Concert Etiquette For Dummies: Don't Be A Douche

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The following scenario has happened to Rocks Off three times in the past two months: There we are, waiting patiently in line to get into a crowded general-admission concert. When we finally get in, we make our way to the middle of the crowd, or sometimes to the corner of the stage (depending on the venue) so as to have the best view of the band. Now, this writer will admit she's taller than most girls, but she's no Yao Ming, and she also isn't trying to be an asshole. Rocks Off is respectful of people's space, and we don't always want to be right in front of the stage. So it always dismays us when someone says, like they did at the Black Joe Lewis concert earlier this month, "EXCUSE ME. I have been waiting here for half an hour. Go find somewhere else to stand." Or like the guy at the Ray Davies La Zona Rosa show at SXSW who waved his $400 badge in our face, then spun around with his elbows out whirling dervish-style to make a one-foot force field around himself. There's no such thing as a buffer zone at a sold-out show, and no one in their right mind would get to a movie theater 30 minutes early, sit down in a middle row, then complain when someone comes in right before the trailers and sits down in front of them. But maybe we're wrong. Maybe we really are the asshole in this situation. We're willing to be convinced either way. Then we read that Van Morrison was coming to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Saturday. Any time we think of Morrison, we think of that early-'90s Saturday Night Live skit where a couple at a Van Morrison concert keeps getting angry with the people in front of them who insist on standing and dancing for every song, blocking the couple's view. The whole affair has got us thinking about concert etiquette, about what's okay to do at a show and what's not. Heck, there's even a Wikipedia article on the subject. So Rocks Off polled some of our music-loving friends for the most annoying concert-going behavior, and our top six peeves are listed below. Is there something that annoys you? Or can you overlook any kind of jackassery in the company of a kick-ass band? Leave your comments below. Improper Use of Electronic Devices Occasionally Rocks Off will forget our notebook, so we'll make use of the handy Notes app on the iPhone and email the file to ourselves later. But each time we pull out the phone to type the name of a song or some funny onstage quote, we feel a pang of guilt. Because it annoys the hell out of us to see someone at a show texting their friends, or carrying on a concert-long commentary on Twitter. Here's an idea... Pay attention to the band. You know, the one onstage. But our grievances don't just extend to texting. If you bring your Flip camera and hold it over your head for 45 minutes so you can post some shitty-audio concert video on YouTube, you're blocking someone's view with your big fat fists. And there's a reason why flash is prohibited at most shows - it's blinding in the darkness of a place like Walter's, and distracting to the band in a venue like Jones Hall. Groupies Rocks Off doesn't want to slut-shame anyone, but you, my dear, are not Pamela des Barres. You will not marry Andrew Vanwyngarden. At best, you might have an only slightly embarrassing story to write in your journal. At worst, the gift that keeps on giving. Here's one actual musician's take on girls who come to shows for the musicians and not the music:

No one's watching you rub up on each other with the cheapest beer in your hands. No one cares if you kiss. I can get faux lesbians on my cell phone in this day and age. It's desperate and sad. You want to impress me, start massaging each other's genitals. Until then, your Katy Perry-edge is blunting my view.

But let's be fair. Not all groupies are teh wimmins. At the Magic Kids/Girls show at Walter's (appropriate, no?) Rocks Off saw one dude in the crowd fawn and paw all over Kids singer Bennett Foster. And at the English Beat show at Warehouse Live, one ecstatic dude-brah was so insistent on knuckling up with Dave Wakeling after EVERY SINGLE SONG that the singer eventually had to tell him to tone it down a notch. Boozehounds We go to shows to have a good time, right? No one cares if you have a few brewskis. But make sure you drink them - don't throw them at the band, like some jerk did to Morrissey. Yes, a beer rinse is good for the hair, but we don't want to drive home all sticky 'cuz you got a little too exuberant with that can of Lone Star. And please, do get so aggro either. Booze is the enemy of inhibitions, but it's probably not a good idea to choke someone in the crowd, even at metal show. Especially at a faux-metal show. And if you get so drunk that you feel you've auto-magically been gifted the powers of AWESOME dance, you might want to search for videos of yourself on this blog. Upstaging the Band You are not the band. You don't belong onstage. Rocks Off doesn't even care if you brought your own tambourine. Jumping on stage is a jerk move - it gains you 17 seconds of glory and a lifetime of ire from your fellow concert goers for being know as that asshat that jumped on stage. And especially don't try to stagedive. If the band wants you on stage they'll actually invite you, as The Flaming Lips and Every Time I Die often do. And because you are not in the band, you do not get to make the setlist. If Kings of Leon don't want to play "Use Somebody," they're not going to, and it doesn't matter how many time you yell it. We bet you're like the person who pushes the elevator button seven times, thinking it'll get you to your floor faster. And then there's the ultimate offense: yelling "Free Bird!" It's not funny. It's not even ironic-funny. The joke was played out years ago. Rocks Off's friend is a jazz musician, and even he gets this nonsense. But he's got a standard response: "Sure, I'll play anything for a $100 tip." Unsafety Dance There is a time and a place for everything, and the time and place for moshing is at metal, punk and hardcore shows. The occasional rock show... maybe. No one will fault you for slamdancing at Pearl Jam or pogoing to Peaches. But thou shalt not mosh at a gentle indie-rock show. Now go read Zen And The Art Of The Mosh Pit. Talking No other etiquette question has caused such discussion on the Rocks Off blog than the people who talked over a Jenny Lewis ballad at Warehouse Live. We're torn on the issue - for one, we agree with this comment on set-list etiquette:

Don't play a high-energy, all-hands-on-deck power song like "Jack Killed Mom" followed by an acoustic a cappella song and expect people to immediately STFU. it's not gonna happen. And if people don't STFU, keep playing. that is what a tour is. people pay to see you play."

On the other hand, the "people pay to see you play" argument is key here. Why pay to get into a concert if all you want to do is socialize with your friends? And if that is what you want to do, why not move to the back of the venue where you aren't drowning out the band. Luckily, Rocks Off has had some positive interactions with people regarding this subject. At one show, we politely asked the talkers to be quiet, and they complied immediately and even seemed a little ashamed of their behavior. After the show, they struck up a conversation with us, oblivious to the fact that we'd been staring at them with mind bullets before working up the nerve to address the issue. So see sometimes just being a nice person is the key. Maybe that's the biggest etiquette rule of all - don't be a douche, and everyone's happy.

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