Why Being Respectful at a Concert Is Part of the Experience

Artwork by Mike Gilchrist

Artwork by Mike Gilchrist

by Karigan Wright

Concerts are a beautiful celebration of music, community, acceptance, togetherness, and art. Every day, venues around the world fill up with devoted fans, giving thousands of individuals the experience of a lifetime, seeing their favorite band or artist right in front of them. The combination of talented performers, a safe environment, delicious food and drink, and incredible music makes for some of the best nights of our lives, but can this experience be ruined by other people? Can other fans get in the way of ‘perfect’ concert? Is there a certain way to act at concerts? I think the answer to these questions is a hard yes.

The multi-genre band, Lake Street Dive, that frequently crosses between jazz, pop, folk, and soul, performed at the Boch Center in Boston on November 17th of this year. I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to be in the crowd. Lake Street Dive has been one of my favorite bands of all time for over a year now. The lead singer Rachael Price has one of the most timeless voices I’ve ever heard, and she’s backed by four other extremely talented musicians. I was prepared for that night to be one of the best of my life, having nothing but positive experiences at the other 10+ concerts I’ve been to in the past 10 years. Although the band was musically stunning, the experience turned out to be disenchanting, by the fault of the audience.  

Jalen D’Gonda, a jazz and R&B musician with a breathtaking voice opened, his cool and smooth vocals radiating from the stage into the lucky audience. Despite his talent, audience members were blatantly rude, talking loudly, arriving late, playing videos on their phone, etc. The girls behind of me were shouting over the music, the group of people in front of me were watching videos on their phones, and the ones beside me showed up late, causing the entire row to stand up and allow them to pass. Despite my own efforts to focus on D’Gonda, I could hardly hear his voice and was constantly distracted by people around me. What was meant to be a musically enchanting experience quickly proved to be the opposite, that is, a concert that left my friend and I too annoyed and distracted to enjoy the art.

Instead of focusing on the energetic soul tunes of D’Gonda, I was asking myself if concert etiquette should be enforced, or at the very least, expected. As a music lover, I would argue that it should be expected, and at times forced, seeing as experiences are too often ruined because of how other people act. Concerts can be expensive and when I pay nearly $100 to see my favorite band I expect it to be the best experience ever. What I don’t expect is for audience members to be blatantly rude, talking over performers, not just disrespecting those around them but disrespecting the performers as well.

As far as technology goes, if you need to reply to an important email or text message, sure, go for it, but don’t spend the entirety of the concert on social media, especially if this involves sound, distracting the people around you.

In addition to this, please don’t shout over the music for the whole 45 minutes to 2-hour set! Share a few words here and there, heck even sing along, but please don’t yell over the music constantly, telling your friend a story you could easily save for after the concert. My friend and I struggled to hear the music for most of the concert, the audience members around us chatting to their friends about the drama in their life.

While the following do not necessarily apply to Lake Street Dive, other factors must be considered; should alcohol and drugs be allowed? Crowdsurfing? Is it rude to push your way to the front row? I think these are difficult questions to answer, as most of these actions can apply to specific genres. If there’s a general consensus at a rock concert that everyone is going to be trashed and crowd surf, then fine. However, a problem arises when people not engaging in these activities are inconvenienced or distracted because of it. I couldn’t care less if the people around me weren’t engaging in the music, as long as my own experience wasn’t affected because of it.

I’ve been to many concerts where people are smoking weed and drinking, and well, as long as they aren’t drunk enough to bother me then I don’t usually care. There’s clearly a constant in my view of concert etiquette, do what you want as long as it doesn’t get in the way of other people’s experience.

As far as crowd surfing goes, I’ve only been to one concert where people were crowd surfing and all I could think was ‘I’m glad I’m not in the pit’. Sure concerts are all about enjoying music and the environment it takes place in, but perhaps crowd surfing is pushing the fair line between enjoyment and enjoyment that causes a distraction. How are you supposed to enjoy the music when a person is constantly crowd surfing above you? I’m all for concerts going back to the old-timey way, musicians standing on a stage and performing, without all the theatrics that come with it, including the constant use of cell phones and crowd surfing. What happened to closing your eyes and taking in the ethereal sound echoing around you?  

I believe there is a right and wrong way to act at concerts, a concept I don’t think is too hard to understand or follow. I, and many others I’m sure, simply ask you to be present, involved, aware, and respectful. Of course, concert etiquette depends upon the concert, and the social norms of the genre, but these four things should be constant. You can be present, involved, aware, and respectful at a symphony, at a rock concert, jazz performance, or any other musical event. Just try your best to stay off your phone, listen to the music, and take two hours to enjoy what should be an unforgettable experience.

My philosophy behind concert etiquette is this: do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t disrupt the performers or other audience members. Concerts can be both an exhilarating and relaxing time, regardless of whether you hardly know the performer(s) or they are your favorite of all time. Concert venues provide a safe place for individuals to be comfortable with who they are, and to listen to music that makes them feel good. Don’t ruin this experience for other people, take just two hours to be more observant, look at those around you, close your eyes and listen to the music, sing along, and above all, have an amazing time!

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