Is a Lack of Crowd Interaction at a Show a Deal Breaker?

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Today’s Think Tank article is brought to you by the ursine with the divine mind (no, not the Finnish one). Our own Leif Bearikson watched some drama unfold on the twitter, and he just had to speak his piece about the absurdity.

Today’s Question: Is a lack of crowd interaction at a show a deal breaker?

Over the weekend as I was perusing my twitter and trying to keep up with the musings of my tweeps (am I doing this right?) I came across someone advocating against seeing Dragged Into Sunlight live because they ignore the crowd. Seeing as how we are only a few weeks removed from a set at Maryland Death Fest that has widely been heralded as THE show of the weekend, and a U.S. tour that I’m quite excited for, this position struck me as quite odd. I have yet to experience DiS in a live setting, so I was unaware that the band generally tends to play with their backs to the audience. No banter or calls for fist raising, just backs, drums and distortion. If anything, this actually made me even more curious about their live show and has all but ensured that I won’t be missing them.

I certainly don’t find a lack of crowd interaction to be a deal breaker in any way. Every band will go about their live show in their own way, whether it be the slew of black metal bands clad in black leather and face masks (preventing the musicians from being a distraction from the music itself) or just the frontman throwing out generalities like asking you to open up this fucking circle pit. The thing is, interactive or not, that is (obviously) completely within the band’s right. If they believe they play tighter or that being masked and ignoring the audience fits their band’s aesthetic then they can, should and probably will do it.

In the case of DiS, to feel ignored seems to be the point. They play an incredibly aggressive and abrasive brand of metal and they opt to let their music and atmosphere do the talking for them. To demand that they turn to their audience and acknowledge them for coming out of their way to the show would be to take away from that atmosphere and the music and turn that focus onto the audience itself. This, of course, isn’t the case for a band like Dillinger Escape Plan. DEP goes to the next level and actually makes the audience a part of their live show, either by allowing them on the stage with the band or by running out onto their heads. Bands like DEP are a relatively rare example of such an act, but one that absolutely needs to interact with the audience for a live show. They’re a band that thrives on it.

Now if DEP didn’t have the reputation for live shows that they do and I was going to see them for the first time, would I choose not to go or walk out if they weren’t interacting with the audience? Definitely not, but their live performances are clearly elevated by it, and it suits their aesthetic 100%. This type of showmanship just isn’t something that works for everyone, and I wouldn’t want it to work for everyone or every genre. I want every live show to be its own experience, whether it’s Mikael Akerfeldt or Frank Mullen cracking jokes, Mastodon blazing through their set with no breaks, or Dragged into Sunlight going for a full on aural assault.

Do you prefer a band interacting with you at a show? Has it ever been a deal breaker? Let me know in the comments!

  • Lacertilian

    As (I’ve probably mentioned before) my first gig was seeing Tool (supported by the Melvins) back in 2002, where Maynard hid behind a screen, only allowing a silhouette of himself to be seen. Every subsequent gig has had a more personal feel.

    Not that I minded their approach, the show was amazing, but in hindsight I think it really speaks volumes about the performers when you see more spontaneous instances of crowd interaction.

    However, I think when bands try and feign interest in the crowd it can be more detrimental than just playing the nonchalance card. Fans can smell insincerity over the beer and sweat no matter how well-practised you are.

    • Joaquin Stick

      We have something in common! Tool was my first show too, but with Isis opening. Really mad that I knew nothing about Isis at the time so I didn’t pay attention, but luckily saw them a few years later.

  • When I saw cattle decap and cannibal corpse last year they had soreption opening for them. They kinda just acknowledged the crowd was there and named the song they were gonna play next. Otherwise they just stood there and played their shit. Honestly kinda ruined the band for me.

    • Coprolytic

      I caught the same tour and actually wasn’t sure which band you were talking about at first. CC is pretty stoic. But yeah even down to the old fashioned microphone, I thought Soreption tried a little too hard and didn’t deliver.

  • Dubbbz

    I think I’d prefer a band having their back turned to me than the Robb Flynn, “How the fuqq are fuqqers fuqqin fuckin tofuqq?” model.

    • I’m with you on that one. Less talk, more play.

      • Dubbbz

        I just feel most stage banter is pretty forced. “This is the best show on the tour!” “Let me see a pit!” “This one’s for Dimebag!” Kill me.

        Barney from Napalm Death is a welcome exception. He’s a funny dude.

