Chairs ruin rock concert experience

I know I might sound like a teenage girl for saying it, but here it is: I love Relient K. On my scale of greatness, they are a few steps above Abraham Lincoln. But when I saw them in concert Thursday night at the Township Auditorium, I was thoroughly disappointed.

It wasn’t that they put on a bad show — to the contrary, they played enough Christmas songs and Tears for Fears covers to satisfy my tastes — but the venue itself let me down.

The culprit? Chairs.

If you are under the age of 50 years old and attending a rock ‘n’ roll show, it is expected that you will not be sitting down during the performance. I can understand the need for seating at classical performances, operas and the like, but if I were onstage pouring my heart out with a guitar, I would be highly offended to see people resting on their posteriors.

Yet that is precisely what was happening at the Township, a large concert hall replete with cushioned chairs and balconies. During the opening act especially, audience members were sitting down, sending text messages and generally ignoring the performers, who were actually fairly impressive.

My advice to the Township Auditorium’s event coordinators: Ditch the chairs. The seats on the lower level were not attached to the floor, and if they had been removed, the entire audience could have stood comfortably. Nobody would have been stuck in a balcony seat.

A rock show should not be an orderly performance with ushers and comfort zones. It should be a swarming, sweating mass of humanity. Short people should be pushing their way to the front of the crowd, and tall people should be helping them through. People should be dancing until their legs hurt. Ears should be ringing and fists in the air.

Throw some chairs into the mix, and none of this takes place. What you get is an experience only slightly more exciting than seeing a movie in a theater.

In Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, there were two options for audience members: the stadium-style gallery seats, which cost two pennies, and the ground-level “pit,” which cost one penny and offered no seats. I would sell a major internal organ to be in that pit, to stand close enough to be showered in the actors’ spittle.

Rock concerts should follow the one-penny model. They should be crazy, egalitarian gatherings of screaming peasants. An aloof seat above the fray is hardly an appropriate position for taking in the blasts of the drumbeat, the squeal of the guitar and the thunder of the bass.

Case in point: New Brookland Tavern. The place is a dump, but I’ll take a show there over one at the Township any day. It’s messy, it’s loud and it puts everyone right in front of the stage. If you sit, you will be trampled.

And that’s exactly how it should be.

Paul Bowers The Daily Gamecock U. South Carolina U-Wire