The Thinking Man's Take On: Concert Crowds



I had the pleasure of catching Cut Copy and Matt & Kim at the newly reopened House of Blues in Boston this past weekend, a great show to be sure.  But there was one drawback – the crowd.  Not the whole crowd, though.  Specific members of the crowd who were seemingly there with the sole purpose of annoying music fans.  I’m sure you’ve been at concerts full of these people.  It’s awful.

Crowds at live concerts vary wildly depending on where you are and who you are seeing perform, obviously.  New York fans are savvy – often bordering on jaded – and knowledgeable.  Philly fans are dancey and ragey.  SXSW fans are bloggers.  And Boston has grown a unique breed of concertgoers, too old to be hipsters and too drunk to be polite.  But everywhere you go, really, the people who bring the crowd down are the same.

So next time you go to a concert, please, don’t be That Guy or That Girl.

Disclaimer: I hope this doesn’t come off as too angry or bitter.  I get pretty riled up when I think about how much these people annoy me.  But it’s for everyone’s good, in the end.

Don’t be…

The Drinks Guy: I have no problem with people enjoying some frosty oat sodas during a concert – and if it makes the crowd dance more I’m all for it.  But seriously, your PBR comes in a big can for a reason – maximum beer, minimum trips.  The Drinks Guy, though, needs to have a mixed drink in hand at all times and wants to be in the center of the pit.  So throughout the show he goes back and forth to the bar, spilling on everyone in his path, spending outrageous amounts of money on booze, and – of course – holding his drink high above his head as he maneuvers through the crowd, lest he spill a precious drop of his Long Island Iced Tea.  If you’re going to drink all show, stand at the bar.  Otherwise, get your drinks between acts and listen to some music for once.

The Pusher People: These are, hands down, the lowest of the low.  Here’s the scene – you get to the show in time for the opener.  You even catch some of the opening DJ set.  You find the perfect spot on the floor – good view, good distance from the stage, enough room for you and your friends to groove to some tunes without bumping elbows all night.  Everything is fine until about 2 songs into the headliner, when suddenly 7 small girls funnel past you to the front of the crowd.  Followed by their 7 large boyfriends.  And 4 other people going to “meet their friends”.  Within three songs you’re at the back of the crowd with Shaquille O’Neal standing directly in front of you.  And to top it all off, no one even said “excuse me”.  As a friend best put it – even if you’re pushing past me to get to the front, we’re still both human beings.  If you want to be in the front row, get to the concert on time.  I’m going to keep making it as difficult as possible to push past me.

The Mosher in the Back: The exact opposite of Pusher People, this person decides to bring the front-crowd party to the back-crowd floor.  A ball of energy with reckless abandon, he bounces off people trying to calmly and sedately enjoy some good music, demanding that they join him in headbanging and playing Tasmanian Devil.  It’s not cool.  Go to the front of the crowd and throw your body against people who signed up for that, nobody appreciates it back here.  I still have nightmares about the large sweaty girl who insisted on rubbing up on everyone around her at an RJD2 show at the Middle East.

The Talkers: Arg, these people make me angry just thinking about them.  They’re not usually a problem during the headliner (although when they are it’s even more excruciating) but The Talkers will destroy any opening act.  They stand directly in front of you, talking about inane topics as great bands play softer music.  I saw The Faint play at the Roxy in 2004, and the two people in front of me talked during the entire opening act – a little group known as TV On The Radio.  Makes me want to pull my hair out.  If you don’t care about the music, that’s fine.  I dig the concept of concerts as social events, and I think it’s fine to chat it up with your friends.  But do it at the bar, between sets, or in your friend’s ear.  I really don’t need to hear all about how Tanya wanted to go bowling yesterday but you were hanging out with Sarah instead.

The HUGE Swaying Dude: Now, I know that you can’t control how tall you are.  And I truly believe that you should be able to stand wherever you want in a crowd, no matter how tall you are.  We’re not going to line up with the shortest people in the front and tallest in the back, so you shouldn’t feel bad about standing in the front of the crowd.  But please please please, Mr. 6’5”, stay in one place.  You should dance, you should bop, you should get into the music.  But you shouldn’t shuffle back and forth in a 3-foot line from left to right.  I’m watching over your left shoulder, now I’m watching over your right shoulder, now I’m watching over your left should.  Please pick somewhere and stay there.  Thanks.  Also, please don’t beat me up.

The Cell Phone Girl: Three main ways you can misuse your cell phone during a concert.
1) You can talk really loudly on it.  Unless you’re giving directions for someone to find you, you should put that conversation on hold.  But in the grand scheme of things, this is not a huge offense.
2) You can hold your phone up during a hit song so that “your friend can hear it”.  Having been on the receiving end of this sort of call, let me tell you what it sounds like: “

khhhrhrrrrkrkkkckchhchhhhhhhhck OMG WISH YOU WERE HERE”.  This is the best way to use technology to brag to your friends, annoy them, and destroy their hearing simultaneously.

3) You can use your cell phone light as a lighter during slow ballads.  This fad, in all seriousness, makes me want to shoot myself in the face.  Nothing about it is good and it makes everybody participating look like a tool.  Lighters are cool because they are made of fire, which is cool looking.  Cell phones are essentially little bluish flashlights, and they just make everyone sad that the lighter thing doesn’t happen anymore.  So put your cell away.

The Makeout Couple: This one is a problem everywhere, obviously, but it’s the worst at shows.  This weekend there was a couple making out for a good 20 minutes in front of me.  And it’s frustratingly hard to ignore – my mind starts racing desperately to figure out what is going on.  What are these people thinking?  Did they really pay $30 to french kiss in a group of strangers?  Do they not have homes?  Or Subway tickets?  Did they just meet?  How long are they going to keep doing this?  How is he breathing?  By this point I’m completely repulsed, both by them and by myself, and music is an afterthought.  We don’t need to see it, we don’t want to see it.  Turn around and pay attention to the show, and all problems will be solved.

The “Freebird” Guy: I have a soft spot for this guy, since I think every music fan has this person inside them.  You’ve been a fan of a band since their first album, and you’ve had a lot of good times while listening to one song.  Every bone in your body wants to shout out to request it.  Except that the band isn’t playing requests, and they have a setlist.  So unless it’s a quiet acoustic show and the band is open to suggestions, please don’t shout out song titles.  Even doing it once or twice is fine.  But if every time there is a lull onstage you yell “Electric Feel!” as loud as you can, everyone is going to hate you.  Best Freebird Guy I’ve ever seen was a college student who went on stage during intermission and left a note for Béla Fleck asking him kindly to play Big Country, since it’s a cult hit at Dartmouth.  Worst Freebird Guy I’ve ever seen was a concert late-comer who yelled for the Flaming Lips to play Yoshimi two songs after they had just played Yoshimi.  Ouch.

Alright, I’m all ranted-out.  Stay classy, say excuse me, and don’t be obnoxious.  It’ll be nicer for everyone that way.

Chris Barth writes a weekly Thinking Man feature here at Pretty Much Amazing.  You can read his more succinct daily entries at his blog, The Stu Reid Experiment.