        • Poseur Diposeur

          I saw them last Sunday at Rock al Parque in Colombia, and it was really funny because he gave his usual speeches about politics/dignity etc. to hundreds of thousands of excited fans who had absolutely no idea what he was saying.

          • Dubbbz

            His banter may work better in a more intimate setting. When i saw them, it was in a jank little dive here in town. At one point he bent over and kissed this other bald dude on the top of the head then chuckled, “S’all fun and games, innit?” or something equally British.

          • Poseur Diposeur

            I thought it worked great, and he had some charming self-deprecating remarks about his limited Spanish as well. He is a charismatic motherfucker for real

          • This happens with every international show coming here.

            Nobody understands them. really.

        • Dubbbz

          Edit: Barney. I’m an idiot.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            Feel The Barn

        • Agreed. I just came to watch the band play their songs. The forced banter ruins the flow of the set.

        • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

          Kalmah’s frontman is fun too, as is Omnium Gatherum’s. Both are very un-metal-like and casual. A lot of their verbal wit is probably lost on foreigners though, I fear

        • more beer

          When is there not movement at a Napalm Death show?

          • Dubbbz

            Approximately 3 seconds between songs.

          • more beer

            Or 3 second songs!

          • Óðinn

            New Titans on the Block was fuckin great.

            https://youtu.be/jw_Ob9Wye18

        • Waynecro

          Jeff Walker from Carcass is usually pretty funny also.

    • Poseur Diposeur

      Agreed, his lengthy digressions are extremely obnoxious. I just came for the metal dude, play said metal.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      I hate that shit too. “WHAT’S UP MOTHERFUCKERS LET’S GET THAT FUCKING PIT GOING I WANT TO SEE EVERY MOTHERFUCKER IN THE FUCKING ROOM GOING FUCKING CRAZY YOU FUCKERS”

      • Joaquin Stick

        *plays ballad*

        • Dubbbz

          *holds up cell phone to show solidarity with Dime*

          • CyberneticOrganism

            *gets pull*

        • CyberneticOrganism

          Man, I wish I could find that old video of a Godsmack clone band saying basically what I typed above, then introducing their next song as an attack on “fake musicians” who played Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Holy shit it was hilarious.

          • Dubbbz

            Was it 2 Cents?

          • CyberneticOrganism

            “Stygian” I think

          • That drummer/signer can really pull off the live show. Seen them open in 07 maybe?

          • Eating Frisbees In Pyongyang

            I love Sully’s solo stuff, though. Way different and far better than anything he’s done with Godsmack.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rltZSwe_jqI&index=1&list=PLVuaLtw66Zju9aply8lkhIrzCmS9nUajb

          • Please see yourself out. lol

          • Eating Frisbees In Pyongyang

            OK, but it’s gonna take me a while to get to the door with my pants down.

          • Cowboy Dick

            Damn son. that’s cornier than a corn field and half of it’s owner’s turds. I reckon.

      • more beer

        Chances are if they have to ask. They are ding something wrong.

      • Eating Frisbees In Pyongyang

        Once you hear a band say that, you know right off the bat that they’ll be jumping up and down in synch, and are most likely nu metal or metalcore. It’s a 365 Days Of Horror video breakdown ready to happen.

      • Óðinn

        Some people should not be allowed to interact with other humans.

        https://youtu.be/cxQk3DC3gL0

        • CyberneticOrganism

          Yikes. YIKES.

        • Eating Frisbees In Pyongyang

          “But but but it was an isolated incident at the Dimebag tribute!” -Phil fanboys

          • Óðinn

            If only. Sadly, Phil has a history of making racist comments and then apologizing later when he’s called out for it.

    • John Joseph of Cro-Mags gave a lengthy diatribe on how 9/11 was an inside job and I just wanted to self-immolate rather than hear it.

    • Having been to more hardcore shows than I can count, you are guaranteed to be subjected to this banter from every single band’s singer along with countless thank yous and shout outs to people you don’t know.

    • InfinityOfThoughts

      But you cant getcha pull without that!

  • Megan Alexandra

    Bands just perform their own show. For some that means no interaction, for others that means banter, but for all (generally) you know they’ve been doing more or less the same show on every stage they’ve been on before they got to where you are. I don’t feel cynical or like that’s a bad thing, because they’re up there doing their job. Interaction goes both ways though and what IS a deal breaker for me is a shitty crowd. Not gonna go on a huge tangent but I decided to see a local show recently and all I can say is, I’ll take a band with their backs to me any day over a crowd with their backs to the band. That kind of shit energy just permeates a room.

  • Abradolf Lincler

    its gotta be better than getting spit on and have blood thrown all over you, a la YAITW.

