I don't get it!

Today was day one of Guilfest 2011, and I’m sitting in a pub enjoying a quiet drink, reflecting on the day. There was good music, some questionable refreshments, and a whole lotta people. I know this post is probably going to make me sound like I’m too old to be going to festivals, and I’ve observed this curious behaviour in the past, but today obviously triggered something because when I sat down to make some notes about the day, this is what came out.

I got crushed at least three times today, but there were three specific occasions that frustrated me enough to wonder why people do it. The first was when Echo and the Bunnymen were playing (and they were pretty good), and the second was when Roger Daltrey (not worth seeing if you ask me) came on. But those were nothing compared to the third time, which was while waiting for Adam Ant (massively overrated) to make his entrance. It really didn’t help when the start of his act involved five minutes of “atmospheric buildup” (air quotes) before he actually appeared, during which there were various yells of encouragement from the crowd, and not all of them were positive! And when he finally did show up they went nuts – AND TRIED TO SURGE FORWARD. I can’t think of anyone I’d want to see in real life to make that a worthwhile experience.

First comes the gap-fillers. I have my large camera bag with me, so when I plan to be in one place for a while I take the ten kilo backpack off my back and put it on the floor between my feet. It’s not small so it sticks out a bit, and this makes it look like there’s a person-sized gap in front of me. Obviously there isn’t, much to people’s disappointment when they try to fill it. Some of these gap-fillers, well most to be honest, rather than returning from whence they came proceed to push me and my bag backwards until they find themselves snugly sitting in a gap made just for them!

Then you get the parents. I’ve only experienced this one right next to the barrier in front of the stage, and it goes something like this…

  1. “Can little Jamie squeeze in so he can see?”
  2. Taking pity on the little chap, people make some room to let him in.
  3. Parent then proceeds to push further forward until they’re sat next to Jamie citing a need to supervise said youngster.
  4. End result? Parent gets a front-row position and any half-arsed effort to justify this manoeuvre (Jamie on their shoulders or holding them in place on the barrier) lasts all of five minutes until little Jamie loses interest and starts playing games on said parent’s phone. Meanwhile the parent does little to supervise him, what with them being too engrossed in the on-stage performance.

Note that I don’t discount the possibility that Jamie really did want to see what’s going on, but there’s a set of body language attributes that don’t suggest that’s likely.

Then there’s the funny-til-it’s-a-problem type. Typically a drunk middle-aged bloke, but not always. He’s the one who’s enthusiastically dancing along with no appreciation of his surroundings, especially the people around him. Sometimes there’s air instruments involved; guitar, drums, or something else with an indescribable shape and method of noise production. I even experienced a guy at a Toniks gig who was directing the band: pointing at band members when they started playing, and motioning them to stop just after they had actually stopped. He was pure genius! Anyway, they tend to get given a wide berth due to flailing limbs and inspired footwork.

Finally there’s the group surge. I’m not sure where these start (I’d guess somewhere near the middle of the crowd) but they seem to gain momentum exponentially. One small push becomes an unstoppable crushing motion by the time it reaches the front. Unsurprisingly the front pushes back (shout out to Newton), although I’d guess that’s usually a function of the barrier rather than the members of the front-row, so the initiator(s) may get a minor step forward, but it’s really a negligible gain which ultimately forces everyone else to get even more cramped.

Which brings me back to my question. What is it that causes people to lose all sense of respect for their fellow human beings when it means they could be two feet closer to a small number of particular fellow human beings? And had they run out of that component when my brain was being assembled, because I just don’t get it.

Twenty-three feet instead of twenty-five.

Eight feet instead of ten.

Are they expecting some sort of personal connection to begin with the artist(s) due to the lack of two feet of empty space? The artist(s) who sees them as one in a crowd of hundreds or even thousands?

And even if they perceive a look, a nod, a smile or even a wink in their direction, what does that single, subjectively perceived moment really mean to them?

I just don’t get it!