With each show, you are presented with a new experience, group of people, and likely venue. The only thing that remains constant is that you are attending, but your actions at a show can have potentially drastic consequences, both good and bad. This past weekend, a few of the marquee aspects of show etiquette were broken. Below, I have outlined the absolute necessities in order to be a respectful fan in a slew of environments. All of this is done to prepare yourself for every genre, because no one likes a push pit at a Modest Mouse show.
Regarding clothing, specifically shirts, perhaps the number one rule, is NEVER wear a shirt of the band you are about to see. Everyone knows you like the band because you’re at the show. If you do wear a band t-shirt, make it count, as in something that is out of that band’s genre. Also, sandals are generally a bad choice, along with any heavy clothing. The temperature inside a venue can be brutal, so consider that run from your car to the entrance in shorts during the middle of the winter.
Regarding height, if you are on the short side of the stick, know if the venue has some sort of in-house elevation, or get there early so you are in the front of the stage. Also, don’t complain when someone is tall, like myself, is in front of you. There are hundreds upon thousands of different spots that you can stand, so realize standing behind me would be counterproductive. If I get there early and have a great vantage point, realize and understand you could have had the same spot. Just because I can see over everyone does not mean I can see well from a far distance. However, I will not stand in front while waiting for a band that I enjoy if I do not like the previous act. At any rate, if you are tall, it would be wise to stand near other tall folks, as vertically challenged fans can find plenty of other spots to avoid the mass of tall fans.
Regarding moshing, only start a pit that is centrally located and avoid two pits. By having two pits, especially within a close proximity, you create a hazard for those who were there just to get a good spot for the band. So, either open up the pit more, or confine yourself to that singular mosh pit. In festivals, you will be more inclined to have multiple pits, but in an enclosed venue, you should at least attempt to join in a singular pit. Also, realize the spots that would be ideal for making a pit. Try opening a mosh pit that happens to be around fans that are genuinely rocking out because there will be some casual observers that may not want to partake in the physical nature of a mosh pit. Lastly, recognize whether or not the band you like are a mosh pit-esque band. Acts such as The Mars Volta frown upon mosh pits and would much rather spastic dancing.
Regarding talking, between songs or sets, or even asking what song is currently being played is acceptable, but do not have full conversations during a set. Not only is it rude to the band, but potentially fans in your general area. You may be able to get away with this at heavier shows, but not all shows have the volume cranked loud enough to drown out conversations. No one paid to listen to you talk about the last episode of Entourage, trust me.
Regarding phones, generally just turn them off, I am guilty of this occasionally, but really there is no reason to have your phone out during a band’s set. If you are using your phone to record the setlist or checking the weather of an outdoor show, by all means do so, but avoid texting during a set.
Regarding drugs and alcohol, if you do happen to go to a show under the influence, which is something personally that I would never do, know the environment around you. If it is a hot day, it is not such a good idea, as you may pass out due to heat exhaustion. Also, if you plan on drinking, THINK about what type of drunk you turn out to be, as in, belligerent drinkers are not the best for a show atmosphere. Also, loud and physical drunks tend to damper the situation. Furthermore, keep your drink in your cup or in your stomach, do not have it in a place where it could easily spill or think it will be cool to throw your drink. The best course of action is having alcohol to the point where you are at a reasonable level of judgment and where you can actually remember the show you are about to see.
Regarding costumes, they are always acceptable, especially when it is not Halloween. There is nothing better than seeing Whinnie the Pooh mosh at Warped Tour or a man wearing cardboard locust wings with a cardboard sword at a The Locust show.
Regarding song requests, DO NOT do this unless you know the artist takes requests during their set. About 99.9% of bands have their setlist already planned when they walk on stage. For whatever reason, Brand New fans have yet to understand this concept, and trust me, if I was Radiohead today and heard someone requesting “Creep” I would make sure not to play that ever again. Additionally, no one think you are funny when you ask for “Freebird,” no one.
