Monday, August 30, 2010

Outdoor Concerts

In the last two weeks, Kent and I attended two outdoor concerts. Two very contrasting concerts. I just wish the audience behavior contrasted as much as the music did.

We joined some friends at the Scera Shell in Orem for the Utah Symphony's outdoor concert. I haven't heard the symphony perform since 2008, and it was wonderful to hear their precision and clarity. Attending only middle school and other amateur performances had really "dumbed down" my ears.

Sadly, too many audience members were also dumbed down on concert etiquette. Several times a handful of people clapped in the middle of a piece, which I've come to expect at all concerts now. But seriously, how difficult is it to watch the conductor's baton come down before slapping one's hands together? What bothered me more was the couple behind us who couldn't stop talking. I think when a concert is moved out of the hall and into the outdoors, the audience gets very casual in their behavior. I have no problem with people wearing jeans and T-shirts to an outdoor concert. However, I do have a problem with those who act as if the symphony is there to just provide nice background music for their romantic evening. And when that romantic evening leads to making out on a blanket in the middle of a huge crowd of people, as did the couple in front of us, it makes me want to gag.

I also noticed a new trend. At least one quarter of the audience distracted themselves by playing games on their phones during the concert. I will admit to playing a game through one piece as well. It seemed harmless enough; the sound was turned off and the game doesn't bother anyone else. But those few minutes I spent concentrating on the tiny screen proved to me how much of the show I was missing. I couldn't pay close attention to the swells and melodies of the piece or pick out the bass fiddle or horn parts with my ear. And most of all I missed the dance of the conductor. David Cho was the conductor that night, and it was thrilling to watch his movements. I could barely follow the beat he was setting because his body was so busy acting out the motion of the music. Most interesting to me was that many times he seemed to be out of sync with the instruments, almost as he were giving clues as to what was just about to follow. The symphony played a piece with a western theme (I can't remember it's name!), and as Cho bent his knees in rhythm, I kept hoping he would really get into it and do a full squat. He didn't disappoint! I loved it!!

The second concert was more Kent's choice of music. We went to the final performances of the Salt Lake Summer Concert Series to hear Dum Dum Girls and She & Him, which has Zooey Deschanel as the lead singer. You would know her from "Elf" and "100 Days of Summer". I liked She & Him's music okay, but I've finally decided those concert scenes are just not for me. I did enjoy the company of the friends we went with, and I really had fun people watching. I caught myself staring at a dyed platinum blonde with a spiky pixie cut whose eyes seemed to be smiling; I determined it was because of the way she drew her thick black eyeliner, and it made her pretty in an in-your-face kind of way. I spent most of the concert trying not to get separated from our group as the crowd continually stirred around us. I found it fascinating that even with the masses pressed into a tight, standing mob, we each had a small amount of personal space. At any given time I had a dozen people within arm's reach of me, yet everyone was careful to not actually touch anyone else. I was also fascinated by the group of drunk college boys in front of me. I finally put Kent between us, which meant I couldn't see the stage, because I was afraid one of them might fall on me and I would end up smelling like him. I found myself seriously questioning the admissions decisions of universities, and then wondering if these people would actually grow up to be a contributing member of society. What part of our economy rests on these young men's shoulders? Scary!

In contrast to the symphony's audience, most of the rocker audience was very tuned into the show and didn't distract themselves with cell phones (probably to avoid dropping them in the crowd). I found it slightly humorous that the crowd constantly pushed closer to the stage, yet they could have heard each "intricacy" of the music from a block away what with the huge speakers amplifying every twang of the guitar. I left with my ears ringing and a determination that this just isn't my cup of tea. I hope Kent has fun at The Black Crowes concert tomorrow, and I'm glad he has lots of friends who like those sort of venues. I look forward to an evening with a quiet book. I'm sure sure we'll both love our choice of entertainment.


Carolyn said...

I would love to have seen She and Him! I didn't realize they were in town. Very cool.

Charlotte said...

Outdoor concerts are meant to be a lot less formal, but distracting other people from enjoying is just rude. I have the same problem at my kids' school concerts. Just because YOUR kid isn't performing at the moment doesn't mean you can just start talking loudly.

I don't believe I've ever been to a real concert, so I guess I should just stop commenting, as I know nothing about the etiquette involved