10 Rules For Concertgoers

If I had to rank the top 25 moments of my life, specific moments from concert would take up about half of them. From hearing Coldplay belt out “Viva la Vida” or TV on the Radio bringing stoic hipsters to cheers or Hootie and the Blowfish making me nostalgic for the 90s, live music inspires me. But enjoying a concert depends as much on your participation as it does the band’s performance. These are simple things to consider before attending a concert that’ll help enhance your experience, as well as the artists’ and your fellow concertgoers.

1. Read the setlist.

Evaluating previous sets before your local show has many advantages. First, if you discover that the artist isn’t going to play your favorites, you’ll know it might not be worth the Ticketmaster fees to see them. Second, it lets you know what songs to listen to the week of the show, so you’ll be prepared to sing along. Third, knowing the setlist allows you to determine which songs are worth losing your lungs over and which songs you can rest your vocal cords. For me, anticipation is always better than being surprised.

2. Talk to people.

Talking to strangers is tough. But you’ve got no excuse not to make conversation at a concert. Clearly, you know you’ve got something in common with everyone around you: the band! Striking up a conversation with someone is as easy as asking, “What’s your favorite song?” or “Have you seen this band before?” or “What did you think of the last album?” The conversation starters are obvious and you know they’ll have an opinion. These kinds of conversations help make waiting in line more enjoyable and make you more comfortable with your neighbors once the show begins.

3. Play amateur videographer at your cousin’s wedding, not a show.

The advent of the iPhone and Instagram has convinced everyone that they’re amateur photographers. That’s beautiful. But at some point, your shaky footage is more of a distraction than meaningful documentation. Believe me, there is going to be footage of the show on YouTube afterward. Just because it didn’t come from your camera doesn’t make it less great. Plus, bands hate this. They haven’t spent all day in a tour bus to play for dozens of smartphones. They want to play for you! Find something better to do with your hands, like clap, wave, or wipe the tears from your eyes because of how amazing everything sounds.

4. Show discretion.

If I had to break down my concert philosophy, it would be “Don’t do anything that draws attention away from the artist.” Moshing, crowd surfing, or chanting “FREEBIRD” might be fun for you and draw a few awkward laughs. But these actions are entirely unnecessary. If I’m at a philharmonic concert in the park, that’s not the time to get my Ronnie-from-Jersey-Shore on. Although certain arias get me pretty hyped up, if my fellow concertgoers are enjoying wine and cheese to the sound of classical music, I’ll do that too. Detect the atmosphere and try to fit in. Don’t be a sideshow.

5. Be nice to the tall people.

My friend Greg might be the most friendly person I know. He loves people, music and concerts. He’s also 6’7”. He texted me once, “I’ve been tempted to make a shirt with ‘Sorry I’m so tall’ on the back.” I get the frustrations. No one wants to see Childish Gambino with Goliath in the way. But the Gregs of the world have as much right to stand close as anyone. Remember, the key to getting the spot you want at any concert is to come early, pick your angle, and be mindful of who tries to get in front of you.

6. Let’s keep the action on stage, not in your mouth.

I don’t have a problem with concertgoers having a romantic moment. When songs like “Chasing Cars” play, I can imagine young lovers wanting to enjoy a kiss. But unless you’re at a music festival where the only rule is that there are no rules, show a little restraint.

7. Let go and dance.

One of my favorite concerts was a free show sponsored by Bacardi. Featuring a bill of Childish Gambino, Kid Cudi, and all the rum I wanted, it was awesome. Doors opened at 9. Kid Cudi didn’t appear until 1:30. Needless to say, by that time I was gone. Feeling inspired, I left my friends and occupied an entire section of the back of Terminal 5 in New York, showcasing my signature dance blend of America’s Best Dance Crew b-boying and self-induced seizures. My philosophy for dancing is simple: Don’t be the best dancer. Be the dancer having the most fun.

Two large black gentlemen approached me in my chaotic bliss. “Young brother, black people do NOT dance like that.” They proceeded to try to teach me a simple move similar to Hitch’s advice to Kevin James. I laughed and we shook hands and it was all in good fun. Dance away.

8. No cutting.

A concert isn’t the time or place to give etiquette lessons. If you’re the kind of person who feels no shame barging like a battering ram through your fellow fans, there’s nothing one can say to stop you. That said, please stop.

9. Take a look around.

Concerts are about enjoying music with fellow fans as it is about witnessing your favorite artists. During your favorite song, do a 360-degree rotation and enjoy the moment from the view of the band. Music brings all sorts of people together. Watch them enjoying the show and you’ll feel special inside.

