flexibeast.space - gemlog - 2024-05-10

Live shows: for me, smaller is better

i recently went and saw “Stickybeak”, a live comedy show about suburbia. i thought it was brilliant, and indeed, it's critically acclaimed, winning the “Best Comedy” award of the 2023 Melbourne Fringe Festival.

“Melbourne Fringe Festival Awards”

“Stickybeak review (Melbourne Fringe Festival)”

In writing about it afterwards on Facebook, i wrote:

[I]t again reminded me of why i love live theatre: seeing actors live demonstrates just how skilled and talented they really are.

In fact, i can really enjoy live shows more generally - that is, not only theatre, but music as well. However i'm not a fan of stadium performances, and i don't at all feel inclined to pay to see Big Acts, regardless of how Spectacular™ the show is[a]. i much prefer to pay to attend shows involving local or lesser-known artists.

In 1991, my parents took me to see Dire Straits, at what's now Rod Laver Arena, during the Melbourne leg of the “On Every Street” tour. Our seats were basically to the right of the stage, up the back. i'm certainly grateful to my parents for the experience, but i found it very ... underwhelming? Not to say that i felt the band underperformed in some way[b], i just didn't find the overall experience to be as singularly amazing as i'd been led to believe such an experience would be.

Whilst at uni in the early- to mid-90s, i went a number of live music performances at the ANU Bar/Refectory. As its name probably suggests, the ANU Bar/Refectory wasn't a large venue; a callout at the start of the following article suggests a capacity of 1700, but my memories of the events i went to involve at most a few hundred. (Although it's plausible that my ability to estimate crowd sizes was particularly limited at that time.)

“The ANU Bar rocks!”

Some of the acts i saw there included:

Last.fm wiki: “The Australian Doors Show”

Wikipedia: ‘Inspiral Carpets’

Wikipedia: ‘Beasts of Bourbon’

Wikipedia: ‘Falling Joys’

Outside of the ANU Bar/Refectory, i went and saw at performance of Tennyson's 1884 play “Becket”, at what's now the Gorman Arts Centre.

Wikipedia: ‘Becket (Tennyson play)’

More recently:

“Oh yuck, it's me: A self-portrait of myself, the artist, by me, the artist”

The relatively small size of the audiences at most of these shows - “relatively small” compared to the size of stadium shows - significantly contributed to my enjoyment of them. i felt much more ‘present' and connected to the performances; not ‘connected’ in the parasocial sense[c], but in the sense that i felt able to was directly engaging with the performances' energies / ‘vibes’, rather than feeling like there was a transparent ‘wall’ preventing those energies from reaching me (as i typically do when watching a movie, either at a cinema or on a tv).

My guess is that i could feel this connection because those energies weren't being overwhelmed by the combined energies of a huge audience. i imagine that for many people, being part of such a mass is very rewarding. But for me - particularly as someone very wary of mob behaviours, from wherever they might originate on the political compass - such an environment is more likely to be suffocating, and a potential threat to my safety. It's not an environment in which i can ‘relax’ into experiencing the performance; it's an environment in which i feel i have to keep my guard up, for mental and physical protection.

Finally, i find satisfaction in supporting smaller or lesser-known artists, who are often putting in huge amounts of work for relatively little reward. As someone who lives in the intersections of multiple marginalised communities, and who's spent her life constantly and significantly impacted by ‘tyrannies of the majority’ - neurotypicality, cishetnormativity, leftist ‘received wisdom’, and so on - i want to support artistic diversity. Not only for its own sake, but also as a form of enlightened self-interest: i want to experience art that resonates with me and my experiences, and that's less likely to happen if artists aren't able to create such work because they're having to do other work for a survival income.

🏷 music,personal


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[a] The more ‘spectacular’ something is said to be, the more i'm inclined to think about in terms of Debord's “Society of the Spectacle”.

Debord's “Society of the Spectacle” (1967)

[b] Although apparently the tour wasn't a great experience for the group:

"The last tour was utter misery," said manager Ed Bicknell. "Whatever the zeitgeist was that we had been part of, it had passed." "Personal relationships were in trouble and it put a terrible strain on everybody, emotionally and physically," agreed Illsley. "We were changed by it."

-- Wikipedia: ‘On Every Street Tour’

[c] Wikipedia says that ‘parasocial interaction’:

is described as an illusory experience, such that media audiences interact with personas (e.g., talk show hosts, celebrities, fictional characters, social media influencers) as if they are engaged in a reciprocal relationship with them.

-- Wikipedia: ‘parasocial interaction’