As I’ve grown up, I’ve become something of a secular humanist. Mostly, I believe in people. I believe every human being, by virtue of being born, by virtue of simply existing, enjoys certain inherent rights, and, because of these, deserves a certain degree of respect. A priori, from the jump: we’re all in this together, and it does no one any good to see another human, exactly like themselves structurally and biologically if not philosophically, as somehow less than. Below. Beneath.
That said, some music fans are such horrible people, self-centered, incapable of feeling shame, unconcerned whether anybody else enjoys a given show, so long as they themselves do, and these motherfuckers should be put on a rocket ship and fired into the sun.
This week, of this year, 2014, so close to its midway point, I attended an intimate concert in a glorious facility performed by Jeff Tweedy, one of my all-time favorite musicians and songwriters, and some idiot yelled out “FREEBIRD!” at the top of his lungs during a moment of quiet between songs.
An adult did this, after paying $50 a ticket.
And he thought it was hilarious!
If you are reading this and you have shouted “FREEBIRD!” at the top of your lungs while attending a non-Skynyrd, non-cover band concert at any point in the last fifteen years, punch yourself in the face as hard as you can. Ball up your dominant hand’s fist, squeeze it tight, and smack it into your temple with all the fury you can muster, drawn from every slight you’ve ever felt, because you suck. You are a shit-ass shit-heart, and you need to get better. You need to be better.
All people deserve rights and respect, yes, but those rights and respect come from all people deserving the opportunity to develop as well as they possibly can. There’s effort involved on everyone’s part, from each individual. That means trying. Learning. Growing.
Agency. Industry. Being better, more often. You. Yes, you.
Sitting in a quiet, sold-out room with 1,500 other people and being a total asshole, and worse yet a LOUD asshole, is not you being better. It is you being garbage.
Now, Tweedy allows a certain amount of crowd participation at his solo shows. People shout things out, and he responds to them with what wit and grace he can muster. When it goes well, the back-and-forth elevates what follows. The show becomes a community endeavor, an all-together-now situation. When it goes poorly, though…
And this isn’t just the “FREEBIRD!” thing. In response to that, he said he’s actually a fan of the song, thinks the solo is cool, and wonders at how awesome it would be to live in a world where “Freebird” was a new song by a young artist. I know this not because I interviewed him, but because he was forced to say so to the entire crowd when some drunk dickhead thought he’d impress his girlfriend or boyfriend or wife or husband or child or whatever by doing something that hasn’t been funny since Bill Clinton was president.
No, beyond “FREEBIRD!”, it’s about respect, about not taking advantage of a moment to make yourself feel cool at the expense of everybody else present. These people together in the room with you, enjoying quiet, emotion-packed moments with the work of a beloved musician, and that artist not only acknowledging everybody, but actually talking with us, sharing himself: it’s beautiful. Solo Jeff Tweedy shows are a beautiful thing, whether he’s playing new music with a new band he’s in with his son while Wilco is on a break, or giving most audience members what they really came for with solo acoustic versions of Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, and other things he’s been involved with over the years. He’s a consummate performer, currently as comfortable on-stage as he’s ever been. He loves the live show atmosphere, you can tell. Inside that spotlight is where he belongs.
What he doesn’t love is folks yelling prefab nonsense at him. He’s down to joust; he enjoys the parry. That doesn’t mean he’s there so you can shout dumb bullshit. At one point he made a joke about Neil Young, and it was funny, and it would’ve been fine for everyone to let it pass without continuing to shout about it, over and over, until he had to circle back and talk about it again, grimacing, wishing we could’ve left it where it was, as a nice memory of a fun, spontaneous occurrence amidst several of same.
But you couldn’t let that happen, could you, jerk-off? You had to bring it back, and then do so again, and later yell “FREEBIRD!” Let me ask you this: have you ever seen an artist make that face before? That unmistakable look of, “Come on, people, what the fuck?”
He’s there for us, mind you. ALL of us, not just you. Furthermore, no one thinks you’re funny, and you’re ruining everything.
Just as I am and all are deserving of respect, so are you, even with your ass face. Buy maybe try earning it for once, and stop bumming everybody out when there’s such a great show going on right there in front of you. You’d be shocked how awesome something can sound when you shut your fucking mouth and listen to it.
Because Tweedy, man: that dude can play his guitar, and sing the truest in time with it. Every night, he does his best to take a crowd, his crowd, us, where we want to go. Next time, please: shut up and let him.