Two cities, two concerts

In the last week I've seen concerts in both Detroit and Cleveland, and I couldn't help but notice how differently people behaved.  TL;DR:  Detroiters clap.

I didn't start going to small venues to see rock bands in earnest until I moved to Cleveland.  The way people act here does vary from venue to venue but I kind of figured this is just normal:  stand where you can see the stage, keep your mouth shut, and do not under any circumstances dance.  I might prefer a little more freedom, but I can deal with it.

In Detroit I saw Swans (again) with the opening act Low at the Magic Stick.  I would have paid good money just to see Low - see their incredible album The Great Destroyer - so I wasn't going to miss this show.  Their set was beautiful, and left me thinking I need to pick up more of their albums.  They have a loud-soft dynamic whose loud bits are a perfect pairing with Swans, but their soft bits are very soft indeed.  The guys behind me must not have seen each other in a while, because their conversation went on too long and got too loud.  In a rare moment of lucidity, I turned around to face them, jerked my thumb over my shoulder at the band, and asked the guys "are they boring you?"  They kept it down after that.  Unfortunately, I'd gotten up early and spent much of the day in airports, so I was too tired to enjoy Swans.  When I left at 1AM, they were still playing.

All the fans in Detroit clapped and cheered loudly after every song, and yelled in appreciation when the band started a song they recognized.  At one point Low said to the audience, "thanks for clapping."  That was what got me thinking about this.

In Cleveland three days later I saw ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead at the Grog Shop.  This was a super high energy rock show in an intimate space, and the band worked hard to fire up the 70-odd fans by climbing down into the audience to play their instruments.  A few people were actually jumping around, but with all that effort and energy, three quarters of the audience was still just standing there nodding rhythmically.  At other equally energetic shows, there have been times where I've gotten into the music and started dancing in place a bit, only to draw glares from people standing nearby.  There is no clapping and little cheering at a typical Cleveland concert.  Maybe one out of ten attendees will yell in appreciation after a great song; the rest stand there like they've seen it all before.  Bands playing in Cleveland must feel like their shows are a flop.

I don't know what to make of all this.  Maybe there's an element of hipster insecurity to Cleveland audiences, a fear that if they admit the show is good, then people will think they haven't seen enough shows to know what's really good.  Or maybe Clevelanders really have seen it all before.  These two cities are too much alike for there to be big differences.  They're both under the gun in more ways than one, and moments of escape are important.  Seeing a rock band should free you, get you out of your own head, wipe the slate clean and reenergize you for when you have to get back to the grind.  Because the grind is waiting for you.  That's why we have rock music.