The news happened the way it always does in this day and age. Headlines reading along (or between) the lines of Dan Sultan gives drunk and slurry performance in Cairns leaving fans angry and outraged and downright… you get the picture. Sure, I’ll say outright that it’s awful and unprofessional and unbecoming of the seasoned performer. But in all honesty, this ‘issue’ has nothing to do with Dan, nothing to do with Cairns, and nothing to do with any particular individual. This, being alcohol and our relationship to it, is an industry-wide epidemic.
The music industry is rife with alcoholism, in fact, I would say the industry and associated lifestyle provides a haven for it. The tortured drunken artist is so much more than just the trope it used to be. Many artists use (and most definitely abuse) alcohol whilst performing, working and writing. But why? Maybe it has something to do with our expectations as punters. We expect our rock stars to be just that, rock stars. Larger than life, superstars who sleep all day and party all night, and wake up half-naked next to an empty bottle of gin. We’ve come to expect them to guzzle half a bottle of Jameson onstage before their very first song. I mean, in the (godforsaken) age of the shoey, we expect that the musicians we admire so much are so keen for a drink, gagging at the bit for a beer, that they’ll do so on stage, mid-set, out of our mate Dave’s sweaty vans with a hole in the bottom. We don’t want to find out that these superstar guitar heroes go home at night, wind down with a pot of green tea and meditate every morning (although I hate to break it to you this is by far becoming much more of the norm).
This issue also has a lot to do with a generational pool of pressure. I’ve seen young supporting artists blow their first big shot because the lead singer of the headliner dared them all to skull a fifth of gin, saying, “it’s the business mate better get used to it”. I’ve seen artists both demand and expect large quantities of alcohol in their riders, with backstage professionals having to manage individuals in an attempt to save the backstage area from becoming the biggest frat party this part of the world has ever seen.
But hey, props to Dan though for taking the heat for the entire music industry, well done on that front, but I just hope the avid consumers of social media and trash news, see that too.