It's Never Too Late to Learn Proper Concert Manners

You don’t leave a show early. It’s horribly rude. I’ve seen this practice increase lately, and it’s got to end. During Smashing Pumpkins' summer tour co-headlining (whatever the hell that means) with Marilyn Manson, which stopped at NRG Arena last month, more than a quarter of the audience made an abrupt exit during the Pumpkins’ set. Not between performing sets, not during a guitar change, not even between songs — people left mid-song. Don’t embarrass the Bayou City like that.

The performers can see you leaving; Billy Corgan even commented on the exodus during his set, calling them "posers." His guitarist, Jeff Schroder, preferred the term “weeknighters." Is that how you want your rock idols to remember your home city? Of course not.

Perhaps you see an early departure as a sign of dissatisfaction a band might earn for a subpar performance. I’ve had this discussion often during keg-party banter and have been met with the retort, “Dude, if the band sucks, I gotta bounce.” To which other dudes nodded in agreement, sipping from their beer-pong cups. The Dude Council had spoken, it seemed. But, I proposed, what if we agree music is art? Doesn’t that artist deserve the dignity of receiving your judgment after a fair and complete viewing? He or she does.

In retrospect, Manson should have followed the Pumpkins, if only for the rise in energy of the performance. But even that's no excuse. Never walk out during a performance. And don’t tell me you had to work the next day…nobody does shit on a Friday at work anyway.

If you’re the tallest person in the room, congratulations. You’re also an obstruction to an otherwise good view of the stage. The good news for you is that you can still see when you’re in the back. Of course, all this would be null if venues were built with a graduated incline for the audience as in a movie theater (recall Houston’s old beloved venue The Vatican). But for some reason, they just don’t.

The smaller the venue, the worse the obstructed view can be; It’s basic geometry. I can’t see if the stage is close and you’re in front of me. In an open-air concert, stand where you like. But if you’re at Rudyard’s or Fitzgerald’s, consider your height. This isn’t discrimination, it's courtesy. Move your ass to the back.

I get it. I do it, too. Snapping some pics of your rock idol is to be expected. Who wouldn’t want to record this amazing experience to share with friends later? My Instagram account is an embarrassing testimony to how often I record memorable moments at good shows.

At an Old 97’s show last year, I was even kicked by an anti-photography fan who claimed I was taking too many pictures. In my defense, I had actually taken only two, and as much as I wanted to return said kick, I didn’t. Jail time is not my thing. But I have kicked that bitch back several hundred times in my own mind. That’ll teach her.

We’ve all seen it — dozens of tiny, bright screens can be disastrous when you can’t see the stage from all the hands and phones in the air. A picture or two is perfectly fine. Recording the entire set is obnoxious and, unless the band asked you to do so, it’s also stealing. Chill.

I may be angriest about this topic. Seriously. You people who bring little children (under ten years old) to shows, it's got to stop. You literally ruin shows. If you can afford concert tickets, gas, alcohol and merch, you can certainly afford a damn babysitter.

It makes people around you uncomfortable for several reasons. First, it’s probably not good form to take a child to a concert where people are drinking to excess and prone to fighting and the talent is talking about all kinds of inappropriate things.

Second, from the kid’s point of view, it’s scary. I was also one of those kids too young to be at shows. I love my mom for introducing me to music, and I’ll never regret seeing Willie Nelson, Black Sabbath and others I can’t remember all before the age of five. But you know what I remember from those shows? Not much besides it was dark and loud and I was tired. I wanted to go home and go to sleep.

Third, it makes the performers uncomfortable. Think about it. What if something happened to your kid at the show? Not only would that performer feel awful about it, but think of the press that follows such an event. It could be a career-killer. All that performer can think about when seeing your kid in the front row is headlines like “Kid Gets Trampled in Mosh Pit." Nice.

Don’t believe me? Glenn Danzig stopped his show at Bayou Music Center to ask a parent how old his child in the front row was. The answer? Eight. Let that sink in a minute. Sure, you’re the cool dad who takes his kid to shows. Congrats. Look around. You think all the rest of the audience is single and childless? Of course not. They just have enough sense to get a sitter. You should, too.

Probably — no, definitely — much worse was the interruption of that Manson show mentioned earlier. During his song “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me),” when he usually throws a stage-cocaine prop into the audience, he stopped suddenly. He shook his head visibly toward his guitarist, Twiggy, who looked confused. Manson continued the song, albeit subdued and without stage-drug props.

After the song, Manson told the crowd he would be holding back after noticing two toddlers in the front row. Toddlers! He announced he would stop cursing so much and acknowledged the children. He even asked the kids, “Are you scared to be here? Don’t be. It’s okay.”

What the hell? Do you realize you just ruined Manson for the rest of us? None of us paid to see his kind, caring, paternal side. We want to see him in all his satanic, freakish glory. We want to see him laud drug use, embrace homosexuality, destroy religious artifacts and use the f-word a lot. But, when you bring kids, he gives us the PG version of Manson. Totally disappointing.

Be like those cool parents (I’m looking squarely at you, Mom) who at least get their kids some noise-blocking headphones, put them on Dad’s protective shoulders and stay in the back with other tall outcasts. And, when your kid clearly looks scared, take him home. Marilyn Manson shouldn’t have to console your baby. That’s your job.
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Kristy Loye is a writer living in Houston and has been writing for the Houston Press since July 2015. A recent Rice University graduate, when not teaching writing craft or reciting poetry, she's upsetting alt-rights on Reddit.