On the heels of witnessing another stellar live performance by The Winery Dogs, I recollected bassist Billy Sheehan’s words when I asked him what he needs from fans. Paraphrasing and summarizing his response, it came down to interaction from us that is both visually and vocally. Sheehan said it can become a leapfrog situation where the artists ramp up their performance when they see us giving them positive feedback, which prompts us to go even more nuts, and you get the point. However, what happens when a jam-packed venue is full of zombie like figures set in stone?
Honestly, it pissed me off. As my wife and I screamed our lungs out in approval, horns up or clapping, pushing on a band that was slaying it. To my right, left, front and back, it was dud after dud standing with arms crossed, about as exuberant as students in Mr.Boringass Biology class. What the hell was going on? Why would hundreds of people lay down 60 bucks a ticket, buy a 30.00 t-shirt, two expensive beers, and then go numb?
Contrast that with what transpired earlier this year when bodies were literally being hurled through the air, beer spilled all over the floor, and heads banging and necks cranking in fury. That show featured Obituary, Cryptopsy, and Cannibal Corpse, was in a different city, and cost less than half of the aforementioned show. So, what made the difference? Why the incredible and exhaustive display of appreciation one night, but the sleep church gathering the other?
What probably jumps to the cerebellum first, and rightfully so, is age. I’m a 45-year-old metal head who loves everything from glam to death, a bit hyper, convinced that crowd participation is my responsibility and just fun as hell. The average age for The Winery Dogs show was at least 10 years higher than the Cannibal Corpse and friends slaughter fest. Older fans simply don’t exude the rowdiness and energy that the youth can generate with such ease. Where I was the insane outlier who annoyed others at the first show, I was the lameskin avoiding the mosh pit when surrounded by younger fans. But I can’t totally forgive the older crowd, or any metal gathering, that can’t muster some enthusiasm and feed the beasts on stage. Not everyone wants to mosh or scream, fair enough, but get off your asses and at least stand up for Chuck Billy’s sake.
Genre matters as well. Death and thrash bands by definition generate activity. Just look to founding fathers Metallica for song titles and lyrics like Whiplash and Damage Inc. Aborted maniacs live to slam to The Necrotic Manifesto, while soaking up the soulful bluesy genius of Richie Kotzen can’t totally be achieved in a state of craziness. That pass I’ll grant, as it bears truth. You’ve surely witnessed sexual antics at a Poison or Bobaflex concert, but I’d be amazed to hear about grinding and groping when Dying Fetus or Nile is shredding and ripping.
Lastly, the venue itself plays a role in the swirling matter inside the doors. For those of us lucky enough to visit The Rave in Milwaukee or The Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, we know how perfectly set up these places are for bat-shit craziness to ensue. Conversely, The Arcada Theater in St.Charles is regal and stately, an absolutely beautiful venue that should be treasured not trashed, and the fact that The Winery Dogs have played more shows there than any place on earth (it’s true) makes total sense and punctuates the point.
In conclusion, music can be appreciated in many forms. We shouldn’t assume that the guy/gal staring at the stage but not moving isn’t moved. Who knows what thoughts and feelings lie inside? Great bands can move us to tears, prime us to throw fists, and everything in between. Still, next time Mike Portnoy is delivering a killer drum solo, it wouldn’t kill you to make a little noise and let him know you’re digging his deal.
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