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The CHIRP Blog

Bobby Evers writesAn Open Letter To The Heckler At The St. Vincent Show

Hey buddy. Look, I’m so sorry to interrupt you. That was not my intention at all. I just wanted to draw your attention to the fact that you are actually in a public space right now, and not your living room. We all are. All of us put in a similar amount of effort as you to buy tickets, show up on time, and all face the same direction sort of for the same reason as you. And that is to see Annie Clark do a St. Vincent show. And I totally get it; the amount of time she is spending making banter with the audience (which they call “crowd work (that is to say it happens often enough that all of the people who do it have an industry term for this, for talking between songs, to engage the crowd in this manner)) is time that is taken away from playing “the hits.”

But buddy, ya gotta wait til the show’s over to complain. I know, I know, sweety, it’s OK. It is boring to hear talking instead of music, you’re right, but imagine how all of us feel right now, hearing you talking instead of Annie Clark.

I guess I can see how you may have come to the conclusion that this kind of behavior was somehow allowed. When Future Islands performed, and their singer did some of the most amazing frontmanning I have seen all year, dancing an insane amount during songs, and varying the vocal stylings that he sang his music in, sometimes affecting a kind of blues vocal style, sometimes sounding like that dude from Barenaked Ladies, sometimes even going so far as to do a deathmetal Cookie Monster, it was a lot of fun. And he even encouraged people to stand up, out of their seats, to head to the aisles, to fill the space around the stage.

The Chicago Theatre is known for being a venue where you sit down and take in some music or comedy, and you do it sitting down, and to stand at a sit-down show is sort of turning it on its ear. And yeah, they were really fun and did a great job of warming us up, all of us, together, all the people in this space sitting around you. And when they did that in this venue it may have created a false sense of comfort and made you feel like you were in a divebar or a house show. But you're not. This is still the Chicago Theatre and the people around you still want to hear the lady on stage and not you.

Buddy: talking during St. Vincent, talking over St. Vincent talking, shouting out “Chicago!” (not “Annie!” or “Marry Me!” or even “Freebird,” but no) just the name of the city we are currently in during and between songs is just not OK. It’s not kosher, and it’s not allowed. Because I don’t want Annie Clark to associate “Chicago” with heckling, unless Chicago is also associated with euthanizing motherfuckers who heckle.  And you should really think about who you are and your place in the world before you do something like this.

First, I want you to examine your intentions. Is it your intention to ruin someone’s night? Not just someone, but like twenty someones? Is it your intention to get the attention and hurt the feelings of Annie Clark? Is it your intention to have a bad time?  I guess what I’m trying to get at here, buddy, is that you shouldn’t go somewhere with the sole purpose of having a bad time. You should decide and invest in having a good time. So if something happens that you don’t like you can just say “I’m not going to let this bother me, because I want to have a good time.”

So when Annie Clark has finished “Digital Witness” and is saying “Chicago, I think we have a lot of things in common,” and tells a story about spotting strangers on the street and superimposing celebrity faces on them, but maybe you don’t think that is that funny or interesting, maybe you’re a little bored and you wish she would play your favorite song, the most productive way you can communicate that is to 1) not laugh 2) not applaud 3) patiently wait until the song starts 4) applaud when the song starts. That is how you tell a performer "this material doesn't work" if it gets no response. DO NOT groan, turn to your friend who is laughing audibly at everything you say “She should shut up and play the hits,” nor should you take a telephone call during a quiet part of the show, nor should you then SHOUT “Shut up and play the hits!” ALOUD WHILE ANNIE CLARK IS SPEAKING.

The reasons you should not do this are 1) rude to the performer 2) rude to the people around you 3) betraying your ignorance because St. Vincent doesn’t have “hits,” she makes albums. What I mean when I say this is that none of her songs are hits. Her singles do not chart, but her albums do. Her albums end up on end of the year top 10 lists and she collaborates with David Byrne. She isn’t known for releasing hot new track after hot new track. She makes entire albums, and those albums receive near universal acclaim.

