A Lesson in Concert Etiquette

Alex Yee/New University

As someone who goes to quite a few concerts, I’ve experienced plenty of ugly and unfortunate moments at shows that have often outshone the brightest nights of live music.  Because concert etiquette is something seemingly many people are unaware of, it seemed like it was a necessity to compile a list of do’s and don’ts that any concertgoer should know.  So, keep these notes in mind and you’ll be able to avoid looking like an asshole at the next show you attend.

Do be polite: Good manners are such simple, yet often ignored traits, and this is never more visible than at concerts, where people seem to forget what polite behavior consists of.  People push and shove unapologetically, they argue and fight and don’t give a damn about the person next to them. Honestly, we all do this when we’re at a jam-packed show; sometimes you can’t afford to be prim and proper if you want to survive in a mosh pit. I’m not saying we should all act like we’re in grammar school and bow and curtsy to each other; all I’m saying is that there are certain things that are considered polite and proper at concerts. For example, don’t be on your phone the whole time. Don’t talk really loudly during the slow songs. Do say “sorry” and “excuse me” if you need to force your way through the crowd. Do engage in friendly conversation with your neighbors in the pit. Don’t take part in excessive P.D.A. with your significant other. Do act your age.       Do sing along, but not so loudly that no one around you can actually hear the music. It’s simple things like this that can make or break a night, and they’re not difficult guidelines to follow; just be excited, friendly and polite, and you won’t ruin anyone’s night.

Don’t show up late and think that you have the right to shove your way in front of all the people who showed up early to get to the front: This is by far the worst offense at a concert. I personally know the wrath and rage that grows every time some idiot who shows up 15 minutes before the headliner performs tries to get past me in an effort to steal a better spot. They are seemingly clueless of the fact that hundreds of people had been waiting, lined up outside the concert venue to guarantee a spot the RIGHT way. Nothing pisses off a music fan more than having their prime piece of real-estate in the pit co-opted by some asshole who was “too good” to wait in line and stand through the opening acts to get a spot. The golden rule here is: wait in line, or deal with the back row. It’s a cutthroat environment at most standing-only shows, unless you want to be hated by everyone around you, just stay in the spot you’re stuck with.

Don’t get so drunk or high that you become a nuisance: Getting drunk or high before a show seems like a prerequisite for concert-going, but it doesn’t have to be. If the music is great and you’re with the right people, a concert should be an amazing experience without the help of any mind-altering substances. There’s nothing wrong with a few drinks before or during a show, but always know your limits and avoid getting totally slobbering drunk —   inebriated slobs can ruin any show.  These girls and guys get so drunk they stumble around in their stilettos, slur their speech, lose all notions of personal space and boundaries, and think that they are best friends with everyone around them. They’re completely unaware of the fact that the beer in their glass is sloshing around and spilling on everyone around them, and they lack an ability to control their limbs, as they over-enthusiastically gesture and wave to a friend they think they see across the room. Whether the culprit is a friendly drunk who just wants to hug and go on about how rad everything is, a frat guy in shutter shades who doesn’t realize you are NOT his friend, or a stoner whose dreadlocks reek of dirty bong water, these people are generally your enemy at a show.  Your best defense against someone this wasted is to ignore them when they get in your personal space.  Hopefully they’ll meander off into another area and reunite with their herd of drunken buddies.

Do dance around, but know your limits: no one likes the hipster standing stone-still during an entire concert.  People who don’t dance or move around at shows seem to suck the energy out of a room. Look, you are not too cool to move around!  Everyone’s doing it! So ignore your crippling fear of looking like you’re having a good time and loosen up, even if you’re just bobbing your head or tapping your toes. You will ruin the vibe of the people around you with your robotic refusal to show any sort of reaction to the music. If you’re really a fan, then you won’t be able to resist moving along to the music.  BUT, don’t get carried away. The “overly excited dancer” is worse than the “apathetic motionless cool kid” because they are often too drunk, high or excited to realize that their spastically moving, flailing limbs are smacking everyone within a 5-foot radius. So please, let the music move you, but don’t go all Woodstock hippie and start flailing around like you took a bad hit of LSD.

Do be supportive of the opening acts: I’ve always thought that the worst job in the world must be the musician opening for another band; the way opening acts are treated has always appalled and bothered me. Concertgoers have no qualms with their own rudeness when they’re watching opening bands, whether they show it by their lack of even the slightest, polite applause or by actually booing or hurling insults at them. Why the rudeness? Even if the music isn’t that great, one should always clap or cheer to show support. Imagine what it must feel like for these often-times unheard of performers, going onstage before the eager and impatient fans of some other massively more popular band. Keep that in mind before you yell at these guys to get off the stage. Yes, we’re all excited to see our favorite band come on stage, but that doesn’t mean we should throw all civilized behavior to the wind and become boorish louts.   Always support the opening acts, because if you’re lucky, they may just turn out to be your new favorite band.

Dress appropriately: This applies mostly to the concert-going ladies out there; look, we all know you want to get dressed up and look cool and be flirty and all that other crap — but how can you possibly be comfortable standing up for four hours straight in 4-inch heels? That’s just a health risk, to you and to the feet of the people around you. Also, if you’re not at a rave or a child’s birthday party, keep the face paint and glitter at home. Keep the fairy wings and tutus and metallic American Apparel leggings locked up in a box somewhere, because you should never wear that in public. It sounds strange, but more often than not you’ll see that one girl who treats a concert like it’s either a Parisian catwalk or Halloween; both extremes are undesirable.  There’s nothing wrong with looking nice, but try not to dress like such an obvious hipster; at an average show in Los Angeles, walking into the ladies’ restroom is like stepping into the Urban Outfitters catalog. Admittedly, getting dressed for shows in LA can be overwhelming to say the least; everyone wants to dress to impress and stand out. I say you should always wear what you’re comfortable in, even if it’s just jeans and a t-shirt. Wear shoes you don’t mind standing around or dancing in, and don’t wear too many heavy layers, because you will always end up either awkwardly tying your jacket around your waist like you’re in 5th grade, or trying to shove it in your purse — either option is a pain in the ass. For the guys out there, I have one rule: no bro tanks. That’s it.

Live music is a beautiful thing; it’s where like-minded people share their love of music in a public space, where you can forget your inhibitions and enjoy yourself, and experience your favorite musicians in person. But if you don’t play your cards right, it can become a hellish night where you are surrounded by all the worst types of people, trapped in a room where not even your favorite music can relieve your agony. So, follow some simple rules, and spare everyone around you the pain of your bad behavior.