I daresay that people have always nattered through concerts, but have generally been drowned out by the sounds being pumped out of the massive speaker stacks. Extensive internet research (Wikipedia) indicates that glam rock ubergods Kiss are the current record holders for a public performance at an ear-bleeding 136 decibels, which is roughly the level of noise generated by a commercial passenger jet taking off.
But more recently, especially since the fun abatement police armed with their tripod mounted decibel monitors started pitching up at festivals and other open air events hell bent on reducing noise levels to preserve the peace and tranquillity of Middle England (and its owls, bats and tree frogs), the sound of inane chatter has become increasingly intrusive.
Two recent examples of this spring to mind. In June, I acceded to a request from my better half to go and see "posh lightweights" Keane at the National Pinetum at Bedgebury. Keane are not one of my favourite bands (see my forthcoming rant on middle class kids trying to to be "street") but Bedgebury is a nice setting and it is local, so why not? Keane are actually all right live – their tunes are quite catchy and recognisable and they are good musicians. I was happy to stand there and listen politely along with the Hackett polo shirted Nigels and Guys and their pashmina enshrouded Alice band wearing girlfriends and wives with their Stowells of Chelsea wine boxes and Marks and Spencer variety dips. It beat staying in and watching Friday Night with [the odious, talentless, foul mouthed, overpaid egotist] Jonathon Ross [see forthcoming piece on him and his ilk]. And it was a nice summer evening.
So why, then, having paid £40 a ticket and having travelled out into the middle of nowhere and waited patiently to see the band, did these braying idiots feel the need to talk VERY LOUDLY all the way through the set? Not about the band or the music but about how much Annabel's wedding cost, what a hoot Charlie's stag weekend in Padstow was, and so-and-so's this-that-and-the-other. Absolutely no interest in the music whatsoever – in fact one of them wasn't even facing the stage. So what is the point? Why didn't they save themselves £40 a head and go to the pub? Presumably so that they could brag to their mates that they had been to see Keane and that they were "amaaaaazing".
Well the only thing that was "amaaaazing" was that someone didn't turn round and punch one of them on the chin (assuming he could have found it).
Mind you, talking through music performances is not the exclusive preserve of middle aged upper class twits. I went to the Hop Farm Festival in July (see forthcoming pieces on badly organised music festivals/pointless health and safety rules and regulations/ why people with an IQ of less than 100 should not be allowed to wear high viz jackets and/or be in charge of crowd control) and suffered the same fate. I had already decided to move forward closer to the stage through various trip hazards (picnic rugs, picnic chairs, comatose teenagers covered in their own vomit etc) in an attempt to hear the the dulcet tones of the lovely Laura Marling over the thumping techno beat emanating from the Fun Fair that someone, incredibly, had thought would add to the ambience of what is mainly a folk/folk-rock festival.
And there they were again. Only this time younger, drunker and more obnoxious. Nigel and Guy's younger selves on a day trip down from Clapham, but with the same misguided sense that people had paid £60 a head to come and listen to them talk about how drunk they had got on Charlie's stag week in Vegas, who had shagged the chief bridesmaid at Annabel's wedding and guffawing deafeningly as Torquil got his tackle out and urinated into his beer glass.
No interest in the lovely Ms Marling and no consideration for anyone who – more fool them – had actually turned up because they wanted to listen to the music.
Contrast this experience with what is undeniably the best music festival on the circuit - the Latitude Festival in Suffolk. People who make the effort to get there do so because of a genuine interest in the music and the atmosphere is fantastic as a result. Once you have actually found the place and gained entrance to the site (don't get me started) it is hard to fault anything about it. Unless you are female and need a poo....