10. Stop giving a damn.

People respond to music in different ways. Create a space where you make others comfortable to be moved however the music hits them. Some people stand in silence. Some people wave their hands in the air like they just don’t care. Whatever your style of concert going, feel free to do so in peace. If everyone leaves satisfied, it was a memorable night. TC mark


image – Pataphile


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  • Nchl

    If I’m seeing Slayer, I have to go to the pit, punch some dudes and throw a windmill or two. That maybe not be proper etiquette at a Tegan and Sara show, but the metal community looks down on those chilling in the back. #JustSayin
    Also, may I add, don’t wear the band’s teeshirt to the show. Nothing looks worse.

    • Kelsey

      Being to a Slayer show myself, you are spot on! I actually get a little bored at the low-key shows. Regardless, I love the energy while at a concert. It’s like a special kind of high!

    • KC

      What about at an Iron Maiden show? You HAVE to wear the shirt!

    • Jack

      Agreed. The first rule of concert-going is NEVER wear a t-shirt of the band that’s playing on the bill.

      Just. Don’t.

      I’m surprised it wasn’t included in the list above…

  • sarah e.

    as a frequent concert-goer this is a great list. and i’m nice to the tall people when they don’t show up 2 hours later than me and wedge their way directly in front of me. at 5’3″ i always do what i can to avoid them and get there ridiculously early but there’s not much you can do besides be a jerk when someone plants themselves 5 inches from your face. can’t tell you how many shows i’ve been to where i just had to imagine what the band looked like. i’m sure greg is a nice guy though :)

    • http://gbrzozowski.wordpress.com gbrzozowski

      Thanks. I try to do my best. It’s not like I want to get in people’s way and I really do feel bad about it when someone’s stuck behind me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amytunstall Amy Tunstall

    I had the tall-person-in-front issue while seeing Childish Gambino on Saturday, and the kissing-while-Chasing-Cars-plays one on Friday. It takes just a silent moment of frustration to get over it, put yourself in their shoes and carefully and politely move to a different spot where you can get a different angle.

    Loved this article, couldn’t agree more with every point.

  • EP

    Apologies for the language, but FUCK number 5. Be courteous of the short people. If you know you’re tall, you can see over my head, so why do you need to stand in the front row? It’s not like your view will be obstructed by me. I’m 5’2″. I show up early to every show I go to, and somehow literally EVERY tall person will find their way to stand around me so I can’t see. It’s just not something you can understand unless you’re under 5’4″. Other than that, I totally agree with the article. Ending my vent now.

    • sarah e.

      i feel you and EXACTLY. how is switching places with someone more than a foot shorter than you going to lessen your experience? you already have a serious viewpoint advantage over everyone else so why not make at least some effort to be considerate. i had the misfortune of ending up front row at a skrillex show (camping out for tv on the radio at ACL) and some dick next to me kept using my head as an arm rest.

      • Nabel

        I think you just had the misfortune of ending up at a Skrillex show to begin with.

  • http://crapodelic.blogspot.com Naomi

    There’s nothing more annoying than having someone’s arm hang over the side of your head as they record the whole concert on their camera.

  • http://mynhunguyen.wordpress.com mynhunguyen

    Rule 5.5. Be nice to short people.
    I’m all for acceptance of all heights, but trust me, if you step to the side to allow us in front of you, if only for one song, we will appreciate it immensely.

  • lindjsey

    Great article. I would only add one more rule: It’s not a sing-along unless the artist says so. It feels great to belt the songs at the top of our lungs in the car/shower/universe, however at the show, let the band do the singing. Your immediate neighbors in the crowd will appreciate being able to hear the band, and not you, sing their songs. That being said, when the band calls for crowd participation you should hold nothing back.

    • Erin

      Who doesn’t sing along when they’re at a concert? Best part of enjoying the show!

      • lindjsey

        Oh, I agree. But when the person next to you is louder than the band, it’s hard to enjoy the show that you paid to see.

  • http://twitter.com/theobserving pete n pete (@theobserving)

    having been a tall-ish (6′) concert photographer, you can only imagine the angry looks i got from people. you try to explain that you’re only gonna be there for 3 songs and then youre out, but no one wants to hear that noise.

  • nicole

    I agree with everything but #5. I am not short, I am 5’9″ and a half (yes I count halves like a four year old), but I have a best friend who I love going to concerts with and she is only about 5″1′. I always make sure that she is in front of me and I even let other people who I don’t know and are shorter than me ahead of me. Would I love to be ahead of her and see the show perfectly like they were playing for only me? Of course. But what’s the point of going to a show if you’re content but the rest of the crowd is absolutely miserable due to something as simple as letting someone who won’t obstruct your view in front of you? In the end, the experience will be better for you and the crowd around you. Also, getting there early does not always help. I’ve stopped doing it unless it’s one of my favorite bands because I almost always get pushed back no matter how aggressive I get. It isn’t worth the headache.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thetkproject TK

    Rules defy the concert going experience. Chaos makes the moments possible… fuck your rules

  • Charl

    I feel the only thing that needs to be added to this is that if you can define your hair as ‘medium length’ or ‘Long’ please tie it back. No-one wants a mouthful of your hair when you’re sandwiched between hundreds or thousands of people. Brilliant article.

