I DO NOT predict a riot… a take on the music scene in England

Posted on December 13, 2008 by yankeebean

yankeebeanAnywhere you go, there are bound to be differences in what your job is like.  If  you’re a doctor in America, you spend your day fending off prescription-related-freebies and working healing-retail.  But if you’re a doctor in England, you might spend your day fussing over budgets and being not-too-friendly (since such an attitidue is often met with COMPLETELY TRANSPARENT levels of suspsicion).

I (much like peaceful yorkshire), am a musician.  A pianist, in fact.  I’m classically trained, but I play more modern music.  I make most of my living doing session work in my home studio and occasionally performing live with local bands.

I played a show last night at a University bar (which turned out to be a school canteen… glam).  I’m not complaining because I really love to play… I can usually just go to my happy-place and play for the love of it.  But I couldn’t help but leave the gig thinking about how different gigging in the States is…

And the biggest difference is (SURPRISE!) the people!  ‘The punters’, ‘the crowd’, ‘the scene’ – THE ENGLISH.

Now now now, this will not be another opportunity to rip on the English.  You might not be able to tell, but I really like English people ‘at the end of the day’.  But when you’re playing a show, the ‘I’m-going-to-appear-underwhelmed-no-matter-how-much-I-love-this-show’ attitude is MENTAL!  I can see in people’s eyes when they’re enjoying the music… it’s like there’s an enjoyment-alien trying to bust outta their chest, but it just can’t get through.  And it makes it flipping hard work for the muzo’s on stage, jumping around like caffeinated monkeys just to keep the seemingly-non-plussed masses looking in the right direction.

Sometimes at shows (when the bands I’m playing with let me have a microphone on stage… fools!!) I actually give English crowds a lesson on how to react to music if they want to show their appreciation.  It helps them to loosen up and stop taking themselves so freakin seriously.  We go through the following pointers:

  • How to clap loudly – and for longer than you might think is required
  • How to make appreciative sounds – such as ‘woo!’, ‘yeah!’, or any positive exclamation that springs to mind
  • How to ‘bop along’ – how to move to music including – tapping your foot, drumming lightly on a table, nodding your head in time to the music, or (if you’re a real renegade) wiggling slightly to the music (of which the official term is ‘bopping along’)
  • Smiling – yes, that’s right… SMILING.  I have taught crowds in the past that SMILING is a good way to show you’re enjoying yourself.  Unbelievable…

The thing is, I don’t know what it’s like to grow up English.  I grew up in a family of loud-volume and constant hand-waving-while-talking.  My family are not a shy people.  What would it be like to grown up with ‘reserve’ and ‘sensibility’ wired into your system?  I can’t even imagine…

My enjoyment alien lives his life constantly hanging out of my chest like some kind of twisted Muppet, cheering and grinning constantly at everyone and everything.

But, although it means I have to really work for it, I don’t mind guiding the English through the subtle art of expressing enjoyment at gigs.  It’s for the greater good!

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Steve Shawcross July 30, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Interesting debate here as ever :-)

    I think Howard sums it up well: Us Brits may not make rapturous noises, doesn’t mean to say we’re not enjoying your excellent music… we turn up to hear you after all ;-) We just feel don’t the need to be so expressive about it, but I can see how you may be unsettled by this.

    Paradoxically we consider it disrespectful to “whoop and yip”, especially if it’s over somebody’s performance. As the old joke goes:

    “I went to see Pavorotti the other day, he’s a miserable git. He doesn’t like you joining in, does he!”

    I thought it was funny anyway :S

  2. Howard January 9, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    > your comments are a joy to read

    How kind of you to say so, Erin! It makes me feel a bit less like Daniel in the lion’s den here! :-) :-) :-)

    > We also like to shove wars, Christian conservatism and obesity down other people’s throat.

    Ah, but even if I believed that (which I don’t), I wouldn’t say so. I am guest here, and wouldn’t want to insult my hosts.

    > Always like a good debate

    Me too, Peacefulyorkshire, but I promise always to try to remain polite and objective! :-)

  3. peacefulyorkshire January 8, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Hi Howard,
    Always like a good debate on our blog! Thanks for reading and sharing your opinions… that is what we are all about!

    Hi Erin, your comment above made me laugh… you seem to be in touch with American-ness in many ways.

