Concert crowds too subdued in Layton?

Tuesday , July 15, 2014 - 12:00 AM

A golf tournament. A spelling bee. A piano recital. An economics lecture. Even a Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert.

These are the places you’d expect to get polite applause from a well-behaved audience.

But at a funky, groovin’ concert blaring the hits of Motown recording artists like the Temptations, the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye? Not so much.

The Davis Arts Council’s 2014 “Summer Nights With the Stars” concert series continued at the Kenley Centennial Amphitheater last Saturday evening, with the Sounds of Motown concert, featuring Changing Lanes Experience — an ensemble band from the Salt Lake Valley that plays the popular songs of Motown and beyond.

This is a band that knows how to put the “fun” in “funk.”

Indeed, far in advance of last Saturday’s concert, C.J. Drisdom, the band’s leader and bassist, told Standard-Examiner music reporter Raychel Johnson that a dancing audience is the primary objective of the evening. Wrote Johnson in a preview article for the concert:

“Changing Lanes Experience will play pretty much anything that can get the crowd dancing. Drisdom said seeing the audience interact and dance gives everyone extra energy.

“ ‘Don’t come if you’re not going to dance, like, don’t even come,’ he said, laughing but not completely joking. ‘Well come, but you know what I mean.’ ”

No, apparently the Kenley audience did NOT know what he meant.

Time after time at Saturday’s concert, Changing Lanes personnel had to coax folks into standing up and dancing, or even just clapping to the beat. At one point, a mildly exasperated female vocalist threatened to pull up on stage anybody who didn’t get up and dance to the next song.

That helped get a few more people out of their seats momentarily, but let’s be honest: If she had followed through on her threat, the fire marshal wouldn’t have allowed that many people on stage at once.

Even when a song would draw an enthusiastic response, it would quickly get library quiet before the next tune commenced — at one point prompting a female vocalist to playfully whisper into her microphone, “Quiet, quiet, quiet.”

After Saturday’s Motown show, another female singer admitted the concert was a bit disconcerting.

“It was a little weird,” she said. “But they told us this crowd tended to be a little more reserved.”

They warned you? Before the concert?

“No, they told us after the show,” she said, laughing.

Two days after the concert, in a brief telephone interview from West Valley City, Drisdom wasn’t blaming anything on the audience.

“We don’t come out there for the audience anyway,” he said. “We do this to make ourselves happy.”

Drisdom says he understands the culture here in Utah, and that people tend to be a little more reserved. Which is why he says it’s important Changing Lanes Experience makes its own energy.

“If we wait on the audience, we’d never get there,” he explained, adding: “We’re a 12-piece band, and we’ve performed for three people before.”

This was not an isolated incident. The week before, at the Three Dog Night concert, the crowd was similarly sedate. Rumor has it that the band cut its encores short — foregoing the playing of the popular “Eli’s Coming” — because folks just weren’t making enough noise.

Don’t get me wrong: Kenley Amphitheater audiences are appreciative. And I’ve heard the Kenley crowd described as “polite,” and “very well-behaved.” But the artists at these shows don’t always want polite and well-behaved. Sometimes, they just want tear-the-roof-off raucous.

Musicians often feed off of an audience’s energy. Concert-goers need to understand this, and know that they’re fully half of the equation for a memorable musical experience.

So, anyway, this is just a little friendly advice for the Kenley Amphitheater crowds: Save your polite applause and best behavior for when the Davis Arts Council brings in an economics lecturer, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But the next time a band takes the stage and starts playing a killer version of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” with that much passion — my suggestion is that you get up, you get moving, and yes, you get it on. Or, in other words ...

More Motown, less MoTab.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at

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