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Concert Etiquette

24 Jan

Now that the website Dicey Weather is completely defunct and no longer on the internet, I am posting some of my articles here, just in the name of having it all in one place.

Lessons from a Dylan Show Survivor

Shows seem to these days be things of my past. I used to go see bands a couple of times a month. However, in my old age, I only make it out to see live music once every couple of months, and when I go to a concert I am amazed by the lack of concert etiquette that used to exist. I end up feeling like an old lady hollering sentences that begin, “Back in my day…” But you know what, it isn’t even that I am old and not cool anymore. I recently ventured to Berkeley to see Bob Dylan in concert and couldn’t believe the things that were going on around me. I lived to tell the tale, but also to share what to me seems to be common sense about the things you do and don’t do at a concert.

1. Don’t Sit

The concert we went to was at the Greek Amphitheatre on the UC Berkeley campus. In the theme of antiquity, the theatre boasted elevated stone seats rising from all sides and a general admission area, commonly known by nicknames such as “the pit” or “the dancefloor” or “standing room.” None of these terms imply sitting. Hence my shock when my friend and I realized that the two women behind us had taken it upon themselves to sit on the floor before the concert started. There are seats designed for that very purpose within the venue and when you sit in a standing room only area, you take up more room than your ticket allots, and you run the risk of tripping someone or getting trampled. If you can’t stand at a concert, suck it up and sit in the nosebleeds. A concert is often a communal experience, and the theme throughout these tips focuses on enjoying a concert while not raping the experience for your neighbors.

2. Don’t Shove

Concert migrations are normal and natural. Anybody who has moved up at a concert knows that when you scope the crowd ahead of you, there is often a slight hint of a path guiding you forward, spaces in the crowd that seem open and waiting for you. It is perfectly acceptable to gently move your way through these paths to a free space, always with an obligatory “Excuse Me” or “Coming Through” and that gentle tap on the shoulder to let people know that you are on the move. Just don’t be rude about it. At the Bob Dylan concert, the aforementioned women who were sitting stood up quickly as soon as the lights shifted and the concert began. One of the women was trying to move ahead of me and this other gentleman, but there wasn’t any room for her. Most people would have just stayed put. Instead this woman stuck her arm between me and the young gentleman and yelled “I have to be up closer” to us and shoved us aside so she could be ahead of us.

3. Use Height Responsibly

This woman was shorter than me, so although her approach was rude, I accepted it. However she proceeded to reach back to where she was standing, grab someone’s hand and pull them up also in front of me. This man also yelled “Is it okay if I stand with my lady?” I politely said “No, you are much taller than me.” But that wasn’t the answer he was looking for so he ignored it and shoved his way through. He was a good foot taller than me and double my width. This rule is very grey, because tall people shouldn’t be penalized for their extra inches. They should be allowed to enjoy concerts as well. But there is a responsibility that goes along with that, like not forcing your way in front of someone who is vertically limited.

4. Pay Attention and Blow Up

Once the happy couple was in front of me, the woman (likely in her late fifties) turned around, facing away from the Bob Dylan she just so had to be closer to and proceeded to suck face with the rude man. No one wants to see that. A simple peck on the lips will do. You came to see a concert, not to make out with your aged significant other. In between the spit swap, they also pulled out a joint. I was young and high once in my life, and concerts are definitely a prime place to be smoking. However not everyone in the concert wants a buzz. Most people at concerts take a hit, point their faces skyward creating plumes of smoke emerging from varying areas of the crowd like the industrial sectors of Detroit. Again it’s the responsible way to smoke. This couple was blowing smoke everywhere onto their neighbors. At one point a young fellow standing next to them got so fed up that he moved away. My friend and I shifted into the space that he had vacated. We were fools.

5. No One Paid to Hear You

The worst part was once we were ahead of this couple we were subject to the rude man’s singing for the rest of the concert. Not only was he squealing the lyric to every song, he did it a nauseating second before Bob Dylan would sing it, like a reverse echo. Again, buddy, there are times for this. During the encore, everyone raucously sang along to “Like a Rolling Stone” which was a fantastic, communal understanding. But other than the required concert group sing-alongs, singing should be reserved. The worst part about this man’s singing was the timing, reciting lyrics before Bob Dylan got the chance, almost as if he wanted to prove to everyone unfortunate enough to be around him that yes, he knew the lyrics. No one cares.

6. Shut up and Dance

Most of the songs Bob Dylan played were upbeat, jazzy numbers which caused a great sway of the crowd as everyone danced around. I myself was still cold, so had my arms crossed in front of me and was swaying my hip slightly. After a particularly fun song, the man grabbed my arm. Startled, I turned to see what he wanted. “You need to knock it off!” I giggled nervously since surely he must be joking. He wasn’t. “You just elbowed me in the stomach and shoved me two feet!” he proceded to yell at me. “I was hardly dancing. I don’t think that could be true,” I explained to him. He continued yelling at me, saying that I needed to calm down. This man had been persistently ruining my experience and was now asking me to not even sway my hips. At this moment, I felt rather low. Until, “Hey man! Leave the girl alone.” I looked up to see my knight in shining hipster clothes. Rude man: “Stay out of this! She shoved me.” My knight: “She was dancing. This is a concert. If you can’t handle dancing, go back to the old man section.” My knight grabbed my hand and pulled me forward to stand with him and his friends who were all dancing, smoking and blowing up.

The moral of my Dylan story is that when you go to a concert, it is not a private performance. You are one in a crowd of many. So don’t piss off the people around you, and if you see someone like me in trouble, help them out. If the entire crowd is having a good time, it is always a more memorable experience. And, hey, if you are reading this my knight-in-shining-hipster, I owe you a beer sometime.

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