Drunk People Are Really Annoying

There – I’ve said it! Anyone surprised? I’m guessing not. Of all the things I might’ve been expected to say since reuniting with sobriety 133 days ago, I imagine the only surprising thing about “drunk people are really annoying” is that it’s taken me this long to make the claim.

After all, there’s nothing like a reformed borderline-functioning alcoholic getting all sanctimonious and preachy.

Last night, I headed out to the Hordern Pavilion with about 5,000 other tragics, breathless with anticipation for Boy George & Culture Club’s first Sydney show in 16 years.

As nights out go, it was a match made in heaven: I’ve loved Culture Club since I was 11 and the Hordern Pavilion is among my favourite live performance venues… or is it? It only just occurred to me that every other time I’ve been there either I’ve already been well on my way to being stonkingly drunk, or I’ve been buzzing from the high of just having played the Hordern stage myself. Last night was the first time I’ve ever been there while in full command of my faculties (such that they are). What could this mean for the old hall’s place in my affections, I wonder?

So, that’s now three sober gigs down and I’m still noticing – and loving – that this whole ‘being present’ thing makes for a completely different experience.

I’m actually watching the shows. I’m taking in every aspect of the stage with clearer eyes. My appreciation of every single element of the performance and the musicality is off the scale compared to before. I’m listening to the artists speak and hearing what they have to say with different ears. And better still, I have a clarity of recollection that I’ve never consciously experienced before. The differences are, truly, quite breathtaking when I think about it.

I also woke up this morning curiously free of the former staples of my morning-after-gig experience: no headache, no mystery injuries, no nausea, only my existing vision impairment and in full voice.

concert-smartphoneAlso, my phone wasn’t full to its storage capacity with thousands of poor quality photos and hours of grainy video footage that I’ll never look at again. Wonders will never cease.

But what of my fellow punters? The good and the great (and the rest) of Culture Club fandom? What can I say about them without being utterly insulting? Not much, probably. I may have been 19 weeks without the influence of the devil’s brew, but I’ve never claimed that I’m becoming a nicer person for it*.

For starters, never in my life have I seen so many appallingly drunk 40- and 50-something-year-old women in one place. Falling down stairs, streamers of toilet paper trailing from shoes and tucked into slacks and frocks, trails of vomit leading to the ladies bathroom, black eyes, cat fights and fisticuffs – and I thought today’s young folk were as bad as it got! Not even close, apparently – and it’s now clear who they learned it from.

Some further observations from my evening of culture, starting with the original:

  • drunk people are really annoying;
  • drunk people shout a lot;
  • drunk queens scream a lot and become increasingly camp and catty, bitchy and offensive towards everyone and everything every time they open their mouths;
  • drunk people are really unrhythmic – particularly when they’re trying to be rhythmic. Is it because standing still is so difficult that they think bouncing from side to side is a better option? And then they try to coördinate it with clapping, or singing, or drinking beer out of the plastic cup that’s somewhere in front of them (or down the back of the other drunk person who just fell into them)… oh dear;
  • funny-drunk-people-dance-picturesdrunk 40-something-year-old ladies who go to gigs with their equally drunk girlfriends of a similar age:
    • a) spend more time mouthing – or, worse, badly singing – the words to each other than they do watching the artist who’s actually performing the songs right there on the stage in front of them;
    • b) all have exactly the same moves: 1) the hand (generally the right) in the air with index finger extended; 2) the fingers-across-the-eyes thing every time the words “see”, “look”, “watch” or “eyes” crop up; 3) the “no no no” naughty fingers (typically one hand, but occasionally both for emphasis) whenever words like “no”, “not” or “never” are used in a vaguely defiant way; 4) pointing at themselves and each other (or anyone else in the vicinity) each time they mouth the words “I”, “you”, “me”, “yours” or “mine”;
  • drunk people – especially short ones – have no qualms about blocking the view of others by shoving their phones up in the air to film what they presumably can’t see properly from their own vertically challenged vantage point. And quite right too. I’ve had a largely unobstructed view all night, why should I complain? Pfft!;
  • drunk people are obsessed with photographing and filming at concerts. They spend more time turning their cameras on and off and monitoring to ensure they’re actually capturing something than they do just watching the Ultra-HD 3D display that’s happening right there in front of them. At one point last night, there were so many phones obstructing my view that, for a few minutes at least, the only way I could see the on-stage proceedings was through their screens. What’s not to love about that?;
  • after the initial excitement-laden surge forward, as the set progressed I was shocked to realise that drunk people actually move away from the stage. They’re no doubt unaware of their rearwards migration, but I can certainly attest to a south-easterly shift away from our on-stage idol last night. No one else seemed to notice or care. I’d love to see time-lapse footage from above: hoards of drunken concertgoers shuffling around like landmasses pulling away from an ancient super-continent;
  • young folk today have more money than they know what to do with. Example: the 20-something couple standing next to me who literally jumped for joy when Boy George introduced Culture Club’s two Australian #1 hits, Do You Really Want To Hurt Me and Karma Chameleon, filming each song from start to finish and then working some unfathomable jiggery-pokery to send each video hurtling off into the ether somewhere. “They’re posted!”, said he, beaming as if he could just about pop with excitement. “oh em gee, yay!”, said she, doing a little clapping happy dance on the spot. Yet both of them seemed utterly oblivious to every single other song in the set. If they won the tickets, I could maybe understand it, but even I questioned whether the price of a VIP stagefront ticket was excessive – and I knew all the songs and remembered them from when they were new! Or is that just how young folk roll these days – have money, will spend?

But I think the greatest revelation for me last night was that drunk people just don’t know (or remember) how good they’ve got it. For four hours, I variously stood, paced or cycled my too-cool-for-school restrained sober bouncing from left knee, to right knee, to both knees. Four hours on a cement slab. By the end, I’d just about hit the wall as pain thresholds go and I knew that, if I didn’t sit down soon, either my aching feet, my aching knees or my aching back would very shortly give up the ghost. Happily, it was at that point that I also recalled the ‘slippery slope’ comment a friend made in the lead-up to my fortieth birthday two years ago and I suddenly felt quite old. Oddly enough, I was never troubled by these discomforts – or that thought – while drunk. Funny, that.

I want to believe I was never like any of what I’ve just observed. To my shame, I know with almost 100% certainty that I must’ve been – frequently. For example, I’m pretty sure I didn’t get picked up off the floor by the scruff of the neck and chucked out of Kinsela’s by a lesbian bouncer in 1997 for no reason. Maybe I should just drop the pretence and get back on it – what’s the worst that can happen? On the other hand, there’s still so much fun to be had with equal measures of sobriety, faux-piousness and sarcasm.

The-Hordern-Pavilion-970x260As for the Hordern being a favourite live venue – upon further consideration, not so much. I think I love the history of the place, more than anything else. As a performance space with a capacity of five thousand people, it doesn’t have enough points of entry and egress, its bar area isn’t nearly large enough for the hoards of punters lined up there between sets, the around-the-block queue to get in was just absurd and it took nearly 40 minutes to escape from the multi-story car park. Combine all of this with the fact that, as with many Sydney venues, options for getting there via public transport are woeful at best and it’s fair to say that the sober experience of the Hordern Pavilion was an eye-opening one on multiple levels.

There’s really only one outcome of the evening that didn’t entirely surprise me: drunk people are really annoying.


* OK, yes Fiona, I know I did actually make that claim last night, but if you don’t recall the conversation there’s no proof.

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