Rights to Creative Expression in the Live Atmosphere

Last Monday, I finally had the joy of seeing the shoegaze powerhouse known as Whirr perform. Lately, they’ve been including some sort of industrial massive haunted house caliber efficient fog machines to their show, and was able to fill the Neighborhood Theatre with a fog as thick as pea soup* (*see Scooby Doo episode where they eat fog), to the point where the fire alarm was set off, the venue was evacuated and, yes, the fire department made a special guest appearance pushing the show back about an hour and a half while they had to air the venue out. For me, I loved every minute of it, almost to the point where if the show got cancelled, I couldn’t be mad, one moment I’m listening to their soundcheck while playing a70s arcade shooting game, the next the venue is evacuated because of Whirr. People unfamiliar with Whirr’s uncaring attitude, up’d and left the show as the fire trucks pulled up, but I’d have to say a majority of the crowd stayed and wanted Whirr to at least mildly re-fog the venue. Alas, the owners did not allow this, but Whirr pressed on and played mind-blowingly loud and incredible show. Moving on to the next day they continued on with fogging the Atlanta venue, The Drunken Unicorn, apparently the most brutally thick one yet to the point, where the bartenders couldn’t take orders or do anything, leading to the promoters sending immature and ridiculous Facebook messages about them being blacklisted from the Unicorn for doing something so inconsiderate, to Whirr’s response of being limited by them the entire night when it came to sound check, they couldn’t be as loud as their tour rider said they would, while they still performed fog and all (my friends there said it was incredible), the venue managers had the audacity to censor their performance, both visually and audibly. The issue in writing this goes to question, how we censor artists’  live expression, a form that can at times be more important than the music itself. I’ve seen countless bands whose music doesn’t interest me in the slightest, but if they throw a rad show, I have nothing but respect for them. Seemingly independent and punk venues are starting to lose what makes them interesting in ways like this, in his message to Whirr, the manager at the Unicorn kept citing how they lost money without referencing that the punk community by definition is an almost unsustainable model, bands on tour in the punk scene don’t profit that much relative to their time and effort, promoters in the DIY scene lose money almost every show, so why is it that now, venues trying to be punk are limiting what makes the atmosphere so unique. The Joyce Manor ripple of last year when the vocalist Berry, turned anti-stage diving in the middle of a show, causing bands and venues across the country to follow suit. Whirr getting blacklisted from venues for fogging the venue to the point of blindness, which is exactly what I want at a shoegaze show. Now if these limitations on expression occurs in seeming punk venues, I can’t imagine the limitations on bands playing larger House of Blueses, Fillmores or even venues. We’ll see how the rest of the year turns out with bands and venues butting heads over what they should and shouldn’t do, but as bands in the punk community continue to play larger and larger venues, I’m sure more limitations on their individual performances will be pressed upon them.