Dutch Disease

November 29, 2018

Any artist striking down on Dutch grounds will know about the phenomenon called the "Dutch Disease.” It spreads like a virus among crowds and finds its way to every edge of the concert hall. Symptoms include loud rambling, an apparent unawareness of the ongoing concert, and insensitivity to one’s social surroundings. Born from the overall well-being of cultural life in the Netherlands, the Dutch Disease has long been polarising Dutch crowds, dividing them between the music-lovers and those that might as well have stayed away.


     [ a case of the Dutch Disease during Paul McCarney's concert at Pinkpop 2016 ]


The Dutch Disease emerged from the misconception that attending a concert equals a casual night at a bar. While any concert venue indeed has a bar, the two places proper serve a completely different purpose. The bar, as a building that is, is a space designated to colloquial catching up to the backdrop of generic tracks; a social space in which music serves a passive role. The concert hall, on the other hand, is a place for the appreciation and discover (new) music; a place people pay money for to enter; a sanctuary of sonorous joy. 


There are myriad manifestations of the Dutch Disease, unfortunately. At any concert that doesn’t exceed 100dB you can hear the loud chatter of, typically, two or more middle-aged men that continue a little too extensively on the question “but how are you doing?” Even artists have noticed the abnormalities in their Dutch crowds, some of which even went as far as to quit their performance out of annoyance (e.g. Jonathan Richman). 


     [ the lul-niet-lolly by Het Paard ]


Approaching the diseased, asking for silence, or a loud “sssssst” tend to recoil and upsurge the turmoil in the hall. Venues themselves have actively attempted to reduce crowd-induced noise by putting up signs that ask for silence, yet even this measure proved ineffective. Recently, concert venue Het Paard in The Hague found a way to playfully shush its audience: the lul-niet-lolly (don’t-chit-chat-lollipop). Because if your mouth is filled with this sweet delicacy, you simply cannot speak!


Whether or not signs or lollipops help to cure or quarantine the diseased, it really comes down to a cultural-moral mindset that ought to be the concert norm. Attendees should be aware of their role as audience. Of course you can catch up, but please do so in a bar before or after the show, and leave the sound-production during the concert to the musicians you came to see.

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