The Death Of The Irish Audience?

For years, Ireland has been renowned for giving touring artists a unique live experience. You need only look at the amount of artists who have chosen Irish shows for their live releases for proof – Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruce Springsteen, REM, David Bowie and more have all decided on their Irish dates as the ones most worthy of release. This reputation still holds today, but it is in danger of disappearing.

The recent instance to put this notion in my head was last weekend’s Foo Fighters show in Slane. These days I tend to linger further back at gigs, mostly due to arriving late after work, but given the day that was in it myself and my mate Peter decided to head up a bit closer to the pit for the main event. We had already seen our fair share of drunken idiocy but nothing outside the normal and more importantly, nothing that caused much if any distress to others. That would soon go out the window.

The minute the Foo Fighters came on stage I noticed the person behind us was pushing up on our backs quite harshly. It’s a rock gig, I’m not being the drip who gives out about jumping and bopping to a lively concert. However, there’s a significant difference between getting into the show and flapping about like a lunatic with your arms outstretched. Your elbows and hands have now become the most irritating things on the planet and you need to rethink your approach. I noticed Peter having a few words with this particular muppet but nothing resembling an altercation. Then he moved onto me. This was a fairly short human being we’re talking about here and both myself and Peter are 6ft+, maybe it was simple jealousy we were experiencing. After another song’s worth of elbowing to my back I asked him to stop. Greeted by a blank, lifeless expression you would more commonly find on sharks (or serial killers) I didn’t expect this to change anything. Then the clapping started.

Let’s put this into perspective, tickets for this gig were roughly seventy quid each. How is that money well spent if you’ve been intently focused on annoying the punters in front of you for the first two or three songs? Come the third song, the “clapping” had progressed to simply hitting me on the head, at which point I decided we had to bounce. As I turned to move away, said muppet then blocks me from moving with his arms. Oh the red mist is descending. Maybe I was a little forceful in clearing him out of my way, but it was small by comparison to what he has been dishing out. Yet then comes that wonderful Irish hard man tradition, the “start”. Chest out, shoulders up, time to look serious. Again, we’re three songs into what turned out to be a real Slane classic. Thankfully another concert goer saw what was happening and intervened, telling us both to cop on. A crucial intervention as one of the two of us was close to doing something stupid.

Anyway, away we go from said incident and we think we’ve found a more hospitable spot. That is until, mid sentence, I find myself being strangled. It seems a delightful young lady behind me felt like hopping up on her friend’s shoulders. Clearly he skipped leg day because no sooner were they up when they came crashing down again, and she decided the best option for stability was to wrap her arms around my neck. No, my life was never in danger, but to say it was an unwelcome intervention would be an understatement, and that she wouldn’t let go even when she was on the ground was just the icing on the cake. I know the Foo Fighters began with “Everlong”, “Monkey Wrench” and “Learn To Fly” but I’d say I was able to pay attention to five seconds of each song. It was time to clear off, I’d had my fill. We tried to make our way towards the back, and found the route impenetrable. Now, nobody hates those people who insist on moving endlessly during gigs more than me, but we were moving backwards, we were trying to get out. Hell, we were making room. But no, complete and utter lockdown. At that point I had to resort to full asshole mode and basically start barging past people. Insanity.

Once we got to a more open spot, with the rest of the “oldies”, things got far more tolerable. Then came a depressing sight of a different sense. Just up in front of us were a man and a woman, both maybe early twenties, trying their hardest to consummate their seemingly new relationship right there on the castle grounds. As far as we could see they were completely oblivious to the fact that there was a gig going on. Now, free love and all that but the icing on the cake came when the lady disappeared looking worse for wear and reappeared minutes later, with a different man. After they performed a remake of the first show we were subjected to, he departed and left her to stand on her own, swaying like a leaf in a storm. She proceeded to fall into anyone and everyone around her whilst we, and I’m sure others, attempted to get the attention of a steward or medical aide, none of which could be found. Two women close to us took to her and ensured she was ok, which she seemingly was, and she wound up taking the company of two other women who it was clear she didn’t know from Adam. I do not wish to simply single this woman out as the one disgracefully drunk person at a 60,000+ person concert, nor am I just trying to ramble on here like a nut.

What I am trying to do here is give a little insight into the level of idiocy that can be found at gigs in Ireland these days. In my 15 years attending concerts I have been puked on, stood on, burned with cigarettes, saturated with alcohol and I was of course in attendance at the infamous Swedish House Mafia gig in Phoenix Park. I have seen it all, but there was a tipping point with this most recent Slane concert. We simply wanted to take in a great set from a great band. Others felt differently about that, but what was different here is that for the first time the crowd stupidity was coming from people who were just one hundred percent uninterested in what was happening on the stage. When did this become the norm, paying fifty, sixty, seventy quid to act like an idiot in a field for three hours? Or worse still, to get so blind drunk that you remember nothing except maybe that you made some choice decisions regarding physical partners whilst out in the elements. Maybe I’m biased, I have always steered away from alcohol at concerts. One, two beers max just to chill out maybe, but for the most part I stay dry at them, I want to take it all in with a clear head. Rather infamously amongst my friends, I broke my rule in a massive way at the Macklemore concert in Marlay Park last year. The sheer thought that I may have been one of these very people I am complaining about makes me sick and has made me swear off heavy alcohol consumption at concerts.

Worse things go on at concerts, people get injured, people die, people disappear. There is an unavoidable risk factor with outdoor events and that will always be true. What is avoidable however is the inebriated idiocy that occurs every year once the weather turns and the gigs get going. If you must be down amongst the masses, try flail a little more considerably. If you must drink, get the hell away from the larger crowds if you insist on getting plastered drunk – you don’t have full control of yourself and you’re making a similar mess to a bowling ball on the deck of a ship at sea. Finally, just cop on to yourself. Like I said, this country has a reputation for providing good receptions for touring artists, and said artists don’t notice the dregs interfering on other people’s good times, but the more this situation escalates, the more people will think twice about attending gigs like this. I have already seen several people coming from Slane with a “never again” mantra. It needs to stop, now.

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Bachelors Degree in Arts from NUI Maynooth. Double Honours English & Philosophy.

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