Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Drinking Ban - The Fans Speak

The Guardian Music Blog had an interesting post back in 2008.  It was entitled "Can You Stomach a Gig Without Booze?" and basically discussed Van's alcohol ban during shows. What follows is a cut down version of the original post and edited versions of some of the reader comments. 

Can you stomach a gig without booze?

Looks like Van the Man won't be taking any requests for Moonshine Whiskey then. 
It's pretty easy to come up with reasons why a Van Morrison gig could disappoint:
a) He neglects to play the original version of Brown Eyed Girl, and instead kicks off a 15-minute pan-pipe jam inspired by his soul-searching travels in the Andes.
b) He rekindles his love affair with Scientology and brings Tom Cruise onstage for a skiffle paean to the wondrous ways of L Ron Hubbard.
c) The crowd find themselves banned from going to the bar to get a stiff drink to numb the dull, throbbing pain caused by two hours of incessant MOR rock.
This time, Van the Man has gone for c) - preventing his audience from quaffing booze at tomorrow night's Brighton Dome gig, and for two shows in Liverpool and Birmingham next month. Apparently, this beer ban has nothing to do with the teetotal Van's past problems with alcohol.  He doesn't like folk wandering about too much when he sings. It puts him off, you see. We can only suppose that this rules out dancing too. Soft drinks, however, are allowed – so you can go back and forth, downing as much Coca-Cola as your body can hold.

What I find weird, though, is that Van seems to have forgotten that most gigs are undoubtedly powered by booze. Queues at venue bars are nearly always a vicious battle to the Becks, yet still people are willing to miss a couple of songs by their favourite acts in order to secure an overpriced, plastic pint of cider or miniature beaker of acrid vodka. And why? Because good music and drink are still the best of bedfellows, and a tipsy crowd is usually an enthusiastic one. And let's face it, most of us need some Dutch courage to shake a leg in front of complete strangers at 8.30pm on a school night.
Maybe we've got this all wrong. Seeing as the tickets for Van's mini-tour range in price from £40 to £85, could the man be doing his fans a favour by asking them to not shove their hands any deeper into their pockets?

