Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Musicians are just waking up when their audience is going to sleep

I found this in my notes. I'd been struck by how rock musicians and their audiences share ninety minutes of a kind of communion in the evening but have completely different ways of looking at the day. It makes me wonder whether the time might ever come when the live music industry recognises the fact that since most of the audience is over forty they might prefer their shows to start a little earlier.

6:00 a.m. 
Rock fan's alarm goes.
Rock musician turns over in his sleep.
7:30 a.m.
Rock fan begins tiring commute.
Rock musician sleeps on.
8:30 a.m.
Rock fans begins work.
Rock musician does more sleeping
12:30 p.m.
Rock fan has lunch and starts to worry about how he's getting home from tonight's gig.
Rock musician stirs and watches Loose Women in bed.
2:00 p.m.
Rock fan begins meeting.
Rock musician has leisurely shower.
3:00 p.m.
Rock fan buys chocolate bar to provide energy surge.
Rock musician meets in lobby to go to sound check.
5:00 p.m.
Rock fan wonders how he's going to pass three and a half hours between work and gig.
Rock musician begins sound check
6:00 p.m.
Rock fan finishes work and toys with the idea of going straight home and missing gig altogether.
Rock musician starts to wake up.
8:00 p.m.
Rock fan goes to venue and looks for place to stand and, being less than six foot three, actually see.
Rock musician has a nap backstage.
9:30 p.m.
Rock fan looks at watch for the hundredth time.
Rock musician take to stage.
11:00 p.m.
Rock fan misses encore and slopes off to catch last train home.
Fired up with adrenaline rock musician begins encore.
12:30 a.m.
Rock fans tramps home from station feeling tired and filthy.
Rock musician goes to bar.      


  1. I'm no musician, although I keep pretty similar hours. I got in from work last night after midnight. I woke up this morning for the school run at around half six. Pretty sure I'm not the only one.

  2. In my experience, touring musicians not only have no idea where they are at any given time - hence "Hello, Cleveland!" - they also have trouble pinning down with anything more than a few hours' accuracy when that given time actually is. They're woken up, fed and bustled onto the bus by road managers, whose job is remarkably similar to that of a harried teacher on a school trip, making every effort to avoid the considerable inconvenience of leaving someone behind. ("Has anybody seen Jedediah? He can't still be in the toilet. What? Oh, God....")

    Aren't show times - like curfews - strictly the responsibility, and so the fault, of promoters?

  3. Yes, they are, but given the choice acts will always want to go on later.

  4. Depends on the level of the 'act'. On the pub circuit it's often better not to be the headline act as it always overruns and people check watches and 'give it toes'.

    But that's not rock stardom. Very far from it.

  5. Best time to play a pub gig? Sunday afternoon. Everyone's relaxed, no time presures, the "it's almost Monday" bit hasn't kicked in yet, and you get to wrap it all up in time to get home to see Downtown/Strictly/whatever your particular poison is.

  6. A few years ago when The Black Crowes were in town, they played two sets at The Garage in Islington: an acoustic afternoon matinee and an electric evening set. We saw the former. And it was perfect. We left the venue just after 5 o'clock and the rest of the evening was our own.

  7. John, They Might Be Giants did something similar at the Royal Festival Hall the other year: matinee for children, evening show for the older fans. I took my kids to the earlier show and was quite sated, thank you...

  8. Oh and Lee: Couldn't agree more. Did a gig in Cardiff this Sunday last, 4-7pm, back in London in time for MOTD2...

  9. Spent the evening last Saturday with the cast of 20th Century Boy in Coventry. Can confirm they went to bed around 6AM.
    I got the impression that was fairly normal behaviour.

  10. I played two gigs last Thursday night, I got home at 3.30 in the morning and I got up again at 7.30 to bring kids to school. The life you describe is that of some musicians but not all.

  11. Bands and venues who continually overrun could do worse than spend some time at the Edinburgh Fringe. Act after act perform in the venues there, strictly on time (because every overrun affects every following act). Shows start on time, and end on time. Acts are rehearsed so that their show is always the same length. Acts are fined if they do overrun, so they don't. You might get ten shows a day in one venue, all running on time, with audiences leaving and entering in precisely timed gaps inbetween.

    Bands could learn from that degree of professionalism.

  12. I know what you mean, PK, but even the most modest semi-pro band nowadays arrives with more equipment than the Stones had when they played Hyde Park and, because they can't afford roadies to set it up, it takes them a while to get ready.

  13. Fair point, PK. It would also help if promoters enforced stage times rather than counting contentedly at the cashbox. One time we headlined, we were forced to wait an hour due to wildly overrunning support slots. Come stage time, the promoter fearfully told us that a previously unrevealed curfew meant we only had 15 minutes, six hours after we'd arrived. The drummer still mutters about it in his sleep.

  14. While I was trying to alleviate the stultifying boredom of waiting for the main act to come on last week at the Forum - an hour and a half seemed interminable, despite trying to go late in order not to have to wait - I thought about what other forms of entertainment treat their audience so dismissively. Would you go to a film around 8 or 8:30, hoping it might start by 9 and you can get home by 11, only to have to wait and curse until 9:30 or 9:45? By which time your enthusiasm has curdled, your opinion of the performers nosedived and the urge is to give it half an hour, and if they are less than stellar you can go home, thankfully. I can't be bothered with that any more. You want an audience? Act professionally.

  15. I saw Richard Hawley at Manchester Academy last night. He came on at 9:00, played a brilliant set, looked like he was having a great time and that our enjoyment mattered to him, and was done by 10:30. Others should take note.