Friday, September 30, 2011

Why can't gigs start earlier?

Went to see Charlie Dore at Green Note in Camden Town last night. The three musicians played beautifully. Green Note is a nice little place but not exactly fit for purpose. It's so long and narrow that they had to perform in single file. From the front they looked like one of those many-armed Hindu statues.

I got up not long after five a.m. yesterday. We get up early in our house, particularly when my wife is teaching. I had a long day at work. At 6.30 I looked at my watch and realised I still had two and a half hours to kill before the show began. I went to Wagamama for something to eat then made my way over to Camden, found the venue and then went across the road to have a drink in a pub in Parkway. I bumped into an old friend, which passed some more of the time. Nonetheless, by the time she came on I was starting to fade and could only stay for the first half.

When we started True Stories Told Live I insisted that we had to start at 7.30 and finish no later than 9.30. Most people were coming straight from work and they don't want to have to kill time before the entertainment. I think it's one of the best decisions we ever made. If people want to hang about and have a meal they can do it afterwards.

I realise that most gigs are put on by people who can only make money if we eat and drink but this has meant that gigs get pushed further and further back in the evening. I suppose there are people who need time to travel in from the suburbs but most of the people I encounter have come there straight from a very long day at work. The performers may be fresh as paint but the audience are dying on their feet. If there was a thought bubble over their heads it would say "how long will it take me to get home at this time of night?"

I don't expect this to change but surely in these hard-pressed times (I walked past the Jazz Cafe last night and it appeared to be closed) there must be room for alternatives. What about two shows, one starting at 7.00? What about Saturday afternoon matinees which aren't just for kids? Lunchtimes? Back in the early 60s promoters used to organise gigs for the convenience of the audience. It seems they don't do that anymore. If ever there was a time to do it that time is now.


  1. Thoroughly agree with you sir! My gigs ( hem hem) have begun at 7.30pm on the dot for YEARS and the fact that we always finish by half nine means you can lurk about afterwards for a chat and a pint, rather than dashing off for the last train. The only disadvantage is that under-30s tend not to believe the stage times and miss the show, but that just means the more sensibly clothed can bag the seats!

  2. Suburbs?

    I've been known to travel to London from the Midlands for an evening gig. It's often a rush.

    Start at 7:30, and I definitely can't make it. If you don't want to sell me a ticket, then fine.

  3. You should try Tokyo. Most gigs start at 7pm and are finished by 9pm or so. Some places like Blue Note have two sittings, one from 7pm and the other at 9.30pm so there is a later option for people that prefer it. Also at the weekend, some shows start earlier, ie 6pm and sometimes 5.30pm.

  4. I think you hit the n on the h. I can only speak from personal experience, so I'm talking about my observations of a self-selecting audience (i.e. people like me go to the sort of gigs people like me are likely to enjoy) but gig-going is no longer the sole preserve of the young.

    If this is the case, then there must be many gigs where the majority of those attending certainly don't regard the gig as just the start of the evening (of course they don't, they have work in the morning), and who don't regard it with insouciance when performers do the rock 'n' roll thing, of starting / finishing well after the advertised time (of course they don't, they're fretting about public transport and babysiters). Which isn't very rock 'n' roll, but is fair enough when you're the paying customer.

    I can't remember the last time I went to a gig which finished "early": presumably there is a presumption that if you finish at 10:30pm when the curfew is advertised as 11:00pm, you've short-changed the audience, but I suspect the audience might express a different opinion if asked...

  5. There's a lot to be said for the afternoon matinee. It works perfectly in the theatre on a Sat afternoon and leaves the rest of the day/evening free. A few years back The Black Crowes played 2 shows on a Sat at The Garage on Highbury Corner: the afternoon gig was an acoustic set which kicked off at 3.00pm and by 5 we were out, ready for a drink and a bite to eat with the rest of Sat night ahead of us. Perfect. I've never seen it done again from that day to this.

  6. Well, it depends on the audience, doesn't it? The young--those in their late teens and early 20s--seem to live on a schedule shifted about six hours from their parents'.

  7. I work in London but live out of town. I dont go to gigs any more as I simply can't find a train to get me home afterwards unless the gig is on the platform at Waterloo. I would accept this as my fate if it wasn't for the sure knowledge that the band are back stage scratching their arses waiting for 9.30 to roll round to come on stage in the mistaken belief that it's not "cool" to be on before that. I have a job and a child. They don't seem to be compatible with live music.

  8. @jd I know what you mean about Tokyo. I worked there for two weeks. It was a 10 minute metro journey from the office to the "live houses" in Shibuya, but the gigs started so damned early, and leaving the office on time so damned difficult, that I could only partake at weekends.

    Wandering into arbitrary rock venues in Shibuya tends to be rewarding though.

  9. Totally agree. I've lost count of the gigs I have been to where, particularly during the week, there is a palpable air of desolation and lost energy when the clock is heading towards 11 as the crowd thins out, people consult their watches and are desperate to get away in time to get home. Personally I would favour a compromise and have the headline on between 8 and 10, and no later. But waiting interminably until 9 and after when you know you have an early start just kills it for me, to the extent that often I just don't go.