I had the privilege of attending a fine performance last Monday by Neko Case and her versatile band, who pulled in a near-capacity crowd at Dallas’ venerable Granada Theatre. Plenty has been written about Case’s captivating voice, but she (and her capable backup singer Kelly Hogan) also kept the audience entertained throughout the evening with slightly eccentric stage banter. The group held most everyone’s attention for the full 90-minute set, which can be a difficult thing to accomplish.
Now, more about that audience after the jump.
I’ve been attending alt-rock shows in North Texas on and off for the better part of 15 years, and this area – sad to say – has a mixed bag when it comes to concertgoers. You often end up with:
– Audiences who hang on every word and help make the gig a truly memorable event, but are very small numbers-wise (like, say, the Delgados at Trees in 2003, or many, many other club gigs);
– Mid-size gigs with a mix of indie hipsters and die-hard fans who jockey for position in a standing-room-only club and block the view of others while trying to take as many photos/videos as possible with their cell phones;
– Massive sellout crowds who are noisy, indifferent and generally make the concert an uncomfortable experience (see any number of shows at Starplex/Smirnoff/Superpages.com Center).
However, the situation seems to be improving, for a couple of possible reasons. First, you’re now seeing more than a few venues work harder to make it a better experience for all involved. The Granada has won best-venue awards for the past few years, and for good reason: They promote the shows well, try different things to engage audiences (Twitter, promotions, etc.) and keep the lights and sound working properly for every show, regardless of artist or crowd size. New club owners such as Clint and Whitney Barlow, who recently reopened the erstwhile Trees in Deep Ellum, are trying to breathe new life into the scene (it doesn’t always work – see the now-shuttered Club Dada – but at least people are trying).
Also, more venues are now smoke-free; sorry, smokers, but the lack of a smoky cloud hovering above the audience does improve the experience and may have contributed to a rise in the number of people venturing out to shows more regularly. No hard data on that one, though.
And with massive changes in the music industry and the rapid descent of record sales, touring is now one of the only ways artists and bands can still make decent money to further their craft (outside of the top-selling acts). Perhaps this has also inspired performers to up their game.
Ultimately, the best audience is an educated audience, so learn about the artists you like, search out their earlier work and then go and support them whether they’re local regulars or just swinging through North Texas on tour.