The View From Here: What happened to the good rock show?

Posted on November 14, 2013

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The View From Here: What happened to the good rock show?

By: Rachael Mattice

Whatever happened to the good rock show?

This is a question that could linger for hours. Psychedelic and hard-rock band Monster Magnet vocalist Dave Wyndorf brought it up with me in a phone interview on Monday.

Whenever I run into old friends, conversing about our latest concert attendances is an easy icebreaker. Lately, it’s been taking a majority of my friends several minutes to search their cranial archives to think of the last show they went to.

The upfront reason is affordability, but there are other reasons that prove rock show attendance, or lack thereof, has been on a depressing decline for years.

Ticket pricing is the most obvious, preposterous component, whether paying for a smaller name or the Rolling Stones. They tack on absurd convenience, service, facility or ordering processing fees through distribution companies like Ticketmaster, adding a minimum of $10-$15 to the actual ticket cost.

In some cases, you will have to choose whether or not to see your favorite band of two decades, or get your beater car – with the engine about to fall out – fixed so you can drive the two-hour commute to work every day.

The Stones’ pricing for their most recent tour, with three show dates in Chicago, averaged $355.14 per ticket, excluding fees, according to the Chicago Tribune and Pollstar. It didn’t specify if these were near the front row or nosebleed, but the Tribune also reported there were seats available for $622.95, too.

Excluding additional travel expenses to get to the concert, would a month’s rent be worth the cost and risk to watch the Rolling Stones perform for two hours, possibly (since they are human) poorly?

If the show were at the United Center, the Egyptian Room or another similar venue, there are some other questions to ask:

Why is the air filtrated with cigarette smoke and sweaty armpit body odors?

Doesn’t it seem obsessive that security is checking that 40-year-old bearded man’s ID to make sure he’s the legal drinking age? How come the band can’t play until long hours of the night in ode to rock n’ roll because of a noise ordinance or curfew?

Why can’t the band jump into the crowd in the heat of the moment without violating club policy? Why can’t I body surf to the front of the stage without getting kicked out?

Why does it seem like I’m going to a gynecologist appointment while being frisked at security and asked to take off my studded belt, wallet chain and every other metallic piece on my body? (God knows we are all about to turn violent on one another at a rock show.)

What about an all-day outdoor festival in the equator-heat of the summer charging several dollars for a bottle of water in an already dehydrating environment?

Regardless of what you think of today’s quality of music, or rock music, the capitalizing efforts, orderliness and convenience pushed by most American concerts is not proportional to the actual value of the modern
show, now almost a luxury experience (though not always fun).

We don’t need to go to Europe like Wyndorf suggested, or argue that rock is dead, because it always circulates back to popularity. Let’s find a way to bring back the true show and disorderly conduct for my generation.

Mattice is a producer and music journalist at the Journal & Courier. She can be reached at rmattice@jconline.com.

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Posted in: "Rock It" Column