Tale of Two Concerts
Jerry Lucky Commentary November 2012
Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2012 All Rights Reserved
I recently had the opportunity to see a couple of concerts with my daughter in Seattle. She
wanted to see The Newsboys and I wanted to see Neal Morse. Both bands were of a Christian
persuasion playing on the same weekend so it seemed like a great idea. After it was all said
and done, it was actually a spectacular decision.
What a fun weekend that was…full of some great music.
Musically these bands are not that similar, although they’re both on the rockier side of things. The Newsboys played to a crowd of roughly 2000 or more, while Neal Morse played for just under 200. What a difference that was. There is something electrifying getting a room with a couple thousand people who all jump up all at the same time to the music. That’s a real rush. By the same token it was amazing being at Seattle’s Experience Music Project and standing anywhere in the room so small you could see Morse’s facial expression. It was so intimate. Standing up in the balcony we were almost on top of the band.
In each case the audience that was there, knew the band’s catalog and more than a few were inclined to stand-up and sing along. That’s to be expected. Is it distracting, sure, but I have to say to myself not everyone experiences or appreciates music the same way that I do. What’s good to see is how music can move people to such heights. More than once or twice at each show I was moved tears as the music and the lights and the sound all collided in a wonderful kaleidoscope of emotional expression.
Some will ask, was I disappointed that Neal played to such a small crowd, and to that I’d probably have to say sure. I’m really glad I was able to experience him and the band (including Randy George and Mike Portnoy) in such an intimate show, but sure it would have been nice for more people to experience it as well.
Which got me wondering why was there such a discrepancy in audience size? You would think that in Seattle, a very musical town to begin with, there would be more than 200 people who would want to come out and see Neal Morse or hear Mike Portnoy? Fact is I’m sure there are, and I’m also sure most of them didn’t even know Neal Morse was in town. You see the Newsboys had posters, ads in the music rags, radio spots, everything. If we had just been in town for the weekend, driving around listening to the radio, we would have heard that the Newsboys were in town.
As for Neal Morse…cue the crickets chirping. Nothing. You know as I think about trying to remember how I heard about the concert, it was quite by accident. You want to hear something, and this will kill you. Just before the show I’m at Silver Platters, the biggest and best record store in Seattle. Its two blocks away from the EMP where the concert is. I’m buying the new Morse CD Momentum and as I go to the till I’m wondering, is he going to say, “oh hey did you know Neal’s playing just down the street tonight?” What do you think? Nothing! Cue more crickets. It’s totally maddening.
As an advertising guy, I hate to say this but we prog people don’t seem to have a clue about what it takes to reach the masses. We’re transfixed with the internet and word of mouth and as a result we speak to a very small, cloistered little world. We’re all about “preaching to the converted.” Wait you say…we can’t afford radio commercials. Yeah but you know there may have been a radio station who might have simply wanted to be on sight in exchange for tickets. Perhaps it’s because mass media has been so cruel to prog that we shun it…but really folks, even in this heightened age of technology, traditional radio is still king for spreading the word on new music. The vast majority of even the youngest MP3 users still relay on radio to determine what songs they should download to their MP3 players. Enough about radio.
I’m a huge fan of music posters. I collect them. I saw nothing for Neal Morse. Not a single poster.
But you know this was even the case when I was at CalProg in Los Angeles. We could hardly get 400 people to fill the Whittier Theater, while that very night Mars Volta played to over 6000. That made me mental but you can see the parallel.
Now until all of us prog fans become telepathic so that we can magically transmit the date and time of the concerts we want others to know about, we’re going to have to get with the program. Another words, step away from the computer and get out and do something in the community…on telephone poles, on radio, at record stores, anywhere where people might be congregating.
Having a vocal minority that spreads the word friend to friend is great, we don’t want to lose that, but if that’s all we’re relying on to spread the word of prog, don’t expect to see much growth in the genre beyond our current borders. Even most record stores don’t help promote prog with a section. The least we could do is put a poster up in the store. Unless we want to maintain the status quo we’re going to have to start doing things differently. At least that’s what I think.