Concerts and Mass Hysteria versus Lounge Gig


In many ways, a large music concert of today is a species of mass hysteria, and the performers must at times be like conductors.

I’ve attended more than my share of musical concerts in their several varying types: intimate coffee house shows, stadium tin can blasts, mid-sized halls, garage rehearsals, opera houses, and festival-tent outdoor shows. And I’ve even been a performer in one or two of those types of venues as well, with varying degrees of reluctance. But as I reflect on those few shows that I genuinely enjoyed, and even in recalling several that made me wish to be elsewhere and yet were still being “enjoyed” by the crowd at large around me, the idea of a mass hysteria keeps returning to me.

Something about how many concert goers say something like, “Man, it was, like, you know, yeah, no, …. It was just… soooooooooo much energy. Man that band was just, like, really rockin’ it and …” – Often they speak of how the lead performer was “giving it their all” and many performers speak of being exhausted after they have given their energy to the crowd. And they are not wrong, it is exactly their energy which they are transmitting into the crowd. Often skillfully, a lead vocalist “star” can conduct a crowd into something that no one of them listening to the same song a thousand times would ever feel. The addiction to live performances, even if the music is wretched, is an enjoyment of the hysteria that often will prevail in that dynamic.

Compare contrast that to a lounge concert. There may be hundreds of people in the room seated and enjoying the “show”, but then again they are at tables of 2 or 4 and microcosms of conversation are not “massed” together. And if the music sucks, no amount of pogo-sticking or hair-tossing by the lead vocalist will generate a mass hysterical reaction that provides the energy to overcome the lack of music. But in a lounge setting if the music is outstanding, table conversation dims and sometimes even ceases and all eyes and ears may tune in – if dancing ensues a different form of grouplets of couple hysteria may exist.

There is beauty and reward in each of the types, I suppose (though I retain the right to personally feel that stadium shows lack such for me). Yes, I want a performer to “give” some of his energy to a performance; to invest sincerely in the message of his song. But for this old cowboy, I wish that songwriters would save some energy for the song and spend a little less on chumming up hysteria about things other than the music.