In the line of what I sometimes call work, I’ve been lucky to have attended hundreds, if not thousands, of gigs. Not boasting, just saying. And, even more luckily, some of those were abroad. Same caveat applies. One thing that’s often struck me is this: I have very rarely, if ever, had to queue for a drink at a gig in America or Europe. I have never stood in a toilet queue at an American festival for so long I have a UTI by the time I’ve met the sweet embrace of the portaloo. I have quaffed craft beer served by a friendly bar tender within seconds of arriving at bars. I have been served beer by a wandering bartender wearing a beer backpack and hose tap, like a boozy Nu Nu from Teletubbies. I have lived. I have been to gigs and festivals like that and – guess what – I enjoyed them.
Then we have gigs in the UK, where – all too frequently – you enter the venue, full of anticipation, surfing a wave of excitement then wipe out when you see the 10-deep bar queue. I – and you, I’m sure – can sympathise with the feather-mouthed, cross-legged Killers fans at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium who, reportedly, spent so long queuing for the toilets that they missed most of the band’s set. That’s an expensive piss right there. That’s a stadium-price piss. It’s a piss that’s so expensive it should come as a premium package that allows the ticketholder to piss directly into the mouth of their worst enemy then wipe their bits on the Turin Shroud. But it wasn’t, it was just a simple piss into a toilet at a stadium where they didn’t look after their guests enough to make sure they could have a piss.
Why do we put up with it? Why do we put up with paying over the odds for a can of Red Stripe squeezed into a plastic pint pot by a sour-faced bar tender who acts like they’re milking satan’s cow for our amusement? Why do we put up with the herding and the aggressive bag searches and the general sense that venues are somehow doing us a favour by allowing us to be there? Why do we allow someone to take a packet of chewing gum from our bag and bin it, presumably in case the micro calories prevent you from buying that overpriced hotdog that’s been rolling around on a warmer plate since Disney On Ice on Sunday and now looks like Robbie Williams’s middle finger.
Do venues wonder why their guests throw pints of piss around like chimps in the monkey house? It’s because the toilet queue is massive, the beer cost an arm and a leg and you may as well get double use out of your beverage recycled as a dirty protest projectile.
One of the beautiful things about ticketed events is a venue knows how many people are coming. So they could employ the right number of bar staff. They could pour some spare beers. They could choose never to serve cocktails that take 10 minutes to make. They could make sure they have the right amount of toilets. There are machines that pour multiple pints at the push of a button. I’ve seen them! They could get one of those. Or, you know, more than one. And the motivation for buying that expensive machine is that they would sell more beer! But they don’t, because we just put up with it.
It’s time venues were accountable for the way they treat their audiences. And please do understand this isn’t every venue we’re talking about. We hear so often about the plight of small venues, but they’re not the ones treating their audiences like lepers on the boat to the colony. It’s the bigger venues, the cocky ones, the ones who don’t think they have to try harder. You know the ones, where you’re drinking a beer brand you last saw your dad drink at a barbecue in 1996, or you’re drinking cider that tastes like it’s already been through someone’s urinary tract, and there are no pass outs and you’re stood there repeating THIS IS FUN in your internal monologue like a mantra in the hopes you can trick your stupid brain into tolerating this fresh hell until the band starts.
These venues do need to to try harder, damn it, because without you they’re nothing. Vote with your feet. Don’t put up with being treated like an animal any more. Killers fans: piss like you mean it. You have piss but you’re not to be piss-taken. Piss on their chips and serve it back to them for supper. Piss on the pitch. We’re better than this, pissheads and pissers. We’re better than this!