The concept of an audience spread out like a fan before a stage is as old as the hills. It makes logistical sense, of course, to have an orator, singer, performer, musician, film actor or whatever in full view of the people he is addressing. But does it go any deeper than sheer layout mechanics?
Back in the late 1990s I had a dream that I was at a live gig from the future. I could tell it was not the present because the audience had by and large abandoned the floor and were instead hovering in prone position, at various altitudes above sea level. The floating punters at the top of the building (which bore a very close resemblance to the old Leeds Town and Country) were tilting their heads slightly so they could look down on the musicians who were for some reason still rooted to terra firma.
The lower-level ones (which included me) sort of swerved around a bit, like they were lying on hoverboards, and there was also a smattering of people stood in the traditional manner, on the floor. The logic of the dream told me that the floating spectators had paid more for their unique P.O.V. And my dreamy head also suggested to me that this surreal effect was achieved through an air-thickening process that turned the air to something like water.
It struck a chord because I'd had a similar dream as a small boy, while at the dentist. I was put under with laughing gas and while the dentist prodded, poked, drilled and yanked at my gnashers I experienced the most surreal dream of my young life. In it, I was stuck floating in some kind of viscous air inside a cavernous cinema building. I was being sucked slowly towards the silver screen, with a tremendous atmospheric pressure all around me. A gentle ringing sound was in my ears.
It was only when I was considering material for this blog that it occurred to me how similar these dreams, which occurred 30 years apart, had been. A bomb dropped when I thought about the two scenes: one was a music venue, presumably because I was heavily into attending gigs at that point. The earlier one was a picture house. Why not a venue? Because I hadn't yet attended a gig - but I had been to the flicks.
Eureka? Two very potent dreams, both featuring a high density atmosphere and both involving large numbers of people facing a stage.
I've been trying to work it all out. Could the viscosity of the atmosphere and head-tilting towards the stage/screen be symptomatic of my suppressed memory of birth? Was this 'me', waiting for my call to stage? Or does it run deeper still?
I've always found it hard to be part of a church service or a good gig without feeling a massive emotional tug. I once wrote a review about crying at a gig, but what I didn't say at that time was that this is a feeling I have to fight most of the time. I frequently have a massive lump in my throat when I attend live music, almost regardless of content or quality. The good stuff takes me over the edge, but even the rubbish has an effect. You will only rarely see me smile in front of a band. Most of the time I'm fighting to keep control.
Is that how everyone feels? Is there something magical about the audience/stage configuration? Is it really just people on a wooden platform with a whole load of other people in front of it? Or does it go deeper into some matrix-like place? Does any of this have to do with my predilection for mulling over life decisions when I'm in the middle of a gig? I do find the atmosphere very conducive to big thinking. The church of noise, indeed.
Oh, this is tough! I guess it's harder than I thought to say what I feel sometimes, but if any of this strikes a chord please feel free to add your thoughts. I don't know if or how any of this is connected, but hey - I thought I'd throw it out there.