Crowd etiquette

Last night I went to a show that, to put it gently, didn’t have the best crowd. And indeed, sometimes a terrible crowd can ruin the performance of a perfectly good artist. I’ve found the absolute worst crowds are found during free shows that feature a headlining act everyone has heard of.

A few years ago, I went with some friends to see City and Colour, who was playing a free show near Roy Thomson Hall as part of the year’s Juno festivities. He had two opening acts. First was Shad, one of my favourite Canadian rappers, and then Hannah Georgas, a very talented pop singer-songwriter.

I was absolutely appalled by the how badly the two opening acts were treated. I didn’t hear any heckling when Shad was on stage, but the reaction to his songs was very tepid. When Hannah Georgas went on, I could hear people yelling “WHO ARE YOU?” and when Georgas played her opening track two girls immediately thought she sounded like Lights (she doesn’t).

So in light of some appalling behavior witnessed recently and not-so-recently, I’m going to offer up some tips on how you should act in a crowd when you go and see the show.

Treat the artists with respect.

This should go without saying, but not everyone seems to get this. When you go and see a band you like, 99 per cent of the time you will be seeing an opening act. If you’re someone who regularly attends shows in bars, you probably don’t have much problem with this because you’re often seeing three or four bands. But if you’re there for a ticketed event, you usually have not heard of the opener. Do them a courtesy and keep your “WHO ARE YOU?” and “THIS SUCKS!” comments to yourself before you’ve seen a whole set. Do not heckle them unless heckling is totally warranted (ex. misogyny, homophobia, racism, etc. etc.). The opening act knows that you’re there to see the headliner, so don’t make them feel like shit.

Keep your hands to yourself.

This applies mostly to male concert-goers, and honestly I don’t see this happen too often, but if you’re at a show, don’t be a douche bag and hit on girls near you. Chances are they’re not interested in being come on to when they’re there to enjoy music. I’ve been at a show where someone I’ve attended a show with has been hit on and it’s completely and utterly awkward.

Don’t surge ahead unless there’s space.

Those who see shows in bars or in places with pits will know that no audience is ever static. People are always moving around, whether to join a friend, go to the washroom or grab a drink. If there is a free spot near the front, by all means try to fill it. But if there’s no space, don’t force your way through anyway. If you got to the show late and the act is your favourite ever it’s not anyone else’s problem.

Don’t try and be the most hilarious person in the room.

A random shout-out every now and then can be funny, but if you’re that guy who yells “Play some Freebird!” you are not being original. Last year, a drunken heckler, during a set by Bradford Cox, yelled “My Sharona!” and so Cox played the song eight times, lasting about an hour. For god’s sake, don’t subject an entire room to “My Sharona” for an hour if the act is devious enough to do that.

Be enthusiastic if you’re really enjoying the band.

There is nothing an act likes more than to feel like the crowd loves them. If you don’t love the band. then by all means you don’t need to sing along. But if you do like them, cheer after a song. Or dance. No one is judging you. People in Toronto in particular seem to have a problem with showing enthusiasm for smaller bands.

Subjecting the rest of the audience to PDA for an entire set is not cool.

We get it, you and your significant other are in love and enjoying music together. Don’t be gross.

And that’s all I have for today.


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