Concert Crowd Manifesto
Earlier this week I went to see a band I’ve been a long-time fan of, Blind Pilot. A folksy 6-piece, beyond standard instruments they feature an upright bass, trumpet, vibraphone, banjo, uke, dulcimer, and a large accordion-like box whose name eludes me and my google search terms.
I was not scheduled to review this show, and this cathartic creed is not designed to be a show recap. Though the show was great, when I left I was distracted by memories of some of the most obnoxious fellow concert-goers I’d ever encountered, instead of revelling in after-show glow. As someone who is constantly going to shows, I encounter tons of different crowds. I rarely find myself at the kinds of shows that involve circle pits or tossed underwear, but even then I understand that these shows have their time and place. I do, however, think that there are a few widely-accepted rules of non-punk/metal concert-going etiquette, so I’d like to compose my very own Crowd Manifesto.
Following these tenets will lead to a positive concert experience for everyone involved, and will allow people to go home at the end of the night thinking about what a great show they just saw, instead of grumbling about what a dick you are.
1. Don’t fucking push me. No, seriously. There’s a reason I stopped going to Alkaline Trio concerts. If you want to stand in the front, plan accordingly. There are people who wait in line hours before a show so that they can be at the very front of the stage and secure themselves the best viewing possible. I totally get that crowds have natural movement – you’ll need to go to the bathroom, you’ll need to refill your drink, someone else will shift and you need to readjust to be able to see. That’s all fine. I’m talking about the people who wait until the headliner comes on and then they barrel past you, knocking you over, and stand virtually on top of you/in front of you, to be able to get as close to the stage as humanly possible. Somehow, defying physics, these people always manage to be taller than you. If you push your way past people last minute (and you know who you are), make no mistake, you are the biggest asshole at the concert.
2. I came to hear the band, not you. I am 100% supportive of rabid fandom. I often sing along to the bands that I go see, and I encourage anyone who feels so moved in the moment to do the same. What I *don’t* want to hear is you hollering louder than the band. There is nothing worse than standing next to some tone-deaf kid who has no rhythm but claps along anyway, and somehow manages to drown out the voice of the lead singer even without a PA. There are times when the band is screaming that this will be fine, but when they’re cooing, it is not. Sing your heart out, please, just keep the volume in check.
3. I came to hear the band, not you. Yeah, I realize I just did this one, but now I’m going to talk about talking. You come to shows with your friends, you want to talk with them, maybe you want to hit on the hottie standing next to you, whatevs. In fact, I totally encourage you to hit on me! Well, unless you’re wearing a fedora. Then you can go hit on someone else. All I ask is that if you’re going to have a gab session during a show, that you don’t use a tender song moment to be gabbing at full volume. There are few things more magical at a show than when everyone can hush down to be able to hear a band during an acoustic moment, or during an especially sweet, personal song. If even one shmo is yapping, it spoils the moment. Don’t be that shmo.
4. We know you’re in love with the singer, you don’t need to scream about it. I swear if the girl behind me yelled “OMG YOU’RE SOOOOOOO SEXY” one more time at the Blind Pilot concert I was going to punch her in the mouth. Feel free to send him a creepily-adoring fan letter, lord knows we’ve all had our moments (I may or may not have written a lovingly devoted letter to Taylor Hanson as a high-schooler myself), but unless you’re throwing your bra onstage or you’re ready to have his sharpie autograph tattooed on your flesh, it’s time to shut up about how hot the band is. At least if you’re a crazy fan you’re entertaining! If you’re just loud, then you suck.
5. If you’re going to take a picture of the band, turn your flash off. I could extend this as far as incessant cellphone use too, but I’m not so much of a Grumpist that I’ll begrudge people cell usage during a show. Just try to keep it low so the lights don’t distract my mammalian reflexes every 15 seconds you get another benign text. What *does* get my goat is when people haul out their PHD cameras and use their flash to try to get a photo of the performing band. If you’re close enough that you can actually get a decent photo, the flashing light is distracting for the performer and for the audience, and will end up with a low-quality photo anyhow with mismatched lighting. If you’re too far, don’t bother! Look up photos from the pros later. Camera flashes are a rookie mistake – don’t be that rookie.
6. Stop calling out song requests, they have a setlist for a reason. Unless you’re at a Ben Folds show and you’re screaming for Hava Nagila (a rare treat he plays only upon request), or you’re at some college basement show and the band’s catalog is pretty minimal, don’t bother screaming your song requests. The real pros have their lists down before they come out on stage, and your screaming isn’t going to help a damn thing, other than annoy the people around you who know better – it only adds to your status as a newb.
7. Drink as much as you want, just don’t be an ass. This is not a PSA, I don’t care what substances you choose to intake before a show/at a show. But I’ll tell you I do not want to be spilled on, peed on, fallen on, or punched, all of which have happened to either me or my friends at different concerts (thankfully no pee for me yet). I’m guessing that rampant drinking is what leads to much of the rule-breaking above, but it’s not a good excuse to be a complete douche.
8. If you are over 6’ tall, do not push your way to the front. I’m certain that this is a controversial point. As someone in the early 5-foot range, I know my bias. I’m an orderly gal – if I had my way, we would arrange everyone at the show by height so we could all see perfectly. I’m not delusional, but I *do* think that there should be a certain level (unintentional pun!) of height sensitivity when attending concerts. If you’re a super-tall dude and there’s a girl a foot shorter than you standing behind you, either a) offer to let her sneak in front if she’s visibly struggling to see or b) make sure she can peek between you and others. Maybe that shouldn’t be the tall-person’s concern, but I think if you’re going to make a point to either get there super early (or be an enormous dick and shove your way last-minute to the front while I shoot death rays at the back of your neck– see #1), you should at least have some level of self-awareness, and try to make sure the nice cute girl behind you can see. If you’re lucky, you may even get her number.
9. There is a separate layer of hell for those who scalp their tickets. ‘Nuff said.
10. Don’t be an *actual* asshole. I’ve only seen this once or twice, but if you heckle a band, you clearly don’t understand what the music scene is designed to be. You’d be doing everyone a favor if you just stayed home.
11. Don’t be a free-loader. This note really relates more to local and small acts than it does to big names on big labels, but if you’re going to a concert, support the band! Buy a cd, buy some merch, see the band when you can and get your friends to go with you. Bands make peanuts, and often are losing far more money entertaining you than they are gaining any. If you love a small local or touring band, show them some love. Much like buying local, this helps sustain the local music community and keeps it thriving. Even if you’re guilty of all other items above, it’s feasible that you could ultimately redeem yourself if you follow this rule. You know, unless you’re wearing a fedora.
So now that we’ve weighed in, what about you? What would you add to our manifesto? What would you remove or edit? Let us know!