Yeah Yeah Yeahs. No, No Experience

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Monday, November 30th, 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs at O2 Academy, Leeds

In front concentric circles Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs - looking like a Queen Jawa in a hooded robe - spins and bends her vocal to screams of appreciation but I am not amused.

A large eye looks down over the three New Yorkers (and one extra) and the assembled in front of them but I am far from entertained.

The band could be brilliant - certainly they seem to be entertaining from the screen of one of the many cameras held up which provides a snatched view of the stage - but there is something between me and them. Some barrier to my enjoyment.

It is two cussing huge men standing annoyingly ahead of me. I'm pushing six foot three and two cussing tall people are ahead of me.

I try shuffle left or right to get a better view but my feet are welded to the floor. I hear over the sound of Maps my own foot pulling away from a sticky floor as I move trying to get a view. A plastic glass arcs from the upper tier of the venue, the fourth I have counted as I begin to fume. I get an enthused text from a mate at the front and look it with a jealousness. Why didn't I get in early, I might not be this annoyed.

Bit by bit this situation plays through my mind. A third tall person pushes past - there is a constant stream of people pushing past trying to get a better view only to stop in front of me having found a solid fullness in front - and he stops. For a moment my hands tense up, I realise I'm not going to enjoy this evening.

It plays through my mind and I recall a "disagreement" with a League Two football club (who I am not allowed to mention for legal reasons) about paying £20 to be crammed into a stand by stewards who were more about forcing people into areas than about looking after safety, or experience. That night some of my mates were told that they could not sit down and had to stand in the walkways. £20 to stand in a walkway to watch League Two football. Tonight was £20.

There is no sloped floor though inside this bare, hollow "music processing facility" as there is in the Manchester Apollo and so it is inevitable that some people will get substandard views when events sell out. There is no attempt to manage the flow of the audience around the venue so people try push to the front and stop leading to the constant battle just to stand an see the stage. This is a Leeds thing though, a city where people's level of entitlement ramps to unprecedented levels, and there is no camaraderie.

Neither is there any serious attempt to stop plastic glasses flying around or at least if there is it failed miserably and has done on each of the five times I've been to this venue this year. Is this something that I should just go with as part of the fun of gigging? Some people don't think so.

On the way in one of the doormen/stewards/men in yellow jackets address another calling those coming in to the venue "Puters". Comedians, bookmakers and prostitutes call their customers "puters". Are we a joke, getting ripped off or just being fucked? Perhaps all three.

I can more afford £20 a gig now than I ever have done in my life I'm less inclined to pay it. Yes, I'm getting old although looking around "the kids" are in a minority - perhaps they spend their money more wisely or maybe they just can't afford it - but wanting to be able to have a decent chance of seeing, not getting hit by a flying glass, getting covered in beer, getting push constantly through the night. These are not unreasonable requests. Certainly they are possible at The Apollo, at The Brudenell Social Club, at St George's Hall in Bradford, at Brewery Arts in Kendal, at Town Hall in New York, at Holmfirth Picture House and at none of those places am I asked for so much money for so little service.

I'm not recalling some halcyon days of gigging though - I'm not suggesting that things were better watching The Wedding Present in '88, Happy Mondays in '92, Pulp in '96, The White Stripes in 2000 or The Radio Dept. in '04 or Laura Groves in '08 - nor am I saying that gigs should be staid, lifeless affairs where no contact is made between audience members. This is not about that.

This is about a venue that takes as much as it can from your pocket and offers as little as possible back in return. It is about a venue that once you have had your ticket ripped on the way in could not give a flying cuss about the experience you have.

£20 a person. Is it too much to ask that someone runs a mop over the floor?

Written By Michael Wood Monday, November 30th, 2009

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