Live concerts are pretty much the best things ever. Getting to hear a band you love lay it all on the line as you drink beer and enjoy your friends’ company is about as good as it gets.
An epic performance takes root deep in your soul, staying with you for months or years or decades afterward. (I can still feel Zak Starkey’s bass drum thump in my chest cavity as he pounded out the epic solo on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” while playing with The Who in Nashville, Tennessee.)
Every great show I’ve been to has two things in common. First, a great band I love dearly playing at the peak of their powers (or very near the peak of their powers for some of the more aged groups). And second, a veritable plethora of jackasses trying their darnedest to ruin the concert experience for everyone in close proximity to them.
No one wants to be “that guy” (or girl), regardless of the context. To ensure you don’t suffer that fate — or more accurately, to ensure no one else has to suffer you — here are 10 behaviours to avoid at your next concert.
1. Taking incessant pictures
I get it. You’re at an awesome show, and you want to remember it forever. I can’t blame you there. Lord knows I’ve been guilty of snapping a photo or two to prove to myself that just happened. But you know what literally everyone who cares about the music hates? Your hand high to the sky blocking their view of the band as you snap 100 photos you’ll never look at again (except for that one you’ll post on Instagram, to prove to other people you’re cool). Take a picture. Hell, take 10. But once you’ve snapped a few early in the show, give it a rest.
2. Taking incessant video
You know what’s worse than snapping pictures constantly? Recording video. If it’s a good show and the band is blasting away at 125 decibels, you know what can’t capture the sound at all? Your iPhone microphone. Most shows are dark with bright stage lights and spotlights. You know what struggles to capture video in low light situations with stark contrasts? Your iPhone camera. The last thing I want to see from the crowd is an army of phones held up in the air and staying there because not only are you taking photos, you’re recording video. And to top it all off, you know what people look at even less than concert photos? Concert video.
When I was young and didn’t know any better, I recorded a few videos at concerts. I have since apologised to the Gods of Rock and made my amends. But all these years later, I can honestly say I’ve never looked at those videos again.
3. Not watching the show
Another thing I can’t stand at shows is a pack of people looking down at their phones while the band is giving it all they have. If you’re at a show, be at the show. It bothers the crap out of me when people are watching a movie or a TV show and they’re on their phone the entire time. What’s the purpose of watching anything if you’re not really paying attention? Well, if you’re taking up space in a concert venue that could have gone to another, more attentive fan, you’re being an jerk. If you’re texting a friend trying to meet up at the show, fine. But if you’re taking selfies and checking insta and posting to Facebook, go to the bathroom or to the bar. Remove yourself from the crowd because you’re not really there anyway.
4. Yelling things at the band
At big shows, this is less of an issue. In a 25,000 person arena, the band can’t hear you anyway, so it doesn’t matter all that much beyond your rock karma. But if you’re in a more intimate room and the band can hear you? Don’t yell at them. Just don’t do it.
“I just hate it when people yell out little prepared sentences at shows,” David Ponder, lead guitarist for rock band Somebody’s Darling said. “The little joke you thought up is lame. Always.”
This most certainly includes yelling “Freebird” at the show. Unless you’re at a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band concert, you’re either being a redneck, or trying to be funny and failing. By all means, cheer your arse off for the band, but don’t yell things at them. It’s not funny, and the band is tired of your lame schtick.
5. Requesting songs
This follows closely with not screaming things at the band. Don’t yell requests unless the band specifically asks, “What do you guys wanna hear?” The band has a set list and they’re going to play what they want to. They’re balancing what fans want to hear (the hits) versus what they want to play as artists. That’s their job. They very well might play the song you want to hear, but they’re saving it for a particular part of the concert. Bands put a lot of thought and effort into the mood and flow of a concert vis-a-vis their set list, so don’t be that jerk yelling for the same song the entire show.
You know something I’ve never said at a concert? “Man, I’m so glad this guy in front of me came to the show. He’s a much better singer than [insert band’s lead singer here]. Thank God he’s belting out all the tunes so loudly next to me!”
At big shows, the speakers are probably so loud no one else can hear you. This becomes less of an issue in that case. But if there’s any chance others can hear your atonal groanings as you attempt and fail to approximate the singer on stage, keep your loud noises to cheering only. No one came to hear you sing. There’s a reason the lead singer gets paid to produce music with his/her voice and you do not. Remember that.
7. Shoving to the front
If you have to make uncomfortable contact with another person in order to get to the front, you should just stay put. If you want to be closer to the band, get to the venue early. If I’m standing in the fifth or sixth row and have been there for an hour or more, and you just roll up, shove through me, and then stand directly in my personal bubble right in my eyeline, you’re the absolute worst.
Also, try hard not to go to the bathroom over and over again throughout the show. Even though you got there early enough to get a good spot near the front, pushing through people constantly as you go to and from the bathroom repeatedly is really annoying. You’re not the worst, but it’s suboptimal for those around you.
8. Being the only person doing what you’re doing
At huge rock shows, expect to stand pretty much the whole time. But at intermediate to smaller-size shows, especially in older venues that have dedicated seating, it can be difficult to gauge whether or not you ought to stand or sit. If you love to stand during a show, you can try to set the precedent of standing in your section, but if you’re the only person doing that, it’s pretty obnoxious. This becomes a much bigger problem at shows where the audience might be split between young adults and older, original fans (think: The Eagles). In those cases, take your cues from what other people are doing in your section. Don’t be the only person doing what you’re doing.
9. Getting obnoxiously drunk
I’m a firm proponent of drinking at concerts. It’s a major component of how venues make money, which keep bands in business. Also, a great beer or cocktail plus your favourite band’s show makes for a perfect match — within reason.
No one likes to take care of someone else because they’re too drunk to function on their own. It only goes downhill from there if you’re ruining everyone’s night by making an arse of yourself in the middle of the audience. I’ve seen hammered guys throw up on the back of people’s heads at shows; I’ve seen girls start fights with one another; I’ve seen people nose dive and take multiple people to the ground with them, all because the perpetrator was smashed.
Have a drink. Have three. Don’t get completely wasted.
10. Making out
Hold hands, put your arms around one another, enjoy each other’s company as you take in the awesome performance — but do not make out. Literally no one wants to see it. PDA make-out-sessions almost always look like two seals fighting over a grape. You look ridiculous, and it’s gross. Just don’t do it.
Concerts can be the most fun events you’ll attend all year. Great ones can live on in your heart and soul for decades to come. But, for every amazing concert I’ve been to, I’ve had another ruined by audience members doing some combination of the above 10 things. Don’t do them, and let your next concert be that much better for their absence.
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