    . . . i mean, im trying to drink a beer here.

    of course, im always at the bar, not at the front, so id really just prefer your band didnt sound like shit

    • CyberneticOrganism

      beer + blood = burbling

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Is that DIS video a live performance? If so, that looks fucking awesome. I wouldn’t want that atmosphere broken by “How’s it going tonight, Cleveland?! Make some noise! I SAID MAKE SOME NOISE LOLOLOL”

    I’ve never once found myself caring about crowd interaction, but I think how much you can expect depends on the genre.

  • Pagliacci is Kvlt

    Saw them last Saturday in Ithaca. Great experience. No crowd interaction needed at all.

  • To formally respond to the questions posed, I feel like as a concert goer, you can either be a fan of the band playing and or not a fan of the band performing. Either scenario will likely drastically dictate whether or not a lack of crowd participation will affect your “good time” at a show. If you are a fan of the band, it might not be as big of deal if the band is not interacting and conversely if you are not a fan of the band it might then be a deal breaker. Seems as though for any band that they likely better be on top of their game with regards to interaction, or else they risk turning people off.

    For me, I tend to only go to shows were I am an fanatical about the artist. So, either case does not matter much to me.

    GL

    • Furthermore, I really do not like having a too intense crowd participation. I hate being confrontational. So I pretty much get lit up pissed whenever I get pushed around. Pretty much not any fun. I would much rather stand and gawk. Gawking>>>>

      • Waynecro

        I’m with you, dude. I always cringe when bands want the entire audience to do anything.

        • if the frontperson can’t get the crowd to mosh or circle-pit after the first song, it’s not going to happen with any future song. give it up

          • Waynecro

            I thrash around to my favorite bands at home all the time. When I see a band live, I just want to watch them. I may never have the chance to see the band again, so I want to enjoy (and hopefully create lasting memories of) the experience.

          • then you should record every show you attend with a cell phone! that’s what i see lots of cool kids doing these days, and it looks imitate-able. let’s join them.

          • Waynecro

            That’s risky, man. I heard that if you film too much or take too many photos of the band at concerts, the astral projection of Danzig shows up and kicks you around until you leave the venue in shame.

          • BobLoblaw

            Id take that over him singing at me.

        • Joaquin Stick

          Oh man, that reminds me, I forgot exactly what band it is… but it’s a djenty band like Monuments or something, and they included a live bonus track on an album that included one of those full audience participation things. I think I remember him telling everyone to sit down or something, then pop up when the beat hit? It was so fucking cringy. Forever immortalized on a widely released live track.

          • Waynecro

            I saw Skinless many years ago, and the singer asked the audience to split in half. Then he asked both halves to crash into one another. I did not participate and therefore did not get injured.

  • RJA

    I prefer less interaction – in concerts and in life. Except for anonymous interacting on metal blogs.

    • brokensnow

      you and a dozen others, bruh.

  • I missed the DIS tour that came through this past Friday because coodinating 1-3 other grown ass men is a project in itself (some don’t respond to invites/emails which is the worst thing you can possibly do). I would’ve liked to have seen them since its a different approach compared to other acts. I actually prefer when a band rips through a set and lets their music do the talking. i don’t mind the bands that do interact with the crowd, but the ones that tell the audience what to do are just making obvious gestures, the crowd is there to do that anyway and the music should be plenty to get the desired reaction if the songs are good enough.

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    Missing Dragged into Sunlight when you have a chance would be doing yourself a DiSservice.

  • Eating Frisbees In Pyongyang

    Kraftwerk is a perfect example of not interacting with crowds, and still putting on an amazing show. And their interviews are super short.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Js-dxl1BKc

  • sweetooth0

    Can confirm, Dragged Into Sunlight was epic live. I loved how they kept it almost totally pitch black other than the cool candel holder in front of the stage and a strobe light. We met a guy near the end of the fest that told us he had a panic attack at the show. They were incredibly intense!

  • dan

    DiS are amazing live, and a totally weird experience, and the back-to-the-crowd thing totally works for them.

    • Welcome to the Toilet, bud!

      GL

      • dan

        ty 🙂

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Hello dan!

      • dan

        Hey, how’s things?

        • Señor Jefe El Rosa

          Pretty good. Work schedule limits my time on the toilet, but I’ll get over it. How are you liking it here?

          • dan

            Good, seems to be an actual interested in the music rather than clickbait rubbish, so that’s nice:)

          • Señor Jefe El Rosa

            That is what we’re all about! and the occasional lolbuttz post.

