Concert etiquette: miss debcha speaks

November 27, 2007

My inner Emily Post is struggling to get out and rant about polite behaviour at concerts, so here’s a few tips. Note that this is strictly geared towards small, crowded concerts at bars – we’re not worrying about showing up late and waiting for the intermission before the usher shows you to your seats.

Smell nice. At a typical show, you can expect to have a dozen people within a one-metre radius of you. Unless you ride the Tokyo subway regularly, this is probably the most people you ever have within smelling distance. Shower. If you normally use deodorant, now is a good time. If you use perfume or cologne, lovely, although you probably don’t want to reapply right before the concert.

Don’t push your way to the front. If you want to stand in front of the stage and flirt with the bassist, arrive early. That’s what everyone who’s already there did. Just because we’re too polite to do more than glare at your back as you shove us out of the way, it doesn’t mean you’re not being rude.

And on a related note, don’t hold hands as you move around. Attending the concert with a group of friends? Fine. Negotiating a crowded space is bad enough solo; you don’t need to hold hands as you move from one part of the room to the other. You are not crossing the Khumbu Icefall.

More tips, a link to more conventional concert etiquette advice, and an MP3 after the jump.

Respect other people’s space. I went to a Ted Leo concert last year where this guy decided that he absolutely had to rock out in his own personal mosh pit. Unfortunately, I got to be one of the walls. Having a 200-lb guy caroming into me every minute or so didn’t really enhance my concert experience.

Similarly, leave the big purse at home. Concerts are a good time to stick with the holy trinity – phone, keys, and wallet. If you must carry a large bag (you’re coming from work or the library, say), hold it in front of you or place it at your feet. Unless your bag is literally a part of you – and by literally, I mean that it has to be fully innervated and integrated into your kinaesthetic awareness – you are going to whack it into your fellow concertgoers if it’s over your shoulder or behind you.

And here are the controversial ones:

Don’t sing along. Or rather, don’t accompany the vocalist. Yes, we are all there for the live music experience, but no, we’re not there to hear you sing. Singing along as a group is fine – hearing the Mountain Goats do ‘No Children’ wouldn’t be the same without a roomful of people shouting, “I hope I never get sober!” A good rule of thumb is that, if you can hear your own voice, you probably shouldn’t be singing.

Don’t shout requests. Seriously, have you ever heard a band do a request? How often do they even acknowledge them? You’re just annoying the people around you when you yell out the name of a song five times in two minutes. And, in particular, don’t request ‘Freebird.’ It was funny. Then it was ironic. It’s not post-ironic now – it’s just lame.

Video tips on concert etiquette.

MP3: The Mountain Goats – No Children


  1. […] I’m not the only person whose mind wanders to concert etiquette while I’m at a show. A friend of mine dug up this early Questionable Content cartoon strip. […]

  2. […] blogger Scott, who’s familiar with my preferences regarding singing at concerts, says: This isn’t necessarily a great cover, but it’s one of the best illustrations […]

  3. […] shouted-out song requests. Like most musicians, Darnielle doesn’t do requests from the audience. (listen up, concertgoers!) He described his response in terms of Kafka’s The Castle, in which the protagonist tries to […]

  4. […] makes me realize that I’ve been exceptionally fortunate at concerts, as when I wrote my own version, I didn’t feel the need to include “Thou shalt not puke” or “Thou shalt not […]

  5. Thank you, from the stage side of the bar! Beautiful Into Thin Air reference there …

  6. You’re welcome! May you always have polite audiences…

  7. […] something to be said for a small, discrete culture of concertgoers: everyone knows the etiquette, for example (something that can’t be counted on at bigger or all-ages shows).  But in the […]

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