondary ticket prices, ill-conceived sponsorship deals and an unrealistic sense of artistic value have all led to live music’s downfall. It’s exactly why Arcade Fire are shit these days.

Music should not be about £60-plus tickets. Gigs should not feel like a swift after-work half with mates from CitiBank. Live music should be edgy, weird and open to anything – there should be potential to turn good or bad.

But look at those recent Hyde Park gigs! Shit sound, shit organisation, terrible line-ups in the main, and all stupidly overpriced. There were premium tickets available to allow rich wankers and their wanky mates to SIT DOWN for Neil Young. There’s a grandstand built for them. Like it’s Goodwood or Aintree. Volunteers were wandering around in t-shirts saying “Ask me about getting a better view.” That’s a mountain of wrong, right there.

Barclaycard are one of these companies that should not be allowed to interfere in music. But, ironically, their inability to sell enough tickets could very easily have sparked some kind of glorious revolution. I think it came close.

Faced with a LOT of unsold tickets for their week of Hyde Park gigs, they did the decent thing and faked a clerical error – one which put a shitload of tickets on sale for £2.50 a pop. Their face was saved by internet rumours (good work, Barclaycard interns!) that these were ‘family and friend guest tickets’ that leaked onto the marketplace by accident. But, rest assured, they would all be honoured.

ALL BOLLOCKS. Of course.

Anyway, word spread quickly (hey, well done again interns!) and the gigs were soon more or less sold out – and all without upsetting those idiots who had already spunked £60 to see McBusted or the Liber-fucking-tines. Win!

This was a good thing. But what a pity that these Poundland tickets didn’t fall into the hands of some proper scumbags, eh? Things would have been very different with a few thousand pissed up bad boys and girls, lobbing Strongbow cans at Pimms-sipping picknickers.

A less polite crowd, indeed, might have seen Arcade Fire come onstage with their weak papier mache heads intro scene and call them directly to task for it.

“Oi! Arcade Fire! What the FUCK are you doing?”

These parks and fields were once warzones. I’ve seen piss bottles lobbed at Daphne and Celeste, at Fifty Cent and at Bonnie Tyler. Those were the days, my friends.

OK, so, let’s not go that far. Piss is bad for the hair. But Barclaycard in their ineptitude at least managed to underline the notion that £2.50 is quite enough to pay for a big concert ticket. And it really is, you know. Production costs are only high when they are permitted to get that way. It doesn’t cost THAT much to keep a band on the road, it really doesn’t. There is NO reason, no reason AT ALL, why the Stones cannot play for a tenner.

I hope this turns out to be the start of something. I hope all those people who paid £60 for their Hyde Park tickets get to hear about the £2.50 offer and revolt. I hope more people reject the ludicrous prices being asked of them. High ticket pricing and secondary ticket pricing are strangling music. Sponsorship is strangling music.  Cosseted bands are killing music. Something better change.

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