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The new rules of the game

Country Musings by Robert Loy, June 2004

Okay, listen up, there's going to be some changes made when I get to be dictator. Especially as regards concerts and live musical events.

You might want to take notes, as the penalties for non-compliance will be quite severe. There will be new rules for both the artist and the audience.

1. For the audience: no automatic standing ovations. It is polite to clap if you enjoy something. And if something is so once-in-a-lifetime unbelievably, unbearably wonderful that it literally sweeps you off your feet then, of course, a standing ovation is the way to go. But go back and reread that last sentence, my beloved subjects - it is a rare occurrence. Artists would sometimes go their whole careers without receiving one of those fabled standing O's - which is why so many of them would volunteer to sing the National Anthem at sporting events just to get a feel for what it would be like. But now a lot of y'all stand up and cheer for everything from ushers and roadies to the teeball player who popped out to shortstop and not only are you blocking my view and the view of the few others who know proper protocol, but by making the big SO as commonplace as dirt you've stripped it of all of its significance.

2. For the artist: no more phony encores. When you come out, do a set and leave without doing your two biggest hits we know you're coming back. Especially since the lights are still off and those of who have had enough couldn't get out if we wanted to. Don't play games with us or make us burn our hands with lighters. Don't force us to inflate your egos any bigger than they already are, just play your music and when you're done, leave the stage. And turn on the lights.

3. For the artist and the audience: if I go to a concert it must be because I like the way that singer sings. Makes sense, right? If I wanted to hear the guys down the street butcher a song I'd go to a karaoke bar. So why do so many talented artists stop singing and turn the microphone around and let the crowd take over? I started thinking about this when I listened to the Gatlin Brothers "Live at Billy Bob's" CD. The Gatlin Brothers have some of the most beautiful harmonies around. That is why if I'd been at Billy Bob's that night and seen Larry Gatlin quit singing and give the mic over to the crowd and let them try to handle the chorus of "All the Gold in California" I would have immediately and vociferously demanded my money back. Audience members, if they point a microphone your way, then under no circumstances should you attempt to sing. Just clam up. They'll get the hint.

Singers, please just do your job and don't expect us to help you out. Remember: we can't sing, that's why we pay you.

Thank you for your attention. Your cooperation is appreciated.

The views expressed in this column are Robert Loy's and do not necessarily reflect those of CST.