Thu | Apr 27, 2017

Live in the VIP (pt 2)

Published:Thursday | June 18, 2015 | 6:00 AM
Damian 'Junior Gong' Marley performing at a previous staging of Welcome to Jamrock at the Constant Spring Football Field.
Patrons get close to the stage as Elephant Man delivers an energetic set at East Fest 2004 at Goodyear Oval, St Thomas.
Patrons get into the groove at a 'Welcome To Jamrock' concert held at the Constant Spring Football Field.
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As a physical area, the VIP is a curious place, as we saw last week. It is the smallest defined area in a concert venue, closest to the stage, from which the audience's view of the action is very narrow.

From what I have observed of some performers' reactions, it can also be a very constricting perspective for the person on stage as well. I have seen a number of singers and deejays express their frustration with the lack of a response on which they can feed to build their 'vibes', as enthusiasm and intensity is sometimes called. It is not always the case, but I have seen numerous instances where the person who is the focal point on stage appeals to those beyond the VIP fence for the response they so much wish for.

For many times, the persons in the VIP area are those who can least appreciate what is going on and who are also so much into themselves - their appearance, what those who they think are watching them think, who they can speak to, to increase their perceived social standing - that the music is secondary.

It can be argued that those in the VIP area who pay minimal attention to a concert have paid for the right to do so. After all, the VIP area costs extra to access (for those who do not get complimentary tickets, that is) and those who pay more cash, can afford to pay less attention. For good measure, some events also have a VVIP area (as in Very Very Important People, I guess), where there are all sorts of additional perks.

Partygoers into the hype

These ultra-exclusive areas are more commonplace at parties where, instead of live performances, there is little to watch on a stage. So the people who pay the top dollar can indulge in their favourite pas-time - watching each other and trying their best to be noticed themselves.

It is all so temporary, so fleeting, this VIP and VVIP experience. A couple hours and it is gone - until the next event, that is.

These days, we take VIP areas for granted, but the separation did not always exist. In the reggae/dancehall space, the first time I saw a VIP area was at an East Fest concert at the old Goodyear Oval outside Morant Bay, St Thomas, in the early 2000s (Not that I am saying it was the first one ever, just the first one that I saw myself). As a proportion of the entire audience area, the largest VIP area I have seen was at a Welcome to Jamrock concert at the Constant Spring Football Field. The VIP area looked like almost half of the area the audience occupied - and it was almost full.

Before the VIP days, the front of a stage belonged to those most enthusiastic about the performance, the people who crowded the area just to be close to the artiste, who often took time out to shake a hand or two briefly. They were especially important in the closing moments of an event, when the weary left and the VIP adjustment has largely changed that, and not for the better.

Reflection of society

But isn't the entertainment event's VIP section not a reflection of how Jamaican society operates by the unspoken rules of those who are by default of birth among the have-nots - or should have been have-nots? The search for self-esteem, the need to be seen, the purchase of items for their price tag more than their value to the user, the possession of items which the owner cannot fully appreciate, the need to distinguish oneself from others of apparently similar physical make-up, if only for a fleeting moment?

How different is it from the obsession with motor vehicles which many people who drive them cannot really afford to make the payments on, much less put in gas, service and pay insurance for? How different is the VIP area from a holiday by the working poor at a north coast all-inclusive hotel? It is also temporary, it is also all-inclusive as the VVIP areas always are, it is overpriced and the separation from the pack is oh so fleeting.

Same goes for expensive cell phones, which give the user status only when they are in sight - so for those seeking self-esteem from the instruments, they are always in sight. Nobody knows how much credit is on them, though - if any.

The entertainment event VIP and VVIP areas are a reflection of the psyche of us Jamaicans who need our self-esteem to be bolstered for just a little time - which, unfortunately, is quite a few.

Bye Bye, Boom Bye Bye

Two weeks ago, I gave my assessment of the current stage in the once-intense conflict between dancehall and the gay lobby in a column titled 'Bye Bye, Boom Bye Bye'. There have been three notable responses, which I encourage you to read before I give a response to them next week as, hopefully, part of the column, not all of it.

Unfortunately, they do not have access to newspaper space, as I do. So, please read the initial column at this link, http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/entertainment/20150604/bye-bye-boom-b.... Then read Kei Miller's response at http://underthesaltireflag.com/2015/06/11/mel-cooke-and-the-problem-of-p..., as well as Afifa Aza's at https://amedjafifa.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/open-letter-to-mel-cooke/.

Also, read Emma Lewis' at https://petchary.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/did-boom-bye-bye-ever-go-away-....

Next week.

melville.cooke@gleanerjm.com