Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

Let’s have a toast for the douchebags.

The crowd at Kanye West was just “normal”, which unfortunately means terrible.

Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 09:12


There was lots of good and lots of bad about Kanye West’s gig in Marlay Park last night. The production held back on pretty much everything. A lighting rig loomed unused. An incongruous on-stage camera tracked West around screening infrared-like visuals on a back screen while the screens to the side remained largely unused (broken?) apart from occasionally flashing Yeezy or the colour red. The tracks from Yeezus were the most compelling, even if for large sections of the show weren’t exactly engaging. You expect a superstar show from an artist of West’s stature and talent. I was there with a mate who had seen him perform the full shebang in Toronto at Christmas, complete with moving mountain, crazy monsters, Jesus’ disciples and so on. To called this the “paired down” version would be a massive understatement. But as a fan, I enjoyed it. It was weird, and cool, and had flashes of awesomeness and rambling bits.

Anyway, having just returned from Glastonbury the previous evening, I’ve obviously spent the last week in a field watching music, but it was such a jarring culture shock to go from that setting to this suburban site in Dublin. It’s actually quite annoying returning from Glastonbury and going to other gigs, because the vibe is so different and you end up comparing everything to it and sounding like a complete bore or festival snob. But the behaviour of the crowd jarred with me from the get go. Post-Glasto, it was obvious I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I was back to the grind with the mindless drunkenness that we’ve become conditioned to see as “normal”.

And it’s important to point out that the Kanye West gig really was no different from what we’ve come to think as “normal”. In fact, it was probably veering towards the more well-behaved end of the spectrum. It’s “normal” to not be treated nicely by security or bar staff – not badly, mind you, just in a borderline gruff manner. At Glastonbury, everyone is respectful and polite. It’s why people say you can’t compare it to other festivals, which is sad. It’s “normal” at an Irish show (and shows in plenty of other countries of course) for a good chunk of the crowd to be completely hammered. It’s “normal” to see a guy try to jump over a woman sitting on the ground, miss, and land on top of her roughly. It’s “normal” to see another woman completely unprompted kick a guy in the ass with massive force. It’s “normal” to see the gardai reef a guy holding a flare out of the venue. It’s “normal” to see cans of Diet Coke confiscated in case, well, I don’t know what. It’s “normal” to see young people propping themselves against bins in a state of drunkenness. It’s “normal” to see a young woman stumble past a couple who are sitting down and not even realise that she’s stood on the guy’s ankle, which he is left holding in pain. It’s “normal” to get several drinks thrown on you during the gig. It’s “normal” to see three fights within a few metres of you very nearly kick off during the show. It’s “normal” to see one young man literally throttle another and be pulled away from him. It’s “normal” to hear of subsequent incidents from your friends and on Twitter that included one guy who kept putting his hands down his pants pretending to masturbate, or another guy who thought it was cool to urinate in the handbag of a young woman beside him. It’s “normal” to be immediately put on edge at the start of the show when one of the three gardai rushing through the crowd pulls out what looks like a canister of mace from her belt on her way to respond to an incident. It’s “normal” to see lads back-chatting to gardai on their way into the site.

This is all “normal”. And “normal” behaviour at Irish outdoor shows is terrible, even when overall the behaviour at this gig wasn’t even bad. It wasn’t particularly grim. If anything, you could even stretch to say that people were well behaved given how embarrassingly low our standards are in these circumstances. But the whole thing just became amplified for me having just returned from a place where nearly 200,000 people manage to all get along, to be civilised, to have fun, and yes, to be drunk and high without invading other people’s space or causing unpleasantness.

Marlay Park was just normal. It’s not the promoter’s fault, it’s not Kanye West’s fault (although maybe if he put on an incredibly engaging show there would be something to distract people from their own idiocy), it’s not the beer brand’s fault. It’s not the venue’s fault. It’s the fault of those who think that it’s perfectly fine to act the idiot, to hit people, to get drunk, to piss everywhere, to throw pints, to fall over, to be aggressive. That’s just normal. You can say the same about how people act falling down Harcourt Street on a Friday night, or around Temple Bar on Paddy’s Day, or the levels of drunkenness at Pride, or at every gig and every club and every opportunity to get locked. That’s just how it is, that’s the “normal”. Normal sucks. Normal isn’t good enough.