  4. Erin January 7, 2009 at 3:49 am

    Oh Howard,
    your comments are a joy to read…and thanks to the “She’s not from Yorkshire” gals to always make me laugh, too!!!!
    you mentioned:
    “But thank you to those who have taken the trouble to put words in my mouth! ;-)

    Don’t you know that we Americans love to put words in other people’s mouths? So, no problem we are just doing our job! ;)
    We also like to shove wars, Christian conservatism and obesity down other people’s throat. You might as well get used to it — hehe

  5. yankeebean January 5, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    Mymymy… it’s our first mild drama on the She’s Not From Yorkshire blog!

    I’m surprised it took this long :D

  6. Howard January 5, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I was trying to explain why you might be disappointed at a lack of yipping and whooping by a British audience; I never mentioned what my own reactions to good music might be.

    Nor did I say that yipping and whooping were childish. I merely said that it was a quess of mine that Brits as a whole might find them so.

    But thank you to those who have taken the trouble to put words in my mouth! ;-)

  7. Sandra December 21, 2008 at 2:39 am

    I am going to have to agree with the above

    ‘Since when does expressing unbridled joy and enthusiasm about great music become childish??’

    Sounds like oward needs to go hear some good music.
    hehe and then yell for more. try it, you might find some joy in it…

  8. peacefulyorkshire December 21, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Hi Howie,
    Thanks for your concern– but you sound like a British public-school boy.
    you wrote
    “On the whole, the Brits do not like unjustifiable public displays of enthusiasm such as yipping and whooping. I think that they find it childish and embarrassing in a number of circumstances.”

    But The question I freely ask to you is: Since when does expressing unbridled joy and enthusiasm about great music become childish??
    Yipping and hollering at a concert has never hurt anyone I know. Its a natural thing to feel inspired…people all over the world do this, not just Americans…

    Having to keep a stiff British upper- lip in times of great inspiration is a yet another example of “conservatism gone amok” –thanks ‘Not From Around Here’ for coining that fantastic phrase… loving it!

  9. Howard December 21, 2008 at 1:34 am

    On the whole, the Brits do not like unjustifiable public displays of enthusiasm such as yipping and whooping. I think that they find it childish and embarrassing in a number of circumstances. It’s best to get used to this, or you’ll always be disappointed.

    > that whole “English/British Reserve” thing gone amok

    LOL! An unintended contradiction here? How can something be both ‘reserved’ and simultaneously ‘amok’? :-)

  10. pacificyorkshirebird December 17, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    A couple of years ago Mr. Charismatic and I were in York and saw a mass of people dressed up and ready to go to Rocky Horror Picture show. They certainly got into the fancy dress – I wonder if their enjoyment aliens managed to appear. The looked like the wanted to enjoy it. Hmmm

    OH, and at a show it Leeds there was one girl who had no problem shoving in between Mr. Charismatic and I at a show. It’s like she was desparate to get close to the stage but all she did was stand there. I almost forgot about that. Crazy person.

  11. peacefulyorkshire December 15, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Absolutely hilarious.
    When I perform as a solo harpist in the UK, I get a lot of blank stares from my audiences too… but I have noticed that its not socially correct to cat-call, whistle and yell “brava brava, encore”! So, its not done and I get caught up in wondering if my audiences like me.

    When I am performing in America though, I get waaaayy more standing ovations and flowers, whistles etc… Its much more energetic in the USA! I love performing in America… sigh. But, other classical musicians tell me that too…

  12. notfromaroundhere December 14, 2008 at 11:45 am

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with this one–it’s that whole “English/British Reserve” thing gone amok. I am constantly getting in trouble for speaking out at work–they don’t understand that I’m just venting, they don’t understand that if I complain about something I’m condemning it, and then it goes back the other way that there’s the coldness when you meet people and they’re so stunned if you’re forward and friendly. It’s the hardest part of my life here, and the reason why I end up spending more time with expats than I really would like.

  13. Iota December 13, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    I have come to see it like this. Young children aren’t afraid or embarrassed to show excitement or pleasure. They jump up and down, clap their hands, cheer. Teenagers think it is really uncool to show enthusiasm, and make an art out of suppressing any sign of interest or enjoyment.

    As adults, Americans go back to being like children. Brits go back to being like teenagers. I rather suspect the Americans are the more mature…

  14. Bobby Banza December 13, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    I know what you mean I went to see Meatloaf last week. I was bopping around on my own in the middle of a stationary crowd with huge numbers of cold eyes staring straight at me as if I was making a huge public disturbance.
    SO, British people. Arrest me. I was having a good time.

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