Lili and Carter’s Guide to Concert Etiquette: It’s your f*cking fault for not getting there early

If you haven’t noticed, I’m not in Denver this weekend… I’m in Austin, Texas, at Austin City Limits. ACL is a 3-day music festival to benefit the Austin parks and recreation department. My friend LiLi and I have spent the past 36 hours soaking up both the Texas sun and the musical stylings of some of the best musicians to wield a guitar in the past 5 years.

LiLi was feeling productive last night at 1 am and wrote a lovely rundown of what happened yesterday at ACL. (While she wrote that lovely overview… I slept. Rock on.) But do check out her post.

Today we had our fair share of eargasms, courtesy of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Broken Bells, Two Door Cinema Club, and Monsters of Folk. But, I’ll tell you all about that later.

Obviously I write mostly about cooking here, but today it will be a little different. But hey, that’s the upside of having a blog, right? You can say whatever you want on it. Because it’s your blog!

Be aware, we wrote this post together, and as grown adults, we have been known to curse. (The horrors!) We could have written a late-night rant about the ups and downs of the shows, the people watching, the food, the lines for beer, etc., but what we really chose to focus on is…

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Concert Etiquette.

In our combined 59 years of attending concerts, it has become abundantly clear that not everyone understands the intricate rules of concert etiquette. These are unspoken rules, and despite not having them in tangible form, they should be known by all, a.k.a., you. They should be common sense to every concertgoer.

We realize that not everyone has had live music experience, and that concert etiquette might not have been an ingrained part of your family upbringing. Lili began her lifelong study of concert etiquette at the ripe age of 5, when she attended a Crystal Gale show. Carter had a delayed start, only attending her first show, Incubus, at the age of 15. But regardless of your age, the size, or location of the show, these rules should be an integral part of your concert-attending knowledge.

With that, we will share these basic rules of etiquette. Essentially, the Golden Rule of Concert Attendance is, your love for the band should be in direct correlation to how early you show up for the show. If this isn’t crystal clear, let us interpret the many situations in which it applies.

RULE ONE. If the band is your all-time-favorite omg-I-have-to-see-them-up-close-or-I-will-die-a-slow-painful-death band, then you need to get to the show early. And by early, we don’t mean 15 minutes before your band takes the stage. Especially if your band is headlining (meaning they will go last in the line-up that night), this might mean showing up an hour before the venue’s doors even open. It’s best put this way: if you’re the first people into the venue, you get first dibs on where you stand. If you don’t get to the venue until later, and people are already crowded into wherever you would like to stand, whether it be the first row or somewhere else, then you don’t have any right to move into their space. You know why? Because you didn’t get there early enough — so it’s your fucking fault.

RULE TWO. When picking your spot to watch the show, please keep in mind that an inch by inch square does not equate room for you to stand. It means I just farted, or I need to shift because my tailbone hurts from sitting on the ground. I did not move just so you could squeeze into that free space; if I wanted you to stand there, I would let you know.

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Not free space… I promise.

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RULE THREE. If you get to a concert and the area around the stage is crowded, it doesn’t mean that there is room for you and your four friends, I don’t care how thin/short/generally hot you think you are. You have no right to push your way through the crowd of people (who have presumably been waiting far longer than you have) to get closer to the front. If you are unhappy with where you are standing for the show, let us reiterate: it’s your fucking fault for not showing up early enough.

RULE FOUR. Even though you have no right to be pushing through the crowd in the first place (see rules 1, 2, and 3), please do not tell us that you’re “looking for a friend.” We don’t care. We also know you have no friend up there, so don’t bullshit us. At one point or another you will have to stop looking for your “friend,” and your stopping point will invariably block someone else’s view of the stage. Need we repeat ourselves? You weren’t here early enough, so its your fucking fault.

RULE FIVE. At least once, there will be something that prevents you from showing up early to a show (and therefore from earning a coveted spot in the first few rows of the audience.) It sucks, but it happens; you can’t get out of class/soccer practice/work/walking your dog, whatever. This does not grant you a free pass to be an asshole and push your way to the front (see rule 1.) This just means that you’ll have to suffer watching the show from mid-venue, or (gasp) the back of the crowd. Next time you’ll know better, and you can skip class/ quit your job in preparation… because it’s your fucking fault.

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Welcome to my personal space.

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RULE SIX. In the event that a friend of yours is able to get there early, while you are still stuck at class/work, and is feeling charitable enough to save you a spot near the front… This does NOT give you a right to claim the aforementioned spot. If you are trying to save a spot for a friend, I would suggest only saving 1 spot (not enough space for all 10 of your friends who are late), and perhaps you might mention to the people around you that you have a friend who is running late. We know this is a difficult concept to grasp, but something along the lines of “Hey, I was hoping to squeeze my friend Suzy in here with me. Would that be okay with you?” usually does the trick. Being polite has a crazy effect on people; they usually acquiesce. But, if you’re Suzy, good luck on getting to the front to your friend… The thing is, it’s awful hard for other concertgoers to distinguish you from Able, and by Able, I mean the dumbass trying to tell us s/he is looking for her imaginary “friend” when we clearly know better.

