I’m now old enough to, in general, hate general admission shows. It takes a lot to get me to one. The Magnetic Fields last night was a general admission show.
The Music Box was built in the 1920s, in the heyday of vaudeville and silent pictures. Like other local venues (such as the nearby Wiltern), the Music Box is now almost exclusively a showcase for popular music concerts, and the seats were removed to accommodate larger audiences.
I used to be able to tolerate the concert environments of the House Of Blues and its ilk, but there have been too many bad experiences, and too many lousy crowds to attend just any show.
The last time I went to the House Of Blues was to see They Might Be Giants perform the Venue Songs, with narrator Andy Richter (on 24 March 2005 – thank you Mr. Internet!). This was too good a proposition to pass up, so we arrived early and staked out the best possible spot up by the stage, right next to Linnell’s keyboard. (They also played a set promoting Here Come The ABC’s, taped for broadcast on DirecTV.) It was a great show, but then TMBG tends to draw better crowds, even in hipster-infested Hollywood.
Pardon the sweeping generalization. Here’s more snobbery: one supposes it takes all kinds, including rowdy, alcohol-sopped jackanapes.
The last Steve Earle show I saw was also at the Sunset House Of Blues, touring for “The Mountain”. This was a Bluegrass album performed in the old style – a single microphone surrounded by Steve Earle and the Del McCoury band. It’s quieter music than his fans and the House Of Blues layabouts were used to. Following one of the early songs, Steve looked up to the balcony and said “Okay, you’ve been seen – you can go home now.”
Only part of the crowd laughed. The rest were too busy talking to notice.
At The Music Box, there are still some seats in the balcony, but you have to arrive early to get one. Unavoidable schedule restrictions prevented us from arriving to the venue early for last night’s show. But to my pleasant surprise, they had set up seats throughout the venue, presumably at the request of the artist.
Assuming the music being performed is intended for actual listening, seats do wonders for a crowd. And the near-capacity crowd was incredibly respectful and attentive throughout the entire show.
Well worth leaving work on time.