There was a time when most people seemed to automatically know how to act at gigs. Maybe there was something in our genetic coding passed down from the first time a monkey-man took a stick to a fallen tree and a passing Neanderthal was heard to say “nice syncopation dude, can’t wait for the album.” Another carved “really gutted to have missed the show” on Cliff Face. Recently there does seem to have been a shift in the way people behave at live gigs, so I thought it was time to go over the rules again.
Even before the gig has taken place you can see the cracks beginning to show. Modern attitudes towards Facebook, for example, now mean that event pages, even for really exciting gigs, pass the user by without a second glance, yet a cat looking like a 20th century dictator, a plate of Confit of Salmon with new potatoes and a dill drizzle or a vague status along the lines of “why do I bother?” will generate so much buzz that it temporarily breaks the internet. (The correct response to that last one is either “ you okay babe?” or “hugs, call me.”) Event pages were made for sharing, that’s how they work but when the bands can’t really be bothered (it’s the promoters job after all) and most of the “interested” or “attending” parties are either just trying to look socially active, have no intention of going or live in a different hemisphere, then maybe we need a new strategy. Being seen to go to gigs is the new going to gigs, it would seem.
- Asking what time is a band on.
Again another pre-gig ritual for people who say that they support live music but really only ever go to see bands that their housemate/work colleague/brother-in-law is in, out of a sense of duty. Is your time that precious that you can’t watch some of the other bands on the bill that night? You just might find your new favourite act out of the blue. I have on a number of occasions. Anyone who lives their social life to such a strict regime has probably rinsed all of the fun out of their life anyway. 9.30: watch friends band. 10.17: go to bar. 10.23: pretend to be a bit drunk and say that wacky thing you have been working on…. What happened to spontaneity? The correct answer to the question as to what time a certain band on is this. The doors are at 8, the first band is on a bit after that, then when they have finished there will be some other bands at regular intervals. When the last bands says thanks and good night” you can go home. (But see point 5 for further instructions)
- Support all the bands
As touched on above, just because you know someone in the middle band on the bill, why not live a little, get there early, stay to the end, and watch all the acts, even the ones you don’t know. I always counter the argument of” I’m only here to watch The Zombie Mutant Bikers From Hell, (for example) they are my favourite band” with “Remember that time before you heard of them…the moment that they exploded into your life? That could happen tonight and anyway if one of your favourite bands is on the bill, there is a fair chance that the promoters have done their job and lined up some other music that is also to your taste. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
You are here to support the band not to build up a portfolio of self-aggrandising photo opportunities. We seem to have entered a social phase where being seen at a gig via a series of blurred snapshots is more important than actually fixing a memory in your own head of a brilliant night of music. If your main reference point to a one off, much talked about, critically lauded, Stone Roses reunion show is a photo of you and the gang where you can just make out John Squire’s guitar headstock in the back ground then you are doing gigs drastically wrong.
- Buy some merchandise
Probably more pertinent at grassroots gigs but also a vital part of the system. So a band have driven 80 miles to play with a few local bands and are getting paid just enough to cover the fuel for the trip. You went to see the local acts but also really enjoyed the out of towners, you even told the singer as much and that the guitarist that he reminded you of Terry Bickers at which point you bonded over House of Love’s back catalogue. Is it too much to ask that you go and buy a CD, it probably costs the same as your next drink at the bar. Buy a tee-shirt as well and they will probably do you a deal on the price. Send them a message of thanks on Facebook the next day and you probably won’t have to pay to get into their gigs ever again.
- Filming and photos
You need more than just the selfie fix, you may want some decent shots or video footage for the show, maybe you are a blogger and want some content, maybe you just like to remind yourself of the gigs you have been to and the bands you have see. That’s all good but just have some respect for those around you. I once had to watch a whole Hard-Fi gig through a series of tablets and phone screens. It was the closest I ever came to working for a CCTV firm. I did not care for the experience.
7.Talking, shouting, heckling
This is one that you have to monitor yourself. Talking at a punk gig isn’t really going to get in the way of anyone else’s enjoyment, shouting at a chilled and atmospheric acoustic show is. Also heckling is a fine line. If you know the band then a witty line of in-jokes and stage banter can make for memorable gig content. Drunkenly shouting “ Do Summer of 69” at a Ryan Adams solo show does not fall under this category.
- Find your spot
Again, it’s all about the vibe of the night and the gig in question, but basically if you want to talk, do it at the back or discreetly, if you want to dance, jump about, sing along, maybe stage front is the place to be. If it is a crowded gig and you want a drink, stay near the bar, not only do you not annoy people with your constant barging through to replenish your drink, you also know that as soon as the bands latest big hit hoves into view everyone is going to be wearing that warm beer you have been lovingly clutching for the last 20 minutes. Also at the bigger, busier gigs, arrive early, find your spot and stay there. As those young fans with the skinny jeans and complicated hair try to push past once the gig is underway saying “can you let me through, I really like this band” you can reply “ Me too, in fact I like them so much I got here on time.”
- Act appropriately
This should go without saying really but act accordingly. Here are a few things to avoid. Stage diving at a Joni Mitchel influenced folky-acoustic show, forming a mosh pit in front of a dream-pop duo but also avoid sitting down on the dance floor at the front of a hardcore gig. Also if you bought your Ramones t-shirt from Primark, then maybe don’t wear it to a punk gig, similarly don’t wear that years tour shirt to the bands gig, it smacks of desperation and newbie status, extra marks are however awarded if you wear a shirt featuring last years tour support band or a Frank Zappa shirt. The advantage of the latter is that only 3% of the people sporting a Zappa shirt have actually listened to more than one track. The disadvantage of course is that if you do bump into an actual Zappa devotee they will ask you what you thought of the production on side 2 of Jazz From Hell. There is no correct answer for this, you will just have to wing it.
- Ignore the phone
This is more noticeable at low-key affairs and more sparsely attended gigs. The amount of times I have looked around the room at a chilled gig or seated affair and almost everyone in the room has their phone out and their head down. I’m sure that makes the performers feel great. Do you really need to check out your friends latest Facebook update about how they hate people who confuse they’re, there and their or someone commenting that a certain football referee might indeed not know who his father is. You may just be missing something memorable happening 5 feet in front of you, something meaningful, something of beauty. I’m sure you can circulate that video of cats trying to get into all too small boxes amongst your friends tomorrow. It is hilarious but it isn’t going anywhere.
So there you go, some common sense tips and pointers on how to behave at gigs. The world may operate at a frantic, short span of attention, pace but with a bit of thought for those around you a live gig can transcend its normal status and become the perfect cultural oasis, an eye of the storm in an ever more manic world.