On the way back home, from the successful Cleethorpes Blues Festival 2013 in Lincolnshire, I was thinking about the promoters and organizers of events and festivals. I was thinking that they have an obligation – almost a duty – to be careful about who they put into their line-up.
Some bands have very, very loyal fans. These are the bands that I call the ‘Army Bands’. Their fan-base will follow them everywhere. They will follow through hell-and-high water, through trenches, across the enemy lines. These Fan-Armies are highly motivated, well-organised, and totally dedicated.
I remember once talking to a member of the ‘Quo Army’ a few years ago. He said, “I will go everywhere and anywhere to see my band. I have traveled all over Europe with the Quo army . I spend a small fortune on concert tickets, hotel rooms, beer and food. But it is worth it to follow my favorite band.”
When I asked him why he did not get tired of listening to the same old songs played over-and-over, he said. ‘Well, that is the fun of it. We know what they are going to play. Know every word and every note. We are loyal because they are loyal. It’s a two-way thing. We love them, they love us, and we all love each other.”
I also asked him if he would like to go and see other bands play live. He said, “No, for us there is only one band. It’s just Quo. They are a part of our lives. Other bands have played at Quo events , but we spend that time meeting, chatting, getting drunk and having a good time.”
Other bands that have this same kind of blind following / loyal allegiance include (in no particular order):
- Lamb of God
- Judas Priest
You can probably think of others. They are not necessarily all metal/rock bands either. Madness has an army.
This kind of fanaticism is largely a men-only affair. The bands that the lads tend to follow are the masculine equivalent of ‘crush bands’. For many of these ’dudes’ their original dedication probably began during their school days. The tribal instinct came first. Individuals noticed that, by following a particular band, they became accepted by the mass. With the commitment that they demonstrated, there also came a sense of belonging. They became members of a special gang. A family that was dedicated to one cause. Later in life, with more money and more time to spend, that devotion could turn into an infatuation.
The biggest and strongest army is the Maiden Army. Maiden fans have literally no other band in their lives. They remain exclusively loyal to Maiden. They sleep, eat and drink the band. I went to see Maiden when they were supported by Avenged Sevenfold. The place was almost empty for the A7X performance. The Maiden Army were in the various bars (or just hanging about outside the venue), necking pints, and getting loaded.
It is this ‘hooligan element’ that slightly disturbs me. Some of these fans have a pack instinct. Sometimes they behave like football supporters. For them, the music is secondary. Following their tribe is instinctive.
It’s not about the music. The concert is mostly a chance for them to meet up with their mates, get pissed, feel that they are part of the team. They lark about. And play up. If my friend was able to buy a Season Ticket to see Status Quo play all their Away Matches – he would have been very happy.
If you are a promoter or organizer, and you become tempted to put on the kind of band that has an “army of supporters” you had better think of the consequences. Obviously, the over-riding positive factor is that those big bands sell tickets. By the bucket load. These dedicated fans become heedless when it comes to following their passion. They will spend a large proportion of their income on their overpowering enthusiasm. They will travel to the venue in large numbers. They will consume huge amounts of alcohol (and scoff) and they will also eat up a Whole Lotta merchandise. (As long as it relates to their band.)
They will fill out the crowd. It will be noisy and rowdy. The place will be buzzing. They will have a good time. This is all positive.
But there are also negative aspects. They will not be very interested in other acts. They will come and go like a herd. One minute they will all be there. A minute later, the place may be empty. Since the whole herd has moved off to a pub down the road. I’ve seen this happen before.
They can become messy. They will certainly be volatile. Because of their herding instinct, they will almost certainly present a security or safety risk. As a large single-minded crowd, they can easily bust down barriers and breach security obstacles. They may confront and overpower security officers.
Perhaps the biggest down-side is that they could put off other participants from coming out to your event at all. Their band will probably be playing Top of the Bill. So the Fan-Army will spend all day getting pissed and larking about. Then, when their band is finally on stage, the army will assault the room/field – knocking people over to get to the front. And then they will start to become more-and-more intrusive and disorderly – as their band begins to play.
The reputation of these die-hard fans ( if they have earned it, or not) will have gone before them. Others will stay away. Worrying about the disorder. Or even fearing for their safety. They might even stay away from any future events too – once they see the kind of band that are presented on the line-up. But the promoter or organizer will not notice anything is wrong at first. Because they will be busily occupied selling tickets and dealing with the burgeoning crowd.
It is only when they see the results – in the cold light of day- the damage, the chaos and the confusion – that they will understand what they might have done.
And will the event be successful in future years? Well, perhaps not, actually. Because the high tickets sales – all those lucrative sales- was just because one act was on the line-up. That will not be able to be replicated again. The Army only came to the event because their band was playing. They will never be back. Well, not unless their band is playing again.
It means that the promoters and organizers could end up having to book the same bands over-and-over. If they want to continue to succeed.
If they are not careful, they can get themselves into a cursed circle – an ever repeating cycle – of hiring the same big name band over-and-over. They might end up only booking bands that have hugely loyal ‘Go everywhere and anywhere’ followings.
And then their event becomes MaidenStock or QuoStock or RammStock.