In the past thirty years or so, I have seen thousands of bands perform live. It is something I like to brag about. Many of those gigs have become important memories and life defining moments. Not all of them were great and some have been far from memorable but live events have always been a trustworthy source of entertainment.
However. In recent years I noticed a change in behaviour during events, especially the big festivals. For an increasing amount of people, these have become frustrating events. I've heard many people say "it used to be so much different". So what is wrong? Apparently, the audience has changed.
Not only the amount of musical activities has increased, so have the technical abilities. Dunk! festival in Zottegem comes up with perfect sound and an incredible light show, not bad for a small (but legendary) festival. Hell, even Dio is performing again, be it as a holographic gimmick. Not long from now you can probably go to a holo-festival with Lemmy, The Ramones, The Doors, Nirvana and Elvis Presley. It will be technically perfect, just soulless.
So yes, we are spoiled and many of us have started to act that way which leads to frustration and anger for the die-hards. You are always welcome to join the fun. We, the old hands, welcome the newbies, as long as they behave. And with "behave", I'm not even talking about getting wasted on alcohol and drugs. We don't care about that. It's your life, ruin it like you want to. We just care about our concert-experience. So here are a few tips and tricks to make concerts fun for everyone.
Now, more and more venues and festivals forbid crowdsurfing and stagediving. Why? Well, apparently, some people think it is funny to step aside and see the fellow rock fan crash onto the floor. In my younger years, moshpits seized to exist when someone fell down. Now, some people try to stomp other moshers six feet underground. Suddenly people are getting injured during these habits while others seem to be annoyed by the happenings. The latter are mostly the old-hands, former crowdsurfers and moshers who for some reason have become concerned parents.
Whose responsibility is it to make a festival safe for those involved? Governments impose rather strict security regulations. There is always at least one first-aid team present. So organisers to their job. Actually, the first one responsible is you, the audience member, the one getting into the pit. You are responsible for your own safety and that of others. It is the same everywhere, in shopping streets, in church, in school, at work, at a gig. Just don't be a cunt, it can't be that hard. When someone falls, help him up. When someone is bleeding, take him to first-aid. That is not just a tip I'm giving you. You could actually get arrested for not helping people in need.
Another important aspect is hearing safety. Deafness and tinnitus are real and scary things. You do not want to spend your life with a constant bleeping in your brain. Again, that is your responsibility. Most organisers make earplugs available for free. Use them or step away from the speakers. I joke a lot but this I'm serious about!
Two: shut the fuck up
Imagine, you're a musician. You are doing your very best to provide people with your music. Yet, over the music you can hear people's voices. You can hear them chat about their migraines, their aunt Debbie or a great new way to shave their legs. You try harder but they just talk louder. Why do they do that?
Well, my guess is: those people just don't care about your music. All they care about is showing people that they have been there. They care about facebook likes, instagram masterpieces and twitter hearts. To those people, music is secondary. I have seen and heard them during Massive Attack, during Thisquietarmy and during O Yuki Conjugate. They are everywhere and they just won't shut up. They have to be eradicated because they are what's wrong with today's music industry. They are selfish and disrespectful pricks who only show up because the event is "hip".
And of course you can say something to a friend. You can make a few pictures. It's a free world but just show some respect and shut up during a concert, or at least the bigger part of it. I know it is hard to believe but there are actually people present who know and like the band and who therefore wish to enjoy the performance. They're called "fans". You can even see them buy merchandise. Do I have to explain what merchandise is?
Three: the thing with smartphones
Why are people so angry at phones at a concert? Perhaps because we expect a concert to have a certain amount of quality. That quality is determined by the band, the sound, the light, the atmosphere and the audience. It does indeed suck to have to stare at a bright screen in front of you instead of the actual band performing. I guess it's a mixed feeling. I understand the fact that you want to expand your memory of an event by filming it. But be real, you're never going to watch that video. There will always be a better version, filmed by professionals. Same goes for photos. I'll repeat: first three songs. After that the rest of the audience should have the permission to smash your device, deal?
Then of course there are the people who are continuously occupied with their smartphone without even filming the band. They are checking their social media, answering emails, watching photographs of aunt Debbie's ugly baby. Those people should not attend concerts and events but since this is a somewhat free world, they will show up anyway. Let's not worry about those people. They do the exact same thing in traffic so they'll kill themselves one day. It's natural selection.
Four: Advanced concert etiquette
I think in concert etiquette there is one general rule, just as in every aspect of life. "Try not to be a cunt", as Jim Jefferies so eloquently uttered. The aforementioned tips and tricks will get you well on your way to become a respectable member of the audience. However, you can go even further and become a "beloved" audience member, even an honorable concert goer. If you're ready to take that step, try one or all of the following.
Bandshirts don't only look cool, they also make sure that the artist can eat or at least expand his career as a musician. I have never met an artist who did not appreciate me buying something, on the exact contrary. You should see the amount of free stickers I have gained over the years. Even more important, you should have seen the smiles and happy faces of artists young and old when I exchanged a stupid piece of printed paper for a beautifully printed piece of cloth.
2. Don't turn the venue into a dump
Don't litter. Throw your empty cup in a bin or put it on the bar so that the crew can clean it up. It's not that hard. If there are ashtrays, put your cigarettes in them. If you can't smoke inside, don't. And please do not piss in public.
3. Respect the crew.
Respect the hell out of these people. Most venues and festivals use volunteers. Those people work hard for days on end. They have been there before you woke up and they'll be there after you go home. Say "thank you", they'll appreciate it. Oh, and don't be that asshole who brings his own beer because it's cheaper.
4. Allow everyone to see what's going on
If the one standing behind you is smaller than you are, switch places, at least for a while. Either remain seated or dance in the hallway during concerts in a theatre venue. Backpacks are annoying things in crowded areas. Do not block hallways. These little things make the experience a lot nicer for people involved and thus for you too.
5. Remember: people are here for the music
People go to church for Jesus, not to find a suitable mate. Concerts are rather similar. So don't annoy people with your sex drive, don't throw beer in people's faces, don't push, shove and brawl. Just watch, listen and enjoy.
There you go, a lesson in concert etiquette. I tried not to turn it into a overemotional rant about how music is slowly dying, mainly because it's not. Even if all the people who have felt offended by parts of this article decided no longer to show up, live music will always be here. Perhaps in some cases it will be better if those people just stay at home and be a cunt there. Meanwhile, the rest of us will experience musical magic as never before...