          • dan

            Hah, I’ve no problem with the odd lolbuttz, the article-that-doesn’t-have-anything-to-say articles are more my peeve 😛

          • Señor Jefe El Rosa

            Totally understandable!

  • Pentagram Sam

    I really like it when there’s high quality interaction from seasoned frontmen / frontwomen (hereby referred to as a gender neutral “frontdudeperson”). One of the things on live albums that I dig are the singalong parts in songs and the intensity of the crowd doing the “hey hey HEY HEY HEY” parts during a driving rhythm (the heavy pounding riff in Priest’s version of Green Manalishi)

    Guys like Ronnie Atkins, Tobias Sammet, and Bruce Bruce are really good at this.

    When it comes to groups with NO interaction, the atmosphere has to be right. I too would rather see a band like Dragged Into Sunlight with their backs turned but the aesthetic of the music lends itself to this performance.

    This is a world of difference tho from amateur hour neckbeards wearing khaki shorts who stare at their feet and shuffle nervously and mumblefart into the mic to like their facebook page after the fourth song.

  • Edward/Breegrodamus™

    The Dillinger Escape Plan put on an insane live show.

    • Dubbbz

      Ed, I was supposed to see them shortly after the release of Ire Works, but the venue they book got temporarily closed down because of some incident at the Chippendale’s show.

      • Edward/Breegrodamus™

        That stinks. If you should get the opportunity again, pounce on it.

    • I was fortunate enough to see them multiple times before Greg joined and they were even more insane then. They’d be swinging their guitars around and sometimes people in the audience would get hit. Good times.

      • Edward/Breegrodamus™

        I’ve heard and read about that! I guess they used to employ fire breathers (which clubs made them stop doing) and many members of the band got sports-like injuries from performing!

        • Think I saw fire breathing once. They were playing in much smaller venues that were packed with people. Once they started playing, the place just went nuts.

    • Leif Bearikson

      I love that they start that particular show with Greg running on the crowd’s head.

  • Hans Müller

    German band Die Ärzte are rather famous for their on-stage banter. While not always involving the audience, it will make people (and the band themselves) genuinely laugh, to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if that was at least part of the reason for someone wanting to see them live. I certainly enjoyed their live album a lot for that reason.

    Can’t really think of an English-speaking equivalent to this, although Blink-182’s live album was hilaaaarious when I was about 13.

    But yeah, as others have said, it’s harder to kill a show through lack of interaction than through interaction that sucks.

  • Edward/Breegrodamus™

    I actually prefer less audience interaction come to think about it.

  • Eating Frisbees In Pyongyang

    Audience interaction does make for some of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. Best live show I’ve ever seen was Mago De Oz at the Aragon Ballroom. A few hundred people in a circling mosh pit, and if someone fell (I did multiple times), you pick them up and they pick you up. The band was, as is the usual for Mago De Oz, bouncing all over the place, with said mosh pit in action, and cups of beer and water bottles flying from the balcony. With the opening bands included, it was 3 hours. Second time I saw them, not quite so much.

  • Coprolytic

    For bands that create their own atmosphere, I think “ignoring” the crowd is sometimes a way of actually being more intimate with the audience. Jucifer and many drone/sludge bands come to mind. The audience is invited into their world of sound, and they don’t want to ruin that relationship by babbling about merch. Other bands put on a real “show” and need separation from the audience; they are the entertainers and here to do their shtick. For that kind of group, the relationship is different and they need to interact.

  • Kyle Reese

    Whatever works for the band’s performance. Don’t do what DevilDriver did – start shouting about some perceived need for a revolution and then asking me to get on one knee to pray for Dimebag.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    I like how you described everything. Good points all around. Cheers, Mr. Mustache Bear!

    • Señor Jefe El Rosa

      Oh and just to clarify… I do enjoy audience involvement, but lack of it is definitely not going to stop me from seeing a band I enjoy.

  • brokensnow

    Reaping Asmodia had one of the worst sets ive ever seen from a signed touring act. The silence was deafening after their set.

  • Ted Nü-Djent ™

    Nailed it

  • InfinityOfThoughts

    From a performer stand point, when my vocalist banters with the crowd it gives me a chance to wipe my sweaty face, clean my bass strings and take a sip of beer or water.

    That being said, there’s such a thing as too much banter. If you want a comedy show, go somewhere else. But some interaction I find allows the people on stage to connect with the audience. It makes it more personal. But, if you play 2nd wave worshiping black metal while wearing hoods, it fits your aesthetic to NOT interact.