Live gigs, libraries and "shushing"

I’m a regular gig-goer. These days, I tend to go to a lot of quieter gigs. Maybe someone like the Fleet Foxes; maybe a smaller act playing a 200 capacity venue like the Luminaire, often a solo artist.

One of the obvious features of attending a quiet gig is that, if people in the audience start talking, the rest of us really notice it. I’ve seen the Fleet Foxes three times, and each time audience noise has detracted from the performance. When they supported Neil Young, there was nearly a fight in the audience between someone who insisted on talking loudly, and another fan who was telling him to shut up.

On the other hand, some venues attract crowds who respect the band, and each other: the San Francisco Bath House in Wellington is excellent in this respect – thinking of gigs by Andrew Bird and (again) the Fleet Foxes where the crowd is quiet (but equally I’ve seen the Black Lips and Broken Social Scene at the same venue, and people have no problems making some noise). I’ve seen Jeff Tweedy from Wilco perform unplugged (completely without amplification) and the entire audience stand silently, so that everyone could hear.

Some venues like to encourage the crowd towards silence, notably the Luminaire in North London, which takes a fairly extreme approach:

(Taken with permission (under CC) from Flickr: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Thanks to the original photographer

(Taken with permission (under CC) from Flickr: / CC BY-SA 2.0. Thanks to the original photographer)
So is this wrong? It seems to work for the Luminaire (the comments on the Flickr images generally support the venue. So do comments on other blogs posts on this topic).
Lesson for libraries? Sometimes, silence can be appropriate. When I worked in a law library, we actually had students shushing us, if we were talking too loudly. They needed silence in order to concentrate on exam study (the library also had group study rooms, so those who wanted to talk and collaborate were able to do so). Working in corporate libraries the same thing might apply. Obviously, that wouldn’t be appropriate for the children’s or teens’ sections of public libraries. It’s a matter of choosing policies that fit the user community.
[That’s not to suggest that any libraries should bluntly tell users to ‘shut up’, even if the Luminaire can get away with it!]
Check out their FAQ and S(eldom)AQ – probably the funniest I’ve read. The FAQ begins:
Q: Kilburn’s miles away, isn’t it?
A: Here we go again…
Q: Well, isn’t it?
A: If you’re going to keep peddling this dumb argument, at least put the sentence into some kind of context. Miles away from where?

Q: From the centre of town / my house
A: How many people do you know who live in WC1 / your house?

The SAQ includes:

Q: What happened to that dashing Portuguese bar manager?
A: Who, Hugo?

Q: That’s the one.


Q: What about smoke machines? Can we use one of those? The smoke’s a really important part of our performance.
A: No. They set off our fire alarms.
Q: Can’t you switch off your system for the duration of your set?
A: Are you out of your mind?


About simonchamberlain

New Zealand librarian and music fan, living in London.
This entry was posted in music, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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