A clash of generations – alt-J @ Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow

Usually the line between old and young isn’t crossed by either at a live music show; the crashing waves of young bodies will billow vigorously towards and away from the stage, while a calming tremble of middle-aged heads bob up and down towards the back of the room. 

This opposing split, awkward and often unspoken of, was nowhere clearer than at Alt-J’s most recent Scottish date in Glasgow.  

As fans of all ages piled through the imposing fire doors at the back of the auditorium, small whispers circled around the room of “wow, we really are sitting down…”, from those who ignored the obvious seat numbers on their tickets. 

Those operating in the awkward in-between of young, free and wild, but needing to be home by 12 because it’s a Sunday night they have work in the morning found themselves in limbo.  

Looking around the room, there seemed to be small pockets of this exact group sitting scattered in between the mass of middle-aged, middle class hipsters and a swarm of doe-eyed teenagers desperately waiting to catch a glimpse of their favourite rock stars.  

For once, all of these groups – usually so separated – were being forced to coexist in the audience, elbow-to-elbow with one another.  

As the band appeared between the twinkling lights on the stage, there was a hesitation from those pockets of people as to whether they were to stand up and dance or just sit and observe. After carefully scanning the room to choose the most appropriate audience etiquette, they sat back in their cushioned chair, with one member of the audience proclaiming, “Here, this is class, I could get used to having a wee seat at a gig now and again.”   

alt-j band on stage performing

The art-rock band plucked and tinkled their way through their opening songs as the sprawling light show on stage transitioned into their fourth song, Dissolve Me. Controversially, a group of young fans – decked out in what seemed to be the merchandise stall from head-to-toe – gave in and stood up to dance and sing to their favourite song.  

The middle-aged members of the audience, nodding to the show on stage with their hands on their chin as if they were critiquing an art exhibition, were taken aback, shaking their head at the flailing arms.  

Tensions hit peak as a balding man approached the girls and asked them to sit back in their places – “We’ve paid to be here to, not to look at your back!”, he shouted over the blaring music.  

The girls looked at him in disbelief as he gestured towards the back of the auditorium, where a crowd of joyful dancers had gathered.  

As the room fixated on the verbal scuffle, the divide in the audience was clearer than ever – those who agreed shook their head at the excited girls; those who didn’t gave death-like stares to the man.  

After arguing with the frustrated member of the audience, the girls retreated to the back.  

Slowly but surely over the next half hour, pockets of people looking for a dance made their way to the back of the room, mostly out of fear of sticking out like a sore thumb.  

As the group’s main set came to the end, a few fans made their way back to their seats, not anticipating the band’s encore instruction of having everybody on their feet for their last 3, and arguably most well-known songs.  

In that moment, the generation divide dissolved. Teenagers were singing at the top of their voice waving their phone in the air for their Snapchat story; 40-year-old couples were singing equally as loud, one arm wrapped around their partner’s shoulder, the other sprawling in the air.  

Any mention of tension or arguments were gone as the sound and light peaked into a crescendo of euphoria.  

Heather Carrick

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