Concert or Karaoke?

When did live music performances and concerts become sing-along events?

A few years back I attended two of the annual ROSfest events. ROSfest is the Rites of Spring progressive rock festival, formerly held in Gettysburg, PA in the excellent Majestic Theater. This was the first time I attended an event where the line for the men’s room was shorter than the line for the women’s room; there are fewer female prog fans and the males are generally older and thus prone to using diuretics (such as me).

At one performance I heard the term “deep listen” (spoken by Aaron English), which indicates active listening on the part of the audience. One needs to listen carefully to prog: time signature changes, meaningful lyrics, and repeated themes (inspired by classical music) all require more intense attention. So, even when we were familiar with the pieces, we’d concentrate and focus on experiencing the musical landscapes and vignettes.

But now? I sometimes feel like I’m at a bad karaoke evening. For example, I attended a show of Almost Queen, a tribute band. There was the audience singing along with gusto and fervor, struggling to, and failing to, emulate the vocals of Freddie Mercury or AQ’s lead singer. I wish I had thought about that possibility, since I went unmasked and caught a bad cold as a result of all the germs circulating through the space.

Prog is not immune to the singalong either. Attending a Nightwish concert (whom I would categorize as symphonic prog metal) at the Agora in Cleveland, OH a few years back), I suddenly realized many people around me were vocalizing along with Floor Jansen. And I’m thinking: really? You’d rather sing along than listen to her? The operatic queen of metal? But the answer apparently was yes.

My most recent concert experience was Kenny G, with his soprano sax and jazz backing band. All instrumentals, no vocals, and so no singing along. I enjoyed his professionalism and the performances but had to think: no lyrics? Thank Apollo and Terpsichore!

More about karaoke another time.

2011, I believe.

Published by stephenschrum

Associate Professor of Theatre Arts; interested in virtual worlds, playwrighting, and filmmaking. Now creating a podcast called "Audio Chimera."

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