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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Follow-up on the Celtic Thunder Bus Ban

While it doesn't address most of the points and concerns addressed in either my post or the many comments on this post, we must give credit where credit is due, that Sharon Browne did at least reply to us concerning the fans' response to her bus ban policy. Her decision to frame fans who disagree with her policy as questionable fans by placing quotes around the term fan when addressing dissenters seems a bit out of place if her intention was to smooth over all the hurt feelings surrounding this issue. Still, many performers who tour internationally would not bother to address complaints directly, and her responsiveness, if not her actual words, is well appreciated.  You can read her response here (http://www.celticthunder.ie/content/first-show-tour-sound-checks-m-g-buses#comment-208342).

Honestly I think Sharon and I are talking across each other, and she is not really understanding the threads of concern that appear in the comments, let alone the body of this blog post, and I am not sure if reiterating our concerns could help. There are lots of good, considerate, loyal Thunderheads who disagree with her and who are in no way prone to screaming or grabbing or any of those impolite behaviors she seems to ascribe to dissenters on this issue, and I don't know that Sharon has any interest in what 'good' Thunderheads have to say against her policy. Sharon has made up her mind, the lads and the band have signed a contract which necessitates that they follow the policies of Celtic Thunder as a whole while they represent the group, and we may simply have to accept that while the lads are touring with Celtic Thunder they are not accessible to us after shows. It remains to be seen how the merch tables work out in the context of the bus ban, but perhaps since the lads know they will not see any of their fans in that location after that merch table closes for the night, they will be able to somewhat offset the loss of fan-contact they have to accept by not getting to see us by the buses.

From the way Sharon's post sounded, I am guessing that outside this blog things have gotten a bit out of hand, with fans trying to sensationalize the bus ban issue far beyond what it deserves. There are some very odd, and unsavory people among those who call themselves Thunderheads, though very few, and frankly I am grateful that I have such nice readers (In moderating comments here I have not had to censor anything, aside from one REALLY off topic rant that did not pass my screening of it; even those who really disagree with me have been surprisingly civil). That said, I am not so sure I count Sharon's reply to our concerns as particularly civil, though she certainly sounds exasperated and defensive and quite a bit frustrated. I still have my concerns, and so far none of what I have said against the bus ban has been addressed, but as a music blogger I have hundreds of other bands to focus on, and while I wish Celtic Thunder was managed differently on this tour, it is still just one band. Even for the musicians in Celtic Thunder, it is just one of their projects.

I like the Celtic Thunder performers I have met, and find it frustrating that they cannot hang around after the show when I see them in November so I can say hi, but they are musicians who come through Colorado only briefly once or twice a year. Granted, part of my frustration is in the fact that they are not in Colorado much, so if I miss seeing them this year I won't see them again till next year, while if I miss most of the other musicians I follow after a show, I'll see them again a lot sooner. Still, there are thousands of bands and musicians who live in Colorado and perform regularly in Colorado, and who do not have Verve Music and all the other resources Celtic Thunder draws on. If Celtic Thunder is decreasing the accessibility of its artists to where I cannot reasonably expect to actually meet them, I am not sure in the long run that it even matters. I'll miss seeing the lads I met last year, and adding to the loose acquaintances I have with this band, but I'd hate to get so caught up in the issue of the Celtic Thunder bus ban that I lose perspective.

To keep some healthy perspective, I asked a bunch of my musician friends this week over facebook how they feel about becoming famous and charging people to meet them, and already I've had some great responses, from musicians with as many years of professional live music experience as many of the Celtic Thunder performers. And, while the virtual roundtable interview thingy I started with those questions is still ongoing, the responses I have had so far have reminded me of the reasons why fans and artists connect in the first place. For them, unanimously, making music is not about the money, though obviously they still need money to survive. They make music because it makes them happy and it makes their audience happy, and they perform live because people want to have a connection with their music beyond just listening to a disc. These artists value meeting their fans and involving other people in their music. I have no doubt from what I know of the Celtic Thunder lads, from what I have seen and read and from having met them, albeit briefly, that they would agree wholeheartedly with most if not all of what my friends have said so far. The bus ban is an annoyance and may make some of us rethink how we spend our money with respect to Celtic Thunder, but it doesn't change the music or the musicians. 

I do not think Sharon understood our concerns and complaints, if she even saw them (though with how popular this week's first post on the bus ban became became this week, she may actually have seen it), but it does not matter so much to me. For myself, whether she puts quotes around the word fan when referring to me, for my still disagreeing with her about her policy, I am still as much a fan of Celtic Thunder as a band as I ever was, and so are all the rest of the Thunderheads. I am unfortunately becoming less of a fan of Sharon Browne, the more I see of how she treats Thunderheads, but she is not Celtic Thunder. I think, if we had the chance to discuss the bus situation with the lads themselves (an impossible daydream considering how many of us and how few of them there are), I suspect that we would have a much more informed, nuanced and considerate dialogue between the Thunderheads and the Celtic Thunder lads, and while we still might not be meeting them out by the buses after the shows, we would not be doing so because of a blanket bus ban policy handed down from on high, but because we agreed with the lads that something else would work out better. In the meantime...

For myself, I have local festivals every weekend that I will be photographing and blogging about, and lots of local bands and music events to keep me busy. If you, my dear readers, need something to distract you from the many bristling comebacks you might otherwise write to Sharon, I strongly suggest that you check out the local music scene. I have met enough bands from enough of your cities to know for sure that most Thunderheads have some absolutely fantastic local bands and artists they should know about, and the ones I know are just those that tour through Fort Collins, Colorado. One of my favorite local Celtic groups, for whom I've taken a bunch of photos, is launching a new website, and another Celtic group from Greeley is releasing a brand new album quite soon, so I have plenty of local Celtic music to post about here this month. And, of course, Darrell Coyle's new EP comes out on Sunday (Darrell is signed to Damian McGinty's music label Walled City Records, and is a fantastic young singer-songwriter well worth checking out if you haven't yet.) The High Kings are starting to promote a brand new album as well, with some original songs, a new thing for the High Kings. And there are lots of other Irish and British artists worth focusing on for this blog.

I am guessing that the whole bus ban issue will work itself out, and since Sharon is not all that interested in actually understanding all sides and does not consider the bus ban open to discussion, I am stepping back and letting the tour progress as it will. I am hoping that by late November things will be ironed out enough that my blog post following the Loveland Celtic Thunder concert will be entirely positive (after all, they only have a couple shows left in the entire tour after our show). If not, there are so many other bands, that I am not sure it really matters. (Do I sound frustrated? I should. I expected a lot better from Sharon Browne than the bristling, rant-like response she posted, and am wondering how much wine she had to drink before deciding to reply to us in this fashion. She is not always the nicest woman on the planet, but I still expected something better from her this time.)

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