4 April 2017 by victoriaknowe
Watching live music is a fairly frequent element of my life in Graz. But as with everything, concert-going becomes a little more complicated when you have a sprained ankle. Luckily I happened to be going with a friend who: A) had a car and could drive me there, and B) knew the organisers of the gig, who were able to organise a seat for me. My foot has been getting better and better but standing up for 2 hours was out of the question, so a bar stool it was.
Rock concerts and crowdsurfing, a beginners guide
In case any readers are unfamiliar with the conventions at a rock concert, it’s rather different to a traditional concert hall. Instead of everyone sitting neatly in rows, there is simply an open space in front of the stage, and you are expected to stand wherever you want, subject to someone else not having gotten there first. This usually means a crush of die-hard fans close to the front of the stage (it seems to be a law of nature that the tallest and most solid people get the spots right at the front), then the crowd gets more spread out further back, with another crush of people next to the bar (even the best song played by the world’s most popular band doesn’t drown out the siren call of beer in plastic cups). If you want to be close to the front, you have to be prepared to be squashed up against all the other people who have the same idea and it gets very hot and sticky. On the other hand, it means that you hardly need to make any effort to jump up and down in time to the music, since all the people around you are jumping and you tend to get carried along with the momentum.
At bigger concerts with more well-known bands, there might even be a barrier at the front, creating a bit of space between the front row of standing fans and the stage. There are usually bored-looking security guards standing in that tiny space watching the crowd. Their main job seems to be catching the crowd-surfers who get passed along over people’s heads up towards the stage. Crowd-surfing is another thing made possible by the crush of people. As everyone is standing so close together, people can “surf” over the top of the crowd, held up by the hands of everyone below them. If you’re standing in a crowd and find yourself being hit in the head by an elbow or a shoe, it’s probably just a crowd-surfer passing over your head, so you simply lift your hands to help them on their way. There are usually enough people around that hardly requires any effort to help keep the person aloft and everyone gets caught up in the excitement so you don’t begrudge the person their ride. Having crowdsurfed myself, I can say it’s a fantastic feeling.
You might be wondering how one gets up over the heads of the crowd in order to start surfing. I found myself wondering the same thing at one of my first rock-concerts. I asked my younger brother, who was responsible for dragging me there in the first place, and he responded with “oh it’s easy, I’ll show you.” He then proceeded to go to the nearest tall concert-goer and gestured by pointing up and smiling. The man immediately gave my brother a boost over the heads of the crowd, who were not the slightest bit fazed to have an adolescent boy landing on their heads, and responded by passing him forwards towards the stage. I asked the man for the same favour and experienced the amazing feeling of flying over the heads of the crowd, along with a brief, but excellent view of the band. Crowdsurfing was later banned at Birmingham Academy, so I’m glad have experienced it while I had the chance.
Colour Haze in Graz
Of course, crowdsurfing only really works if there are enough people crushed together to make it physically viable. The gig I attended on Friday had quite a different feeling, there were a lot of people but quite evenly spread out over the whole venue and the vibe was very laid back. When we first entered the room I wasn’t sure how I would make it to the bar (where my stool was waiting!), as crutches aren’t designed for pushing through crowds of people, but luckily my accompanying friend proved adept and making a path for me to get through to my specially-reserved stool. He must have done an excellent job because a group of guys later asked me if that was my bodyguard and whether I was a famous singer (half right).
The main band playing that evening was a German stoner rock band called Colour Haze. If you’re wondering what stoner rock is, then a short explanation would be “music that makes you feel stoned”. It’s quite psychedelic and often features distorted guitars and repetitive riffs. I often feel that the name is very appropriate, as it’s easy to get carried away into a dream state while listening to it. Colour Haze are particularly melodic. Their singer doesn’t sing on all tracks, and sometimes sings the same line as the guitar, thereby simply adding an extra instrumental sound, rather than a sung vocal line. This band really excels at starting a song very slowly and building the pace and intensity so slowly that you hardly notice it. You get carried along with their momentum, until you find yourself nodding and jumping along as they build to a climax.
Anyone interested in the band can listen to one of their albums here:
There is quite a scene for stoner rock in Graz. I hadn’t heard much about the genre before moving here, but it is very popular and there are a lot of bands in and around Graz that play within the genre.
Perhaps it was a result of the feeling created by the bands (Colour Haze were supported by another melodic stoner rock band called My Sleeping Karma) that made the gig feel so friendly. It also wasn’t unbearably loud as often tends to be the case with live gigs. While it wasn’t quiet enough to have a conversation, I at least didn’t need to use my earplugs, which was great because although they are special music-lover’s earplugs, supposed to be designed to let the music in while reducing the volume, I find that the sound quality isn’t as good when I have to wear them.
All in all, a successful outing. Looking forward to the next gig, this Saturday!