The Bollocks! Guide to Rock Concert Etiquette

I saw Ramona Falls and the National last night at the Wiltern. They were both fucking awesome. I might expand on that a little later on, but the thing that was really not awesome, at least where I was standing, was the crowd. So I thought it might be prudent to publish the Official Bollocks! Guide to Rock Concert Etiquette so as to help people avoid being chumps at a concert that you or your extremely not-chumpy friends are attending.

So, you’ve decided to attend a rock concert – for the sake of argument, we’ll say you’re going to see the National with very special guests Ramona Falls. The first thing you want to do is purchase tickets for said concert. I’m not going to help you with that part; if you can’t figure it out, I don’t want to see your dumb ass at the show anyway. What I’m concerned with is how you behave yourself while you are actually at the show.

Rule 1. Mind Your Beverage. Yay!!!!11!!!One! You’re at a rock show on a Friday, you just got paid, and you’re gonna spend a little of your hard-earned scratch on some watered-down, nine dollar cocktails. That’s all well and good. But if you’re so hammered that you’re spilling said nine-dollar girly-drink on your fellow concert-goers, maybe you should stand at the back. A slurred, “Sorry,” might slightly – slightly – improve the situation, but no one wants to go home smelling like booze they did not consume/spill themselves. Also – if you are standing near the front at a general admission show and you decide to get another drink right as the headliner comes on, do not, under any circumstances, act like you have a right to slosh ‘n’ spill your way right back to where you were. You made the conscious decision that booze was more important than being in a choice spot to see the band; deal with it. At a general admission show, if there’s open space, people have a right to take it and you have a right to go fuck yourself if you don’t like it.

Rule 2. Save the Autograph-Hounding for Later, You Materialist Fuckface. Say you purchased a special vinyl edition of your favorite National album (for the sake of argument, of course) and your night would just be a hot fudge sundae with blowjobs on top if you could only get the band to sign it. Fine. After the show, skulk around the stage door like a properly dedicated creep. Do not thrust your sweaty arms between the heads of other audience members, waving the sharp cardboard edges of the LP around and shouting at the band between (and during) songs to please sign the goddamn thing. And what the fuck is it with people and their memorabilia now anyway? I’m all for getting the T-shirt or the new CD or the poster or whatever, but I see more and more kids at L.A. shows who are more excited about the autograph they got or the band member they touched than they are about the great fucking music they heard. These assholes collect shows, they don’t attend them. But hey, it’s all right with me if that’s what you wanna do, just don’t do it in my ear. I paid thirty bucks to hear the National play awesome music, not to hear you talk about how you just bad-touched Bryce Dessner’s calf.  Which brings us to…

Rule 3. Can We Please Dial Down the Creepy Devotion Thing? Look: I love – love – the National and I love the Hold Steady and if I’ve copped a hand-shake or a high five (or Craig Finn’s headstock) from those bands, that’s all part of politely muscling your way to the front. But shouting the band members’ names over and over again and then begging them, “Touch my hand,” is… it’s fucking creepy is what it is. Stop it. You’re embarrassing yourself. Matt Berninger wrote a song called “Afraid of Everyone” and shit like that kinda justifies his terror, you know what I mean? By all means, show the bands some love by applauding and yelling and cheering but don’t make them afraid to come to your town again. All “for the sake of argument” aside, I watched a kid calf-stroke Bryce Dessner like four times last night and I could tell Mr. Dessner wasn’t enjoying it. It was, by far, the saddest display of fan affection I have ever witnessed.

Rule 4. You Do Not Have Anything Clever to Say Between Songs. You know what’s really fucking annoying? Hearing the same assholes yell stupid shit at the band between songs. I’m not just talking about requests, which we’ll get to in a minute; I’m talking about drunk idiots trying to be a part of whatever stage banter may or may not be going on. Do you really think shouting, “I love you,” a million times in between every song is endearing you to the band? Or anyone else, for that matter? Cheer as loud as you want between songs, let out jubilant whoops and unintelligible utterances of your undying joy, but for fuck’s sake, please don’t think that a conversation with you is what the band came to your town for.

Rule 5. I Will Kill the Next Motherfucker to Shout “Free Bird” in Between Songs at Any Show that I Am Attending. Maybe that’s a corollary to Rule 4, but I’d like to think it’s self-explanatory. Requests (don’t worry, I’ll get to those) are irritating enough, but ironically asking every fucking band that comes to your town to play “Free Bird” stopped being funny exactly thirteen seconds before the first wasted zygote that yelled it thought to do so. Basta!

Rule 6. Trust the Bands You Love to Put Together a Good Fucking Set-List. Enough. With. Yelling. Requests. Let me ask you something, Sparky: do you like the band that you came to see? Do you like most of their material? Do you think that maybe – maybe – they’ve given some thought as to how to order a selection of their songs in a manner that might provide pleasure to both band and audience alike? Isn’t it just possible that, because the band you like writes songs you like, that you will hear songs you like at the fucking concert? In the National’s case, I’ve seen few bands match the mood and intensity established in their nearly two-hour set. So to all the people who were shout-requesting “Start a War,” did you really miss it that badly? Did it ruin the whole show, all the exciting shit they did, because you didn’t hear that one song? I would’ve liked to hear “The Geese of Beverly Road,” but I didn’t shout about it once and I honestly didn’t miss it in the set I heard. Bottom line: if you think a band is an amazing band, you should trust them to put on an amazing show. They don’t need your help. They’re professionals doing their jobs. How would you like it if Matt Berninger came to your work and starting telling you how to make Mocha Buttfuck Frappucinos or how to be a key grip on a porn set or whatever it is you do?

There. Now you have no excuse for behaving like a purebred chump the next time you attend a concert. And remember: in the immortal words of the Hold Steady, “No one wins at violent shows.” It’s not okay to hurt people, kids. Unless, of course, they’re requesting “Free Bird.”

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4 thoughts on “The Bollocks! Guide to Rock Concert Etiquette

  1. Hi! I’m a graphic design student working on a booklet about concert etiquette. I found your rules to be funny and true. Is it possible to use excerpts from this post for my project? I will give you and your blog credit. This book is strictly a class project and not for profit. Thank you for your time.

    Amy K.

    • Hi Amy,
      I’m glad you enjoyed my little etiquette lesson. You’re more than welcome to use excerpts from this post, so long as you give proper credit. If possible, I’d be very keen to check out the final book when it’s done. It sounds like a thoroughly badass project!
      -Matt Chorpenning-

      • Matt,

        Thank you SO much! The project is finished and it looks amazing! I’m in the process of binding all of the books by hand right now. If you would like one, just email me your mailing information. Thanks again — your words really helped me set the tone for the whole project.

        Amy K.

  2. Pingback: I’m late I’m late – for a very important date | Throw the Dice and Play Nice

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