When the performer is great, but the venue is not…

I had been meaning to write this post for a week or so now, but kept putting it off. I suppose it’s time I put it down, especially as I’ve already said something similar in a Live Nation survey.

Back on March 26th, Jennifer and I went to go see Stephen Lynch at the House of Blues here in Houston. While we had been to the House of Blues once in the past, this was our first time going there for an actual concert event. Jennifer has been a fan of Stephen Lynch for as long as I have known her; to give you an idea of what his music is like, here’s his song “D&D”.

All of his music is in pretty much the same vein: comedic pieces done in an acoustic style.

All in all, Lynch’s performance was excellent. He was hysterically funny, and his musical impressions of people like Scott Stapp of Creed were spot on. About the only song we didn’t like was one did by one of his backing musicians, and that was because it went over the line into some serious squick territory. We thought he did a perfect job, and if it stood on its own, it would have been an excellent night.

However, the actions (or inaction) of the House of Blues staff made it a very unpleasant night for us. In fact, we have decided not to go to any more events at the House of Blues because of this one night.

To give a bit of perspective, we were in the balcony over the stage, which was the only place where one could get seating. The main show floor was standing room only, and as the two of us are starting to push 40 and are a bit out of shape, we’re not up for spending an entire evening standing up. We could see the stage, but there were two screens at our level on either side of the stage which also gave a closer view of what was happening on the stage. However, the camera pointing at the stage was not adjusted at all during the performance, so for the first fifteen to twenty minutes we couldn’t see Lynch at all, as he was on a keyboard on the far left of the stage just out of the camera’s view. Several people were shouting that the camera was aimed badly, yet nothing was done. In addition, when the middle screen was needed for the song “Juggalo”, it didn’t come down right away, and the projection didn’t start working until nearly a minute into the song.

Security wasn’t present during the performance, either. There was a group behind us and to the left, in a VIP section, that was loud, obnoxious, and falling-down drunk. I don’t suppose that would be a problem in a concert with electric instruments, but as previously stated Lynch’s backing instruments are mostly acoustic with the exception of a keyboard. At this concert, they were so disruptive that they were visibly and audibly angering people around them, to the point where people were telling them to be quiet. They were so bad that they should have been thrown out. Instead, when I DID see them escorted out, it was after the show and they were being escorted to a meet-and-greet with Lynch. We also saw someone smoking weed during the performance. “Big deal,” you might think. “People smoke weed at concerts all the time.” House of Blues is a far smaller venue than many others in the Houston area, and this person was very obvious. He was sitting in the front row of the balcony and blowing his smoke over the stage. In fact, Jennifer and I were on the other side of the balcony and could see who it was, and his smoke was rather distracting as it billowed over the stage. Again, security did nothing. (For the record, smoking in bars and other venues like House of Blues is illegal per city ordinance.)

In fact, I think there was only one time when we saw security do anything. When the concert was over, Lynch said he would be signing some merchandise in the merchandise sales area. Jennifer and I went downstairs, and stood near the merchandise area. Jennifer wanted to get a closer look at Lynch, so we stood out of the way, not in line, but in plain view where nobody was working. Security started walking around and shouted that if we weren’t buying merchandise, we needed to get out now. I considered asking the guy if we could wait, but the tone of their voices and their declarations that “if you’re waiting for someone in the bathroom they can find you outside” made it clear they weren’t interested in exceptions. Jennifer and I walked out, and we decided that we would never go back.

It’s a shame, really. Jennifer and I really wanted to like the performance, especially as Stephen Lynch is one of her favorite musicians. However, it’s not a good sign when I turn to my wife and notice that she has a stern expression on her face and her arms are crossed, evidence that she is VERY pissed off. When the venue is overserving people who are drunk, not dealing with disruptive audience members, does nothing about those using illegal drugs blatantly, and overall makes the experience an unpleasant one, it makes us not want to go back. As it stands, unless something drastically changes, we have no desire to go back to the House of Blues in Houston.