Paper Late: Are gigs growing old gracefully, or a young man's blues?

A photograph of a big crowd of young people at a gig
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Last issue, Prog writer Polly Glass, in an excellent piece, pondered the idea of why young people just aren’t going to gigs like they used to. And in doing so highlighted a show, or rather two shows, that I attended, that I believe shed a different light on the issue.

The shows in question were the House Of Progression promoted Francis Dunnery/Alan Reed/Tillison & Stevens/The Gift bill at the Boston Music Rooms and the Dead Letter Circus/FOES show at The Dome venue, directly upstairs. Neither pulled a particularly dismal crowd, but notably neither were rammed either.

If we eschew the tired old argument of whether one event was more prog than the other, the first question is: why on earth were two prog-friendly gigs happening in what is essentially the same venue on the same night? But then again, the question of whether prog promoters ever talk to each other could easily fill one of these columns on its own. We’ve all sighed on those seemingly increasing occasions when three or even four prog acts split a London audience on one night!

However for the purposes of this particular column I’m going to highlight the demographic issue. Yes, we’re all aware that one section of the prog audience is getting older. Yet equally, there is an increasing younger faction discovering progressive music. And currently, ne’er the twain are meeting.

OK, that might be a sweeping generalisation, because of course there is some overlap – not every older prog fan turns their nose up at music sometimes beyond their comfort zone, and not every young pup drawn in initially by the heavier end of progressive music will find more symphonic prog sounds boring. But on this night in question, you could almost have drawn an age line between the two audiences inhabiting one building, and yet even the law of averages states that half of both crowds would have enjoyed the other show. The problem is, dare I suggest it, neither faction was aware of the other gig going on. Nor did they probably want to know.

Part of Prog’s mission is to try and pull both sides together in one big happy family – a slow and painstaking task. Outside of classical and jazz fans, the prog fan like no other will happily cut their nose off to spite their face; I recall half of the Summer’s End crowd walking out on Haken before they’d played a note because they didn’t know who they were, only to be sucked back in within minutes once the band started their enterprising and engaging set.

Pondering the future of your beloved music is something we see on many Internet forums. A bit more acceptance on both sides of the age coin could ensure a nice healthy future.

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Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.