For years now, I’ve kicked around the idea of writing a column about concertgoing etiquette. But I’ve always resisted doing so, figuring that the people who really needed to read it never would.
Things changed this year. The concert industry not only made it out of the pandemic, it’s bigger than ever, with artists clamoring to get back on the road and fans eager to see shows rather than deal with the fear of missing out.
But, somehow, concertgoers are worse than they’ve ever been. One of the wildest trend stories of the summer was recounting the numerous things people were throwing at performers on stage. Back in July, the Today Show ran a piece that compiled eight such incidents, including a mobile phone thrown at Drake and a bag containing the ashes of a fan’s mother lobbed at Pink.
For me, though, the breaking point took place at a show last month at Xcel Energy Center. I was standing next to two women in wheelchairs waiting for an elevator. When the doors opened, a group of oblivious boomers rushed in and filled the space. I couldn’t believe it and when I turned to apologize to the two women, they shot back a look of sad resignation that said this wasn’t the first time something like this happened.
What is wrong with people? I mean, large crowds have always been filled with awful people, but I think it got worse after lockdown. People forgot how to employ basic common courtesy to others. That, and ever-increasing ticket prices seem to have emboldened people to act like jerks because, well, they paid a lot to be there and they think they deserve it.
Speaking as someone who has spent the past 19 years reviewing local arena and stadium concerts, I can confidently tell you that bad concertgoers come in every age, every race and every demographic. People who act like jerks at shows come in all shapes and sizes.
The good news is that there’s an easy fix. The bad news is, well, the people who need to follow this fix probably won’t. But I’m holding out hope that at least some people don’t realize what they’ve been doing wrong and heed at least some of my advice.
So, as I said, this fix is easy. People simply need to be more self-aware of themselves and others when they’re in a crowd. Just imagine how much more enjoyable not just concerts but things like grocery shopping or driving would be if more people paid a little more attention to their surroundings.
That said, I do have some more tips to enhance the live music experience. I can only hope to change a few minds along the way.
Prepare for the show
Take a few minutes to prepare before you head out to the local hockey arena or football stadium. It’s become increasingly common for venues to email ticketholders a “here’s what you need to know” email the day prior that lists the basics like the bag policy, parking and dining options and timing for the doors opening and showtime. The same info is also available on the venue’s website for each concert.
A big problem I see is at entrances. Somehow, there are people who are still surprised they need to go through a metal detector. And then there is the whole bag thing. For the most part, only small clutches, wristlets and wallets are allowed through. I’ve watched many grown women argue, at length, with security over a clutch that’s an inch or two too large.
These rules are pointless, you may say while adding that a lot of it is just ridiculous security theater. I agree and I’m pretty sure the people working security do too. Do know that some restrictions may be put in place due to the professional sports league that uses the space, not the venue itself. But also remember that yelling at security about the size of your bag does absolutely nothing to change the policies, it only gets security and the people waiting in line behind you needlessly riled up.
Again, a few minutes of reading before the show is totally worth it. You’ll learn the venue probably is now cashless and how many opening acts are on the bill. Large venues do not like to publicly share exact set times, but you can still get a rough idea when the main act will be on stage. The doors open time is just that, it’s when fans can start coming into the venue. Showtime is typically between one or two hours after doors open. In most cases, you can expect the opening act to start at that time or soon after. Most arena and stadium concerts are done at some point between 10:15 and 11:15 p.m.
If there’s a general admission floor and you’ve got tickets for a seat, you might want to avoid arriving when doors open, because there will likely be large crowds of people waiting to ensure they snatch a prime space near the stage. If you’re not interested in the opening act, aim for arriving at the posted showtime as crowds will probably be thinner.
Getting to your seat at a concert means a whole lot of interactions with both fellow concertgoers and venue employees. It’s a process that can run much smoother than it does.
If you’re in a restricted place with others, like an elevator, don’t yell. Don’t honk if you’re in a parking garage or ramp. Have your phone, keys and any other metal objects out and ready to toss in the tray as you go through the metal detector. If you’re in line for a snack or a beer, decide what you’re getting before you reach the register.
Once you get through security, or off an escalator, don’t stop and block the way for people behind you. When you’re walking through a crowd, put your phone in your pocket and pay attention to where you’re going and the people around you.
Don’t be a jerk to security or other venue employees, some of whom might be volunteers working concessions. Keep in mind that while you’re there to have a good time, they are there to work. That work is easier and more enjoyable if the workers don’t have to deal with rude concertgoers.
Once you’re at your seat, enjoy the concert. Also, be aware of group dynamics at play. If everyone in your section decides to stand, you will have to as well if you want to see the stage. If everyone is dancing along, feel free to join in if that’s your jam. If everyone around you is sitting down and you want to dance, go ahead and do so. But don’t move into other people’s space and by absolutely no means should you yell at those around you to loosen up. Everyone hates that, trust me.
Singing along to songs is fine and some acts openly encourage it. Don’t yell along to songs. Think about enjoying the concert in ways that allow others to also enjoy the concert and not spend time giving you dirty looks. (This is Minnesota, where dirty looks are a thing.)
Many people drink at concerts and that’s cool. For a lot of people, it’s a big part of seeing a show. But don’t be sloppy. Don’t spill beer on people around you. And absolutely without a doubt, if you’ve had too much to drink and are feeling queasy, get yourself away from people and into a bathroom stall as quickly as possible. Throwing up on people at a concert should be, at the very least, a misdemeanor. (Call your representatives and demand action!)
After the show
Getting out of concerts is much easier if you walked, biked or took public transit to the venue. (I’ve taken the Green Line to nearly every U.S. Bank Stadium show and never had an issue.) And there’s always the option to catch a drink or snack at a nearby bar while you watch the crowds dwindle. Do know that large venues don’t like crowds to hang around inside after the show is over.
If you did drive, it’s the time for you to put that phone of yours to work. Driving away from a venue usually means bottlenecks at parking ramp exits and nearby intersections. And remember that the larger the show, the more likely there will be people from out of town who aren’t as familiar with the streets around a venue. I’ve long since used an easy trick to get out faster.
Open the map app on your phone, input your final destination and then ignore it. Free yourself from the notion of a single path home and think about it in terms of following the path of least resistance. Use sidestreets or whatever it takes for you to get away from other cars. Then let the phone guide your way from there. Your trip may take longer than expected, but it’s a better option than wasting time in a slowly moving line of cars.
Concerts are fun! Live music is terrific! And it doesn’t take much effort to make it a better experience for everyone.
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