richardrj  -  18/09/2008

Banning booze at gigs is fine by me. I too get irritated by people walking back and forth while the artist is playing, especially at seated gigs like the Dome where the potential to distract other punters is much greater. And of course they're not just going to the bar, they're going to the loo as well, the latter being a direct result of the former. Sometimes you look around you and all you see is folk milling around, not just at the beginning of the gig but right the way through it. I wouldn't go to a Van Morrison gig if you paid me, but I can see his point right enough. I mean, can't people go without drinking for an hour or so?
The thing about Morrison allowing soft drinks is interesting, though. It makes me suspect that he is probably closer to the Robert Fripp school of thought. Fripp has never gone so far as banning alcohol at gigs, although he has banned photos/smoking/taping/fidgeting/enjoying oneself. His view is that audience members, or audients as he calls them, have to be clear-headed in order to appreciate the music – a rather priggish attitude, in my view.
For the second time today I find myself writing on these here blogs that the rock world could take lessons from the jazz world. Go to a jazz club here in mainland Europe and you get your drink brought to you at your table – a far more civilised business than the scrum at the bar.
This is off topic, but here's an illustration of why drinking at gigs in Europe is so much more pleasant than drinking at gigs in Britain. For obvious reasons, bar staff aren't allowed to serve drinks in proper glass glasses, so in Britain you get those crappy flimsy plastic things which rapidly get crushed underfoot. In Europe, they give you a hard plastic glass and they charge you a euro deposit for it. You keep the glass throughout the evening, bringing it back to the bar every time. At the end of the evening, you take it back to the bar and you get your euro back. Hey presto - no broken glass, no plastic for the poor staff to sweep up at the end of the evening, no glasses for them to have to keep collecting.
A gig without the constant, constant distraction of the queue of people who spend their entire time squeezing all the way to the back of the hall to buy beer, squeezing back (usually depositing half of it over you) and then swiftly downing it before returning to the bar once more?
Fine by me, the odds of catching him on a good night are slender anyway. Why not stay in and listen a selection of his better tunes with a few mates and a few bottles of wine?
Grumpy old git.
Just because tubby can't handle his drink, doesn't mean the paying punters can't have a bevy. What a knob. Maybe they should ban pork pies & sausage rolls from his rider?
most gigs are undoubtedly powered by booze.
not sure I agree with that - rock gigs yes, but it is different strokes for different folks - I went to see India Arie a few years back and the bar was empty.
I also had an enforced period of sober gigging a while back due to being on antibiotics for 6 months - the best gigs (e.g. Robert Plant at the Hammersmith Palais were just as enjoyable).
I think there is a case for closing the bar at seated venues when the act is on. A previous Plant gig at Hammersmith Odeon (or whatever it is called these days) was partly spoiled by the constant distraction of fans trips to bar & toilet ( the two are linked, and in the case of Plant his audiences bladders aren't what they used to be!).
But I think this is just Van being his usual grumpy self.
I recently finally had the chance to see one of my all-time favourite bands, Big Star, live. When they played their classic song, Thirteen, what should have been a beautiful perfect moment for me was ruined by some idiot bulldozing his way through the crowd carrying a whole round of drinks. It wouldn't have been so bad, but he was incapable of finding his mates, or locating natural gaps between people, so just pushed me and everyone in the vicinity back and forth throughout the entire song, spilling beer everywhere as he went. The poignancy of the song was left trampled in his wake. I would very much like to find that man and perform a Carling enema on him.
I've only twice consumed alcohol at gigs, the first time was at a Van gig. Van's performance was uninspiring and the beer was rubbish.
The other time was at a Bowie gig, or more accurately before a Bowie gig. I was very excited about going to see my hero and a friend generously gave me a bottle of vodka to celebrate.
My companion for the evening was late and by the time she arrived I'd consumed at least half the bottle. By then I was rocking on and drank some more on the train to Liverpool.
When I woke up in the morning I tried to remember the gig but all I could recall was one solitary image of Bowie standing there on the stage in that union jack coat (Earthling era). I also had a big lump on the back of my head.
I had to go and buy a copy of the Liverpool echo so I could read a review of the gig and find out if it was good.
A rock gig without a ten minute queue to pay 4 pounds for a warm can of Red Stripe served in a flimsy plastic glass would just not be the same. Has the man no sense of tradition?
  • Ramalution  19/09/08
  • Absolutely not, 10 years ago I saw Bob Dylan on a co headline tour with Van Morrison. Van was first up , started with Days Like These which was nice ,and then did a 1 hour blues jam which was terrible, and REFUSED to play Brown eyed girl. I still hate him.
I'm all for drinking at gigs as its something to do while your hanging round for the band/singer to start. Or if the gig (see 45 minute blog post yesterday)goes on to long, something to do.
That said drinking to much at gigs is a pain and I apologise for the following drunken moments:
1) Automatic, Kentish Town Forum, beginning November. I had just come back from Peru, had a works do straight away on the Friday night and consumed my body weight in Redbull and Vodka. Turned up at the gig and just jumped on people, got boll*cking by the bouncer. Sorry if you were there.
2)January 4h 2006 Art Brut, Elbow Rooms. What a rubbish venue for a gig. Even more rubbish when I'm pushing through the crowd every 5 minutes to go to the bar and consume more Guinness. Very drunk.
3) Arctic Monkeys, Glastonbury 2007. They were rubbish, I had drunk for 3 days with no let up. No excuse to start chucking mud at my friends and passers by. Apologies.
4) Quite a few others: Subways @ Koko's springs to mind.
In conclusion drinking is bad at gigs ,lets stop it. Just stop it.
Whatevs - but I don't think drink would improve a van gig anyway. The man hasn't done anything of musical consequence since about 1984 (probably about the time he started having trouble with drinking).
I yearn for the days when drink was not the drug of choice of the gig going classes. I can remember seeing CSN&Y at Wembley (twin towers) with the Band, Joni Mitchell, and Jesse Colin Young, and while one of those acts was on going to a bar for some liquid refreshment - the bars were all deserted, with the barmen looking perplexed by the inactivity. The crowd too busy munching on microdots and smoking hash. But of course the smoking ban means those days are sadly forever gone!! Que nostalgic old geezer staring wistfully out of the window.....................wondering where his short term memory has gone.
Having had the misfortune of seeing Van Morrison live and reading various (non) interviews with the man, I have often wondered what this man is doing in the music business, it obviously is not an business that suits him. He cares so little about his audience and has so little respect for them that he obviously doesn't want to be an entertainer. He seems to only ever invite interviewers when he's obliged Van Morrison live and reading various (non) interviews with the man, I have often wondered what this man is doing in the music business, it obviously is not an business that suits him. He cares so little about his audience and has so little respect for them that he obviously doesn't want to be an entertainer. He seems to only ever invite interviewers when he's obliged to, in order to make some extra sales on his recordings, but hates the selling process so much that he just seems to grump his way through them.
I can only guess that the only parts of the whole recording business he likes is the money and the recording process. which is fair enough, but surely he's earned enough by now to just record for his own pleasure (if such a concept exists for him) and ignore the sales anyway.
I'm guessing that if a record sells poorly he blames the audience for being uncultured slobs rather than his own work anyway.
I've been going to gigs sober for years and it's not affected my enjoyment of them (apart from a growing intolerance of anti-social drunkenness in some members of the audience) I'm not against banning drinks from some gigs - why do they need to buy drinks while the headline act is on - surely that's why you bought the ticket - you don't spend £20+ to just get access to warm beer served in plastic glasses.
But I just think this banning in Van Morrison's case is just another example of the lack of respect he has for his audience.
I would like to have seen him try to stop people drinking and moving when he appeared at Glastonbury, yet he no doubt pocketed his sizeable fee!

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