Music Notes is a Pi Arts & Culture column, curated by resident writers Livvie Hall and Martha Wright, focusing on a variety of subjects covering the past, present and future of music. In this article, Martha discusses the etiquette of crowds during supports acts’ sets.
There’s often an unspoken social etiquette of support acts at concerts. Unarguably most of the crowd buys tickets solely for the headliner with far fewer of them caring much about the supports.
Perhaps an unlikely position but I, with friends, recently went to Ally Pally for the Slaves show primarily for the support act, Slowthai. When the punk-heavy crowd actively booed off Slowthai, it resonated the difficult position and expected behaviour of support acts. With three supports lined up, there was undeniable frustration from Slaves fans. Support acts are there to fundamentally support but they’re also showing at a much greater capacity then their own tour would allow. It’s a fortunate position to be under the wing of a currently much greater recognised musician. It’s their role to recognise that most of the crowd don’t know or understand their music and don’t want anything more than an anticipatory build up. The early support came from Ladybird, one of the first bands to be signed by Slaves’ new record label. Performing a succinct, full of vigour set they received honest rally from the crowd.
Slowthai gave a sweaty, politically induced, angry set taunting the audience; “when I say fuck, you say Theresa” and riling up a mosh pit of a crowd. Stripped to his boxers and baring the gap-toothed smile that’s become so ubiquitous of his personality, Slowthai spewed repeatedly over the stage. An onslaught of abuse from the crowd proceeded his side guy to take a lot the heat and focus for the rest of the performance. There’s no denying nobody wants to see another man chunder but as he was laughing at himself there was a sense it should’ve been taken in jest by the crowd.
Coming to a close on his set, the roaring cheer when he mentioned Slaves was a reminder of the how large the crowd was despite the low-key enthusiasm we’d already heard.
The crowd was an unusual mix, from indie teens to middle aged couples, a reminder that any music can be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone. Yet despite this, a pretentious superciliousness encapsulated the audience, later continuing to further mock Slowthai’s style and music on twitter, regardless of his performance. Slaves have for a long time been advocates of equality and friendliness at their shows, inclusive of all. A matter of taste and preference, both of them passionate left wing artists but one a post-punk British duo addressing social conformities, the other subversive punk hiphop on a Brexit Bandit tour. The two performers aren’t far removed, it’s just their fans that are.
Put another 0 in your paycheck
Are you done digging your grave yet?
Put another 0 in your paycheck
Are you quite done?
‘Cheer Up London’ by Slaves
Boiler broke on christmas day
Ask Santa, ‘Why’s my life this way?’
Putting heating on my next wish list
Fuck Santa, cuz we’re cold as shit
‘Slow Down’ by Slowthai
Music snobbery to the chime of ‘what I like is better than what you like’ is a damaging epithet to the careers of many and the enjoyment of everyone else. Few people focus their attention onto one sole genre yet for some an elitist preference still resides. Their choice of music is better and therefore they have the right to ridicule and abuse a performer in a live capacity. For Slowthai, knowing the strength and passion of Slaves fans would have known the difficulty in being the preamble. He knew his performance at Ally Pally wasn’t going to be full of his biggest fans so maybe the whiting out on stage was the result of a nervous pre-drink (or 10) and was not the best first impression. But perhaps it was also not quite as deserving of the sheer hatred he received. We should support our support acts. They’ve got a harder job to try and impress the crowd and they should get our respect in the audience for that.