With every festival, there are more bands that you can stomach, but during the downtime of your favorite bands, do yourself a favor and research bands you might be interested in. There is nothing worse than going to a festival and overlooking a slew of bands in order to gain energy only to find out that your new favorite band(s) played that same festival, but you missed out. Festivals generally cover a wide range of genres for a reason, to expand tastes through people simply stumbling around the grounds.
The absolute number one issue that happens at every festival that fans should NOT do, is wait out the storm for their band. By this, I mean fans that are in the first three rows, waiting an entire day until the headline act performs. The main after effect of this is there is a HIGH possibility that you will not like the other bands playing before the headline act, therefore, causing a motionless, dead front-and-center of the stage. Not only is that a buzzkill for the band playing earlier, but buzzkill for fans of the earlier bands. Often you will find fans like this at festivals where a major act are reuniting, such as Rage Against the Machine, or simply one of the most popular bands around, such as Radiohead. From a personal experience, Radiohead played on the same stage as Gogol Bordello, and it wasn’t exactly the most desirable outcome for Gogol Bordello, while Brand New and Rage Against the Machine shared the same stage. Yeesh.
Like mentioned before in the mosh pit section, at certain shows, especially metal shows, mosh pits are mainstays. Therefore know where you would be safe if you simply want to headbang along or watch the band. Also, if you do mosh, recognize your surroundings and try to avoid actually hitting other people in the pit. There is nothing as bad as getting windmill kicked in the face. Also, grow out your hair to ridiculous lengths, otherwise you will not get the full experience.
Alt/indie shows are often described as boring, especially the fan base. So in order to change that, break out of your hipster shell and sing or dance a little. There is nothing wrong with rocking out or singing out loud to your favorite artists, and alt/indie performers are no exception. Even with post-rock acts like Explosions in the Sky, sway with the music, or at least do something. If you are going to see your favorite band and you are standing in one of the front rows, it is pointless to stand there stationary watching their act, when you can be rocking out harder than they are.
If the band you are seeing, such as The Tallest Man on Earth or The Antlers, for instance, are bands that are generally soft and intimate, DO NOT talk during their sets, ESPECIALLY if they are the headline band. No one paid to listen to you talk, they paid to see the band performing. I have heard bootlegs of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and been at a The Tallest Man on Earth show where fans were having full conversations in the middle of their sets and it is obnoxiously rude. Fans also, for whatever reason, have tried to start clapping during moments that the band had not started clapping themselves, which usually means, you should not clap. So please, save your energy, enjoy the moment, and be quiet during intimate sets.
Punk/post-hardcore/hardcore etc. shows you will find the most crowd surfing. There is nothing wrong with crowd surfing if: you are under 250 lbs and you do it, at most, three times in a show. First of all, if you do weigh a significant amount, there is a chance you will hover over a group of girls, in turn nearly killing them and yourself (God bless if you manage to get up surfing in the first place). Secondly, if you do make it to the stage, realize how to jump back into the crowd. Do not be one of those dicks that jump into the crowd and then tries to walk on the crowd. As far as girls crowd surfing, be respectful. Just because you cannot touch a breast or buttocks outside of crowd surfing, that does not mean it is okay to do it whatsoever. Lastly, expect to lose essentially everything in your pockets and your shoes. Some fans do no like crowd surfing in the least; so you may be punched or dropped, so let that be a fair warning.
If you are not getting down at a hip-hop show, you are at the wrong concert. Make sure you are complete copycats of whatever is going on stage with hand motions, otherwise the artist will not feel the effect of puppet mastery.
Since pop shows are generally in arenas (you know, since they go from not playing at all to 20,000 seat arenas with one song), know that you will likely have an awful seat with a large amount of people near you with signs reading about marriage proposals and affection, so brace yourself mentally. Then again, most fans at a pop show would not mind this, unless of course your girlfriend drags you to such show.
On a final note, think about your actions before acting. A show should be a positive, memorable experience, so try to not let anyone ruin that for you. So support your favorite acts and have fun doing so without being that guy or girl.