Concert Commandments

The one thing that was a bit unnerving about the Jack Johnson concert was the different ways in which the varied crowd interaction went down. There were the chill couples, the Coachella girls (newsflash: heels not appropriate for the lawn’s incline), the stoners, the party people, the true fans, the hangers on (that’s me!), the golden oldies, the dancers, and the creepers. I witnessed some odd interactions between new friends, creepers, and the party people that got me thinking about how strange people act at concerts. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been there. I attended tons of concerts in high school with my older brother, probably before most people were allowed, and definitely before I had the desire to wear high heels somewhere. I danced like an idiot, drank too much, became blind to the world around me, and took the bumping hustle/drink-spilling of concerts a little too personally. Luckily those days are behind me and I’ve settled into a comfortable rhythm of bopping, singing, observing my surroundings, and understanding that dirty shoes/feet, a few shoves, and some way too friendly and way too grumpy people are all part of the concert experience.

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So, before the summer festivals kick off with a fever pitch of this beautiful, electrifying, mayhem that is live music and swarms of people in various states of soberness/interestedness/life, I’d like to outline some Concert Commandments:

I. Thou shalt help out their concert-going peers.

This may be the most important commandment. Too often I see girls giving cut-eye, guys shoving unnecessarily hard, and people not apologizing for spilling other people’s beers (or spilling theirs on other people). We’re all in this together and we have at least one thing in common: we love music or at least someone who loves music. A small apology, taking a moment to see if you’re blocking the 5-foot-nothing girl’s view, saying “Excuse me”, and putting aside the idea that the world owes you something will make everyone’s time a whole lot better. Move to the back of the bus. Don’t piss all over the bathroom stall. Help up the crowd surfer who got dropped on their ass, even if they kicked you in the back of the head. The concert atmosphere is better for it. The universe is better for it.

II. Thou shalt wait in line.

Get over it. If you don’t like it, choose a smaller venue for your next show. If you’re too privileged to wait in line, see the first commandment.

III. Thou shalt keep their hands to themselves.

It’s loud, it’s crazy, and all senses are being stimulated at once. That doesn’t make it okay to invade people’s personal space and grab them in any way. If you really cannot get someone’s attention, a shoulder poke will suffice. If you made new friends, it will be almost immediately evident if you can break this rule with them. Note: Arm-linking and swaying are encouraged, so long as all parties are willing (even if a few are a little embarrassed).

IV. Thou shalt be open to concert friends.

Concert friends are a unique kind, as they are (almost) always made with the understanding that they are finite. Everyone’s here for a good time. What makes a good time better? Sharing it with more people. If you’re really not feeling it, be pleasant. Nobody likes sitting beside a neighbour with attitude (although I’ve only been to a few concerts with seats…) and if you’re really dying to escape your concert friend, there are a million excuses to relocate at most venues (go to the bathroom, get food, have a smoke, get a beer, meet a friend, buy merch… endless possibilities).

V. Thou shall watch the band/artist/performer.

I broke this one a few times this week as comments about his performance leaked into stories about past shows and catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a few weeks. Still, despite not knowing much of the set list, I made an effort to take it in. As soon as you take the time to really watch the stage – the set, the bassist, the drummer, the dancers, the lights, the singer – it can be overwhelming how powerful, cool, difficult, and taken-for-granted music is. Rather than focusing on who’s looking at you and how you look and how many more beers you can afford and if that really is something on your shoe, making a pointed decision to just watch the artist can make a huge difference in your understanding of the songs, appreciation for the artistry of live performance, and totally transform your live music experience. Watching through your phone doesn’t count, by the way. Major offence if you are on your phone for other reasons – you paid to be here and you can never relive a live music experience. Take some time away from cyberspace to enjoy it.

VI. Thou shalt not stop in hallways, doorways, paths, etc.

If traffic is expected to move through a space, respect that space. You will no doubt be using it shortly (if not currently), and it is annoying to everyone when a group decides that the middle of a passageway is the perfect place to stop and debate whether they want to get food or drinks first. Tuck yourself against a wall/tent/barrier or stand by another group – just make sure people can get by you!

VII. Thou shalt select location based on fan level and level of movement.

Don’t be that jerk who only knows one song but really wants to say he was front row. Don’t be that girl slam-dancing around the back of the venue where everyone just wants to chill. If you have a sore foot, don’t fight your way to the packed middle and then act put out when someone steps on it. Find your like-minded concert goers and enjoy the music with them. Allow other people the space and acceptance to enjoy the music in their own way.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the music. Feel free to add your own rules of enjoyment below!

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