Neil O’Connor and friends, aka the excellent Somadrone, playing in the Unitarian Church on Stephens Green a week or so ago. I had been meaning to try the photographs there for a while, and missed out on a couple of opportunties to do so over the last year, so thanks to Neil and the Skinny Wolves boys for facilitating it.
I’m not sure about gigs in Churches though. It’s certainly a break from the norm, and you get to sit in beautiful surroundings, but it encourages an excessively sombre and reverential atmosphere which is not really the kind of thing I would tend to be looking for on a Saturday night. There is a certain class of musician for whom such hushed reverence is almost their entire raison d’etre and therefore playing in Churches is right up their alley. You often hear people enthusing about ‘the atmosphere’ at their gigs and about how the audience were so enraptured with the music that during the quiet parts that you could hear a pin drop. This is supposed to signify some sort of deep emotional, or even spiritual, connection between audience and performer – closed eyes, whispered vocals (or singing off-mike completely) – we all know the drill. Essentially they are bringing the atmosphere of the Church to the gig, so why not go directly to the Church and just do the gig there?
It’s probably not a particularly original notion to think of gigs in general as being a form of modern-day secular ritual, but to me it’s a very different ritual to the traditional Church one where people obediently and silently sit in pews. It’s a noisy, messy ritual where the audience are as important as the performers; where people can shout stuff, drink too much and behave badly; where antagonisms are not banished; where it’s about volume rather than silence, and where a potentially cathartic experience is communally created rather than dictated from the pulpit or the stage. Ok, so most gigs really aren’t like that anyway, but my point is that by taking the gig to the Church you remove the very possibility of it being like that. By making venues more like Churches, by employing the closed-eyes and hushed vocals so that pins can be heard dropping left right and centre, you reduce the possibility of it ever being like that.
Thankfully Somadrone do not engage in such shenanigans – I didn’t see Neil close his eyes once while singing. I couldn’t help feeling though, that were they not bound by the reverential atmosphere of the Church, some of the audience might have gotten up and shaken a leg now and again. The photograph above is an exposure of about 7 minutes. Thanks again to Neil and co. for setting this up for me. In spite of what it might sound like from my ramblings above, I really enjoyed the night.