Monday, May 26, 2008

A Quick Note About Going Up Onstage at a Concert

Don't do it.

Don't do it unless, of course, you are Madonna, Freddy Mercury, Beth Ditto, Robert Plant or any other talented person who is paid (or otherwise intended) to be up there. Why?

  1. This might be a generalization, but it's likely you are not a very good dancer -- not, at least, compared to Prince, M.I.A., or whoever else is supposed to rocking the song you are destroying with your storm of fist pumps or half-hearted hip checks.
  2. This ain't no disco.
  3. Furthermore, if you are up onstage, there's a good chance that you are there -- and feel entitled to be there -- because you are drunk or well on your way (Lord knows how you managed to get up there). As someone who has rushed the stage, you are already persona non grata to your fellow concert-goers. Imagine how much less they will like you if you accidently step on a cord and stop the music mid-song. How much less will the performer like you?
  4. Frequently, this stage phenomenon rarely ends with one. If one drunken fool gets up there, suddenly every fool, drunken or not, wants to party facing out. To what end? The coquettish songstress or charismatic lead guitarist that drew everyone to the show in the first place is now forced to manage the affections of fans onstage rather than deliver his or her usual caliber of performance. 
Since it might come up, I have to mention that I myself have hopped up onstage before. I have done it more than once, in fact. Having reviewed the footage of it on YouTube afterwards, I can guarantee that it was not cool (even after having been encouraged by the performer himself to be up there). 

About four years ago Greg Gillis of Girl Talk began souping up what would be a an otherwise mundane laptop DJ routine by cultivating a party atmosphere at his shows. He would throw beach balls into the audience along with other fancies; but his best known gimmick is/was inviting everyone and their cousin to come dance along side him onstage. This maneuver, I assume, was to imitate the feeling of the house parties where he first got his start DJing. With this, the line between the audience and performer quickly disappeared and the show became like one big party -- what's not to like about that?

Flash forward a few years to the Presets show that happened last week: the Australian electronic duo were dressed nicely, moving between their numerous gadgets and gizmos, addressing fans or enjoying introspective moments, alternately. Excellent. Meanwhile, I was up at the front for this show, thoroughly enjoying the performance. At one point I heard a few girls to my left say, "Okay, let's go." Christ, I thought. Sure enough, "One... two... three!!" and up they went. The girls had shimmied and thrusted for a total of five seconds before the security guards, thankfully, came to escort them off the stage. The looks on the performers' faces suggested that they weren't impressed by the attempt to steal their show. "This last one is for you San Francisco... and also for Mezzanine's excellent security," they said before their final encore song.

There was a time when going up on stage was really special. Do you remember when Michael Jackson would invite a screaming girl onstage, give her a flower, sing to her and she would (cry first and then) faint? I certainly don't (I was all of about five), but it happened! This was closer to the performer-audience norm. Now fans feel entitled to time onstage alongside the performer and it makes the affair feel sloppy. I don't want every show to feel like the same party. If I wanted to see bad dancing on a platform I would go to Ruby Skye.

I reiterate: don't do it.

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