Roots Report

Whale Guitar photo courtesy of Jen Long.

Okee dokee folks… Last issue’s column was about the performers; this time it’s the audience. The other day I read an article about John Mellencamp “going off” on fans for screaming and yelling during a time that was allotted for him to perform quiet, solo, acoustic songs and tell stories. Instead, some drunk, stupid folks felt it was their time to be heard. Mellencamp didn’t much appreciate this and shortened his show. The rudeness of a few folks cost the many a portion of the performance.


In the early ’90s I was at a solo, acoustic Neil Young show in Boston where many of the songs he was performing were from his not-yet-released album, Harvest Moon. The crowd was unruly and kept shouting, “Play ‘Heart of Gold’!” and other well known Neil songs. In the middle of one of the new songs he was playing Neil finally had enough. He stopped playing and said, “Do you want to hear the hits?” The crowd roared. Neil simply said, “Tough shit!” and continued playing the song. This was the first night of Neil’s two scheduled shows and I had tickets for both. I was so annoyed by the crowd that I sold my ticket for the next night. Back in the ’70s I was at a Doobie Brother’s concert and a guy in the front row (pre-barricade days) was harassing guitarist Pat Simmons and pulling at his instrument cables. Pat got pissed and whacked the guy on the head with his guitar. I later saw the guy bloodied and bandaged in the lobby.

How is it that audiences have become so rude and manner-less? It’s obviously not a new problem, but in recent years it seems to be getting worse. I have actually written about this a couple of times over the years, the last time being when the world reopened after the pandemic and audience rudeness spiked.

Last week, I was at a concert and a drunk patron was gesticulating with his beer as he spoke. It bothered my date and she stood up to avoid being splashed. I did too, but left my jacket on the seat. I looked down and it was bathed in beer. I was not happy. When I lifted it up I realized the seat was soaked as well. I didn’t want to stand the entire show. What I really wanted to do was dump a cup of swill on the idiot’s head but instead of starting an altercation that would have ended in ejection, I went to the house manager and we were given new seats.

There is also the issue of people talking over the music, constantly using their phones – talking, texting, and videoing – repeatedly getting in and out of their seats, and wearing hats or other attire that block one’s view. I could go on.

These days, concert tickets are expensive and we don’t want our music experience marred by people who don’t know how to behave properly in public. Too many adults have the manners and the beverage handling skills of a toddler. Fortunately, at some venues they put drinks in adult sippy cups. That helps somewhat with the alcohol but what about the outright rudeness? I think John Mellencamp, Neil Young, and Pat Simmons were right in their response to their particular situations. There needs to be proper audience etiquette. People should be respectful of the others that they are sharing the concert experience with and be respectful towards the artist as well. You are part of an audience of many, not an audience of one. PLEASE learn to behave. Read on…

Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland, continues to offer the best in traditional music as they bring back Genticorum, a leading voice in the evolution of Quebecois music on May 5. May 11 will offer Hanneke Cassel who fuses musical roots from Scotland and the Cape Breton Island with Americana stylings. She’ll be joined by Jenna Moynihan on five-string fiddle and singer-guitarist Keith Murphy. A 3pm matinee show on May 19 will feature local fiddler Cathy Clasper-Torch and accordion/pianist Shelly Katsh who will celebrate the CD release of their new project, With Woven Hands. Closing out the month on May 26, Blackstone River Theatre will move operations outside, behind the theater, for the first concert of their Take It Outside Concert Series featuring fiddler and folksinger Emerald Rae, who is based in Nashville, but for many years was part of New England’s fiddle scene. BRT’s Heritage Arts Studio offerings in May include Celtic stone carving, singing traditional songs, and dulcimer workshops with Aubrey Atwater, as well as many other ongoing classes that continue throughout summer. For more, “riverfolk” over to:

The Whale Guitar, a local icon in the realms of music, art, and environmental advocacy, celebrates 10 years of making waves with a free show and exhibit at Providence Public Library on April 24 at 5pm. This guitar has captivated audiences with its stunning craftsmanship, sound, and extraordinary design inspired by Herman Melville’s masterpiece, Moby-Dick. Conceptualized by toy designer and musician Jen Long, designed by renowned artist William Schaff, and crafted by a team of passionate Rhode Island artists, this electrifying guitar has made waves musically and as an instrument of change for climate justice. By re-imagining the narrative of Moby-Dick as a cautionary tale about climate change, echoed by the hundreds of guitarists who have played and signed it, it has become a beacon of environmental literacy and advocacy at music shows and festivals, and in classrooms, museums, and libraries. The event features video montages of guitarists who have played The Whale Guitar and screenings of clips from the award-winning documentary produced by Motif as well as performances by Christopher Johnson, Sharks Come Cruisin’, Avi Jacob, Jen Long, and Nashville’s shredding alternative blues singer-songwriter Fimone, with emcee Reza Clifton. The Whale Guitar will remain on view through May 30.

For more, harpoon over to:

That’s it for now. You can listen to my podcasts at Thanks for reading and listening.