Live Music Etiquette & Tips.

March 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

Getting ready to head to Austin for SXSW got me thinking.

(Governor’s Island “Gone to Governors” event in NYC last year.)
I’ve devised some live music strategies to get the most out of the experience and Imma share them! First, let go of the camera, let the moment be ephemeral. A few shots here or there are perfect for prompting a memory, but they shouldn’t BE the memory. What good is live music if you’re not putting some of yourself into the show too? I’m really bothered by the people who take photo after photo after photo throughout the entirety of a set. Did they even see the band? Next, stop caring and dance. Third, take a second to piece apart the sounds, I actually have to close my eyes to do this well. Keyboards and synth are the hardest for me to single out for whatever reason. Listening thoughtfully to complex music can be fun and I’ve learned to appreciate a really talented drummer/vocalist/etc this way. Fourth, take in the crowd a little, they’re a part of it too. The best shows I’ve ever seen were half-made by the energy brought by the fans. Specific cities, venues, and artists bring out different groups of people. You may also make some friends this way, as you’ll probably run into people again if you have similar taste in music. Exchange numbers and you’ll have a show companion. Fifth, pay attention to how the room sounds and get yourself a good sightline! If you’re short like me this may include a little pushing but if you’re as polite as you can be – no worries. I’ve found that just placing a hand lightly on someone’s shoulder usually gets their attention and doesn’t piss them off. Move around and find the sweet spot, the one where all the sound feels balanced and right. For really long shows, jam band style, buy two drinks at once so you don’t have to lose your spot. I’ve even filled a camel bak with beer for really long crowded shows because I have no shame. On that same note, pee before the set begins. Sixth, be a forgiving listener as often as possible, go in wanting to love it. Making music and performing it live for 40 nights isn’t easy. If it were your project you’d want people to give you a chance, so give others that same respect. Seventh, if you’re in the venue’s “serious” zone (i.e. near the front, etc.), shut up. Shut your mouth and stop talking. Stop texting while you’re at it because phone screens are distracting. If you want to talk/text, head toward the areas where people are less intense or devoted to the performance. Eighth, drink plenty of water. Ninth, ignore my advice as you see fit, so long as you go. I’ve seen lots of shows by myself! Worth it. I’ve also purchased my ticket(s) ahead of time to force myself to attend even though I’m preoccupied with school or feel lazy. Life is too short and you never know if a band is on their last tour. Tenth & lastly, value sharing the experience with someone you care about. I have strong emotional attachments to memories of seeing The Dodos in Prague on Thanksgiving with my bestie Erica & cousin Bradley, of John Butler playing Ocean at Bonnaroo with Lolly in 2007, of David Byrne at the Paramount theatre in Austin with my mother, or CKY with Brad in 2002 (ha!), and most of all: my first concert, No Doubt, with a grad student who let me scream “I’m a fucking girl!” along with Gwen Stefani during ‘Just a Girl’. Some of those memories revolve around the music itself, but none of them would resonate so strongly if they’d gone unshared.


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