RULE SEVEN. Once the band starts, do not push up against people in front of you to get closer to your favorite lead singer. I do not, under any circumstances, need to feel your business pressed against my backside. This especially applies if I’m up against the fence, and you’re a 300 pound drunk dude standing behind me. Don’t push me into the fence unless you feel comfortable paying my hospital bill for a ruptured spleen.

RULE EIGHT. If you leave to pee/get beer/etc, you risk losing your spot, plain and simple. Pee in a bottle, or don’t complain when you have to watch the rest of the set from the back of the venue.

RULE NINE. Your enjoyment of the show should not impede my enjoyment of the show. Examples include, but are not limited to:

- singing the lyrics: I didn’t pay $50 to hear you scream each word of the Broken Bells’ “The High Road” in my ear. I paid to hear james mercer croon it in his sweet, angelic voice. So mouth the words silently, or STFU.

- dancing: I get it, you’re in the zone, expressing your love for the music. No one is suggesting you stand there like a statue. But please keep your appendages out of my private space.

- drinking: hey, we enjoy tasty, cold, Adult Beverages as much as the next hipsters. But we don’t get super drunk at shows, just so that we can stumble into you, knocking you AND your frosty PBR to the ground. So please don’t do that to us!

- smoking cigarettes and, ahem, other things: well, obviously I can’t stop you. But obviously, don’t attempt to dance like a madwoman while wielding a lit ciggarette, unless you’re looking to get bitchsmacked.

- being “affectionate” with your sig other/a random you met at the show: dude, that’s gross. This is not a rap video, and I do not need extra entertainment in the form of you getting some play right next to me. That’s just nasty.

RULE TEN. “Sorry” doesn’t excuse shit. It’s nice of you to say it, but it’s even more annoying if you say it immediately after committing the unspeakable acts mentioned in any of the above-mentioned rules, and follow it with a bitch brow. For some reason, your apology just doesn’t come off as sincere.

So there you have it. Our top 10 “rules” to experiencing live music… politely. From now on, I promise to actually SAY SOMETHING when a jerk commits any of these unspeakable crimes. (Today, all I managed was “Didn’t your mama teach you better concert etiquette?” It was so lame.)

This is a double post, since Lili’s also featuring it on her blog, Wordvom. Go check out her blog for her spectacular verbal spew on all things hipster, books, and raising twin girls.

What do you think? What would you add to our list? What’s your biggest pet peeve at a show or concert?

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Broken Bells / “Everlasting Light” by the Black Keys

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7 thoughts on “Lili and Carter’s Guide to Concert Etiquette: It’s your f*cking fault for not getting there early

  1. This article was probably intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but as a relative newbie to music festivals I found this pretty damn useful.

    Also *Two Door Cinema Club*.

  2. John – We did intend for it to be tongue-in-cheek, but this is all true. There just seem to be too many people who don’t think when they’re at a show nowadays. I don’t show up 3 hours early for every show I go to, but I’m not trying to fight my way to the front, either.

    Are you a TDCC fan? We saw them yesterday and they’re playing Denver in a few weeks, too. I love their peppy dance rock!

  3. Great post! I have a lot of concert experience, too. I love to go to a good concert. Concerts in Europe are a little different. I think you would hate it. I always (or most of the times) get in trouble attending a concert here in the US. Sorry. But I always pay a high price for my ticket in the first rows and since I paid for it, I will stand, sing and dance and don’t really care about the couch potatoes around me sitting down. They should stay home and watch the recorded show in their home theaters.
    General admission is a different situation. I have stood in the snow at the Fillmore to see a show 5 hours before the doors opened. No, I would also not let anybody cut in front of me. Finding a friend doesn’t count either. You get to know the people surrounding you and they will hold your spot if you need to use the restroom.

    I could go on and on. Hope you had a great time in Austin with your friend!

    • Kirsten – How are European concerts different? I think if you’re paying extra money, then you totally deserve better seats (or at least, to watch from the seats you paid for… which are usually better than GA tickets.) Most of this applies to General Admission, of course.

      I’m totally with you – get to know the people around you, because being polite to strangers isn’t a crime, or creepy. They will totally hold your spot for you. But the people on the outskirts of the crowd might be all “WTF?” when you try and come back after going to the bathroom, etc.

      Let me in on the secrets with European shows! It may come in handy should I ever choose to trade in my suburban-housewife-in-training lifestyle for a life of roadie-ing for a band on a world tour.

  4. Ew. The hobbit feet in that picture are frightening (and a little bit fascinating, TBH). I think I would have been tempted to trip him, should he ever move. ;)

    • For serious, I almost had a meltdown. “Everlasting Light” is maybe tied for my favorite Black Keys song, because I can’t say that “Your Touch” or “I’ll be Your Man” is any less of a favorite! It. was. awesome.

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