And while we’re on the subject can we talk about how really fucking it hard it is to do what she’s doing? She writes really complicated and interesting guitar compositions, blends them with bizarre and original studio instruments and somehow, despite that in itself being a fucking achievement, she somehow manages to translate that into a live stage show, to recreate the songs live, delegating different arrangements to other accompanying musicians, to perform the guitar parts in front of other humans, to get sweaty, to thrash herself against the stage and to fucking bring it to a crowd of people like you. And if all of that wasn’t enough, she does it in an industry that seems to offer no sympathy to guitarists who also happen to be women. They exist, but this boy’s club doesn’t give them credit or visibility.

For Annie Clark to write really complicated guitar shit, to perform it live and to chart, we should all actually be thanking her. Because there are right now thousands of teenage girls who are picking up an electric guitar for the first time and deciding they would rather be rock stars than baristas. And it’s because Annie Clark can fucking murder you with a guitar. She somehow tows the line between guitar god and pop star through a conduit of indie-mainstream-crossover and because Annie chose guitar, she is currently right now influencing what rock music is going to sound like in ten years and how women fit into that.

So I guess I’m just asking for the tiniest amount of respect? We all paid to see Annie Clark do a St. Vincent show and we should trust that if a choice she makes is maybe she goes on a tangent about strapping pizza boxes to your arms and jumping off a garage, that maybe that’s the experience she wanted us to have when we go to a St. Vincent show. And maybe if you don’t like it, you should review the show after it’s done, not during. Because otherwise the people around you are taken out of the show, and all they can think about is you. Is that what you want? Do you want to end up in some stranger’s concert review? Do you want people to think about you for the rest of their night? And to wonder who the hell you think you are? To wonder what kind of person would heckle a performer he paid to see. To wonder what kind of job a guy like you has, what kind of relationships he has with other people; do the people in his life let him get away with this? Or is he a constant burden to them? Is his drinking a problem? Does he have a mother that loves him?

Did you know that after you turned to your friend and said “I could leave whenever” like thirty minutes into the show, (which, come to think of it, was the most responsible choice you made) I thumbs-upped the woman behind you? That’s right, I’m saying the person ahead of you and the person behind you had nonverbal communication about you while you were present in the room. Is that what you want? Because that is what happens when you go to live shows and heckle the performers. We had opinions about you and the little show you were putting on, but the difference is we waited til the show was over to discuss the opinions. Just because you have an opinion does not mean you are entitled or obligated to tell any human your boring, shitty opinion.

It really is a shame you left though, because during the encore, Annie did a version of “Your Lips Are Red” that was just fucking devastating. She was lit in red and thanked Future Islands for sharing their stage, and the St. Vincent band crew, and Chicago for being reliably wonderful. And the affect she put on her voice with the red light made her sound like she was leading a Satanic prayer. So when she started in with “Your Lips Are Red” it was phenomenal. It’s a song I was never that thrilled about on her first album, but live was something else, something magical and kinetic, something overpowering, the kind of thing that doesn't translate to a recording, it’s something you need to see to experience. She just killed it on her guitar. And when she was destroying her guitar on stage, she actually jumped into the front row, and oh my god, you would have loved this, she went into the crowd, still playing her guitar, still destroying and jamming, being touched by those around her, touching her arms and her guitar, and everyone in the crowd turned to watch as she made her way to the back of the theatre, climb on some guy’s shoulders, lift up her guitar, and get hoisted back to the front, throwing herself onto the stage, a kind of heap of platinum blond hair and twinkly black dress, contorting her body to appear like a broken magician’s dummy. And when a stagehand placed the guitar back around her shoulder, that was when she resumed the slower part of the song, the breakdown, “Your skin's so fair, your skin's so fair it’s not fair,” softly and sadly, as if it were a completely different song.

But it was the same song. Because a St. Vincent show is an experience. And I just feel so sorry for you that you missed that because it sounds like you really would have liked that part. Maybe next time you will just have a little patience for the process of a rock show, and think about the impact you are having on other people and try not to be the biggest asshole in the room. It is not as big of an accomplishment as you think it is.

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Categorized: Events Journal

Topics: st. vincent

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