Last night, I swung by Higher Ground to check out indie-folk songwriter Jose Gonzalez. It was one of those increasingly rare opportunities for me to go see live music with my critical brain turned off and simply enjoy the show. I wasn't attending as "Dan Bolles," Seven Days Music Editor. Just Dan, a dude who really likes Jose Gonzalez — deep down I'm a sensitive guy, I swear. And I was really looking forward to it.
Gonzalez' performance was stunning. And yes, I'm writing that statement from the biased perspective of a fan, not a critic. Though I'm typically prone to rolling my eyes when I read some lazy blurb about an artist being "the next" anyone — Dylan, The Beatles, Gram Parsons, etc. — I can almost get behind Gonzalez' designation as "The Latin Nick Drake." If you can get past the fact that he's actually Swedish — though he's of Argentinian descent — the phrase actually does an adequate job of summing up his sound. In fact, there were moments during last night's show where he could justifiably be accused of aping Drake. Sometimes we lowly scribes get it right. Sometimes.
Though Gonzalez was a pleasure to behold, the crowd was something else entirely, to the point where actually listening to the music became a frustrating challenge. I don't mean to get off on a rant, but . . .
Why the fuck would you spend 17 bucks to see a show, and then spend the entire evening talking? And I don't mean just whispering to your friends in between songs. I mean full-blown, outside-voice conversations about subjects entirely unrelated to the music (By the way, if some guy named Jordan is reading this, that cutebrunette you've recently started dating finds you too effeminate andisn't really in to the "hugging thing." Sorry, dude. Just something Ioverheard.).
Throughout the night, from the opening act — Twi The Humble Feather, who would likely be a lot of fun to see at a venue like Radio Bean or The Bakery, but were virtually inaudible in the Lounge this night — through Gonzalez' encore, the din of conversational chatter was impossible to escape. It didn't matter where I tried to watch the show. I stood ten feet from the stage. I stood in the middle of the room. I stood on the sidelines and in the back by the bar. Everywhere, people talking incessantly.
I get that people go see live music for vastly different reasons. Some folks go just to be "seen." Others go because it's something different from just going out to the bars. Some people go to meet people with similar tastes. And some people even go just to LISTEN TO THE FUCKING MUSIC. Perish the thought.
At this point, some of you are probably saying to yourselves, "Hey, dickhead. It's my 17 bucks and I'll comport my self however I choose when I go out. This isn't grade school. I'll talk whenever and as loudly as I want." To which I humbly respond, "Go fuck yourself."
Other people pay hard earned money to see shows too. And the reason they're willing to shell out big bucks for tickets and overpriced drinks is because the experience of seeing your favorite artists in person can be transcendent. But only if you can hear it. (At one point in the show, Gonzalez finished a swelling torrent of fiery classical guitar work by descending into an intimately gorgeous bridge. Most of the crowd followed along and for a beautiful moment, the idle chatter ceased . . . except for the massive tool loudly discussing the nuances of strumming open chords in drop D tuning. Thanks a lot, douchebag.)
Some crowd noise at a loud rock show is no big deal. The raw energy of an ass-kicking live band largely negates it. But mellower shows such as Jose Gonzalez have a subtle, but nonetheless powerful, energy of their own. Too bad so many people there last night missed it.