  • Nora

    Couldn’t agree more to the “Talk To People”. Everyone I have met at concerts is awesome and it one of the easiest venues to start up a conversation. Once, I went solo to a Ben Lee concert because none of my friends had heard of him and met the coolest couple. They were just as fanatic about him as I. Talked to them on the subway the whole ride home and we talked about other concerts we’d seen and I couldn’t believe I had actually met real people who liked the same band as me.

    Again, can’t agree more with this rule. People are already super social and if you go alone, there are plenty of other lone soles to talk to as well. So say “yes” to New Friends, Great Experiences, and Even-more awesome music.

  • AuxCodes

    It should be reminders, not rules. Number 1: I do not agree with that. It’s like watching a movie and you already know the ending. There will always be a special feeling of being surprised because they played your favorite song. Besides, anticipating the song might make you impatient and lose interest on the previous songs. Also, most people go to concerts because they like the artist/band, thus liking most of their songs. It is not worth it if you go to a concert just to hear a few select songs.

    For the most part, Number 4, 6, 7 and 10 are conflicting. Number 10 says Stop Giving a Damn. I understand going to some orchestra or symphonic show requires a bit more etiquette but if I’m going to a concert, as long as I’m not hurting anyone, then I will not give a damn. I will sing along if I want to. I will jump if I want to. I will scream if I want to.

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  • KC

    Tall people irk me, but I know it’s a given at any concert. I am short, everyone is taller. With that said, I don’t mind being in a crowd with tall people when it’s natural. You go and get your spot, people move around, a tall person gets in front of you. Migratory movements are okay. What I do have a problem with is the assholes who literally push you out of the way, spilling your $6 PBR, to get the spot that you’ve been standing in and have earned for the last two hours.

    The worst – I was at Kasabian in March and somehow migrated to the very front (perks of being small). Some brobot shoved me out of the way and proceeded to TEXT FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE SHOW.


    If you’re going to be rude and physically remove me from my spot, at least enjoy the damn show.

    • KC

      Also, when I went to see the Dead Weather at the House of Blues, a very tall man made his way in front of me just as they were to come on. I politely asked if he’d mind if I stood in front of him, given he was a foot taller than me and could see just as well. His girlfriend, who also was taller than me, whipped her head around and said “I MIND!!!!”

      That’s just mean!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jtinkelenberg John Tinkelenberg

    Pretty good list, I’d say. I’d add one more. I don’t pay 30-40 bucks to listen to other people sing. That’s what the car is for. The only exception I have to this is the obligatory singalong.

  • http://www.aghendriks.com engleprunt

    #3 is spot on. The rest is up to debate in way. It seems like most the shows you go to are on the low-key end. Physical curtousy goes out the door at most metal shows I go to.

  • http://gbrzozowski.wordpress.com gbrzozowski

    About #5. I’m 6’7″. Every time I buy a ticket for a concert and its standing room only, I instantly feel terrible because I know by just being there, I’m “that guy” to the whole crowd. I hate blocking people’s views because everyone paid the same amount of money, sometimes a lot of money, to get to watch the show. I make that tough on people, I know. I want everyone to have a good time, but that includes me, not to sound selfish. I paid the money for the show and if I’m passionate about an artist, I will try to get as close as possible, sing as loud as I can, jump as high as I can, and share in the experience of listening to my favorite songs live. I don’t see why people say because of my height, I have to be put in the back. Being close to the show isn’t only to get the best view; it’s to get the best experience, with die hards who also know every word and are gonna get every bit of enjoyment out of the show till the go hoarse or pass out. I want to be with those people, not those texting in the back. So, to all those people who dislike my kind and to those who have been had bad experiences due to tall people who abused their height and didn’t even pay attention to the show, I sincerely apologize on behalf of giants everywhere. But us giants like music too.

  • Caitlin

    #8- I think there’s something sort of beautiful about everyone squishing together and not knowing whose sweat is whose anymore. I think cutting and moshing are prefectly acceptable! Everyone should try to get as close to the front as they can, that’s part of the fun! Then again, this is from a Midwest perspective. I don’t know where the author of this is from, but the people at the concerts I have attended on the East Coast seem to be much stuffier and less willing to be so on top of each other. Which is obviously a personal decision, but I love it.

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