Or more exactly, where to stand at a gig? I found myself in Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s this evening, standing at the back next to the bar all on my tod. I reckon it was the best ‘seat’ in the house.
It’s an odd thing finding your own wee spot to enjoy a gig from. Often it’s a case of intuition and other times it’s just wherever you can find some space. Mainly, I reckon, it depends on why you’re there, or more exactly, what your motivation is. If you’re seeing a festival headliner then between 10 and 50 people back, front and centre is going to be about right. You’ll feel close enough that you can occasionally see something on stage, the sound is catering for a field so will never be any good no matter where you pick, and you’ll be in the middle of all the drunken jumping up and down – which is (at least) half the point of seeing a festival headliner. Any further forward than that and you’re part of the crush barrier.
The same is true of that hardcore band you love. Get in the front third of the venue and you can jump around like a loon. Again; this is the fucking point.
How about seeing someone like My Bloody Valentine or Mogwai or anyone else where the band is boring (some lights, and not much else to see) but the sound is all important? For that, I want to be just behind the jumping, and as close to the middle as possible. You definitely don’t want to be far enough back that people think it’s ok to chat, and you don’t want the clinking of a bar in your left lughole.
What if you’re seeing a band where the visuals do matter? Lemon Jelly do great light shows, but really the sound isn’t going to differ too much from the album. In that case, you better hope it’s a seated venue where you slouch about in your seat, relaxing as much as possible.
Tonight, I found myself right at the back of Sleazy’s, next to the bar. I missed the start of the first support, so found myself there by default as the rest of the audience was seated up front. By the time Mount Eerie came on, 90% of the audience had got to their feet and made their way to the front of the stage. Anyone more than two rows back, and smaller than 6’0” was only going to be left with glimpses of a band with very little emphasis on visual aesthetics. So at the back I remained. The PA in there ain’t bad, and with such a small audience, being a little further back allowed the sound to form in front of me rather than behind me. Even better, I could see Phil Elverum the whole way through and let’s be honest, do you need to see anyone else when he is Mount Eerie? Yet, I was left all on my own as people climbed on seats to get a view and stood up close to the backs of the 100 people in front of them. I’m not sure why we do that. Mount Eerie are a great small venue band, with the sound rising and falling throughout. At times you’re left with only Phil Elverum’s voice while every now and then they build up those guitars and drums and you feel like you’re about to get an aural assault, but it never comes. It is the perfect gig to be viewed from afar and it’s the first time I’ve wanted to stand out on my own, away from the crowd.
Am I right? Am I just geeking out about sound too much? Or, heaven forbid, am I getting… old?
[Mount Eerie at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s Glasgow on 21/05/2013]