State of the Scene: Late Shows are Just Getting Tiresome

Article Contributed by Tim Hurley | Published on Saturday, February 16, 2008

We've all been there.  It is 11:15 at the music club, and the band you have been excited to see for months still has not taken the stage.  Show time said 9:00 but you have yet to hear any music.  You give a big yawn, and look at your watch again.  Nothing.

Six beers deep into the night already, and you are beginning to think about what time you have to wake in the morning.  If you have to work the next day, or have an important function, then thoughts of how freaking tired you are going to be tomorrow start racing through your head.  You almost begin to wonder if this is even going to happen.

Finally, the band emerges at 11:45 and a sigh of relief is breathed.  "It's about fucking time!" can be heard in about three groups around you.  After getting your fix the band decides to take a set 12:55.  It is now almost 1:00 in the morning and another set is looming.  Any thoughts of having a productive next day are out the window.

The band returns at 1:30 for the final set, and you are just spent.  As much as it pains you, a bed is sounding more satisfying than another round of music.  You decide to bite the bullet and head out the door instead, because after's only Thursday night!!

For years now I have been trying to figure out why so many artists begin their shows hours after show time and minutes before midnight.  Several ideas have to come to mind, such as venue requests hoping to sell more alcohol, allowing more time for more folks to filter in, artist mindsets of partying all night and sleeping every day.  But in the end, none of it makes any sense to me.

Let me give you a good example:  Last week in Denver there was a remarkable benefit concert called the Big Easy Blowout being performed at Cervantes Ballroom in the historic Five Points neighborhood that included such music greats as Page McConnell (Phish), Russell Batiste (Meters), Papa Mali, Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green), Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, and more.  What a stunning lineup of talented musicians; this was going to be amazing.  I told my buddy to text me once the group started so I could come down and meet him for the show.  He did just 12:45am.  What the fuck?  Needless to say, I did not see the performance.

What real benefit does anyone have starting so damn late in the evening?

I really don't see how it can be advantageous for the venue.  No matter what time they get people in the door, the drinks will come.  Plus, if shows started earlier and ended around maybe 1:00, then could effectively get people out of the door by 1:45 and get their employees home at a reasonable hour.  Liquor establishments can't sell alcohol after 2:00am in most states anyway.

On the other hand, I can't see the band or artist profiting at all from starting at such times.  Wouldn't they want to finish up earlier so they can have some down time to unwind afterwards?  Not to mention that getting to bed before 4:00 every morning and waking at a decent hour the next day would probably better fit their tour schedules.  And even worse, how many potential bodies skipped out on the performance because they could not stay out so late?  I have interviewed countless live music fans (avid and passive) who have told me that they have left numerous performances early because of long running times, or have skipped out on certain acts entirely because of the late starting slots.

Let's face it folks, though many of us like to pretend we are rock stars, we just are not.  And we cannot physically afford to be so.  Most of us music fans have normal lives that involve getting up in the morning and being productive, and frankly don't always involve hard drugs that would enable us to stay up until 3:00 or later on show nights.

I know, some of the younger readers are probably saying, "Whatever old man, we love to rock out all night and it is more fun at late shows".  Well, whatever kid.  I am only thirty-two years young, and frankly I was saying the same thing when I was twenty-two.

So please, we the fans implore you musicians and venue owners: start earlier. Whatever it takes to start playing around 9:00 and finishing up around 12:30 or even 1:30 will not only be welcome, but probably healthier for everyone involved.  It will certainly allow others to be more productive, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more people attending your live shows.  Perhaps a lot less yawning as well...