There has been a fair amount of hubbub on the Interwebs in recent weeks addressing what I’m calling “concert etiquette.” I really think most people writing on this topic have gone soft. For instance, this perturbed bird across the pond expressed her woes at a Kasabian show, mostly regarding drunk dudes, beer throwers, and pickpockets. It should be emphasized that the show was in Sheffield, which lies in Yorkshire County, England. Much like Detroit, it’s a shithole where you give locals the benefit of the doubt when considering whether or not they could beat your ass. If she had lost a tooth, maybe I could sympathize. But she was up front with a bunch of teenagers and twenty-somethings at a hard rock show in a hard knock town — she should have known what she was getting into.
Then there was this issue ricocheting around the Twittersphere and elsewhere, something about how people ought to not use phones at a show for photos or otherwise. This seems partly out of respect for the performers, but also for the benefit of self-important assholes who’d like to decide when I can play Scramble with Friends. My stance is a simple business cliché: the customer is always right. I can understand limiting photography in art galleries, where you can hear a pin drop, and forgers can make a hell of a living with just a few digital photographs. But if I paid $15, or my firstborn child if it’s a Ticketmaster show, to go see some band, I might want a new photo for my phone’s home screen. If the artist can’t handle playing in the presence of cell phones (which glow toward the back of the venue), then they should switch careers. The nature of live music is unpredictable — especially the interaction between band and fans — warts and all. What’s next, telling me my terrible dancing is throwing off the bass player?
The greatest atrocity I have read in the last few weeks has to be this gem by Robert Wohner; a list of 10 concertgoer’s rules that the author seemingly recites from Moses’ own tablets. So, in the spirit of George Carlin, I’m going to cut through the bullshit. First, “Thou Shalt Read Thine Set List,” is just plain fucking stupid. Most bands don’t even post recent set lists. If your attendance rests on hearing only your favorites, then I question you as a fan to begin with. Commandment two, “Thou Shalt Talk to People,” I guess is fine, but I’m questioning its spot at number two. Some audiences are not worth talking to. Gary Numan and an all ages Sound Tribe Sector 9 show in NY come to mind. I’m not trying to talk Red Sox with strangers that may or may not ask me if their handkerchief smells like chloroform. Number three is about the aforementioned camera debate, but makes a quip about wedding photographers. I’m sure this guy thinks he’s so clever. “Thou Shalt Use Discretion” is fine. Not crowd surfing at events that don’t imply crowd surfing is, I suppose, pretty logical. But number 5, “Thou Shalt Be Nice to Tall People,” is abhorrent. Anyone who has bought obstructed seats at Fenway knows what I’m talking about, or every 5’1” girl reading this that can’t see shit at shows no matter who’s in front of them.
Commandment 6 basically reads “Thou Shalt Not Play Tonsil Hockey.” To this, I give a resounding nay. “Thou Shalt Let Go and Dance” is horrible advice, considering other lists piss and moan about people dancing. Also, good luck telling the pent-up hipsters in this neighborhood to uncross their arms and move them. Rule 8, “Thou Shalt Not Cut,” is also fucking stupid. Everyone knows you can get 15 feet from the stage at H.o.B. by sneaking up the wings. I don’t mind when people do it even up front at packed shows. If you think you can get up there and be comfortable, go for it. It’s been a long time since I saw someone plow into a crowd and shove people away, punk shows excluded. Again, you should know what you’re getting into. “Thou Shalt Take a Look Around” is pointless. You will look around when you take the obligatory mid-set piss.
Finally, number 10 is “Stop Giving a Damn.” If Wohner Boner took his own advice, he wouldn’t have a list at all. Stop giving a damn that somebody got further in front because you were too much of a pussy to do it yourself. Stop giving a damn about dancers or non-dancers. And stop giving a damn about someone using his phone instead of watching the show; it’s not a movie. It is, however, like riding an airplane. Everyone pays to sit down with a bunch of strangers. Sometimes, this roulette lands you next to a crying baby or an obese double-belter. But the person that tells the poor woman to shut her baby up or the fat guy to drop a few pounds is the bigger asshole. Everyone knows what they’re getting into going to a show, especially ones where moshing, beer throwing, and crowd surfing are a near given. You have the right to ask people politely to stop bumping into you, instead of reigning in your passive aggression to wield later on the internet. You also have the right to stand back and not get involved, or better yet, stay at home and watch YouTube clips. Just because you saw some shitty English rock band 11 times does not mean you deserve a bubble ten feet from the stage. We were all young once, just try to remember that.
One commandment made it out unscathed; use discretion. This is something I learned in first grade, and doesn’t need to be reiterated to me online or in person by a stranger that may or may not smell like chloroform.