Published on February 5th, 2018 | by Sarah Kirsch0
Amped Up: A Guide to Concert Etiquette – Sara Lea Kirsch
Things around the Wiregrass are changing. From the revitalization of Dothan’s downtown, to the new spark of life in the Opera House and the renovation of The Plant that promises to bring new and relevant music to our area, things are happening. After attending various events over the past several months, I found that in order to maximize on this opportunity, perhaps we as a community need a refresher course in Concert Behavior 101.
The South has a reputation for being warm and inviting, and it would benefit us to extend that charm to the artists who come to share their craft with us. Playground rules RULE. We begin learning these basic rules in kindergarten, but they bear repeating. Be POLITE. Be punctual. Show up and have your ticket/I.D. ready to go. Don’t cut in line. Visit the restroom BEFORE the show starts. Please for the love, leave your GIANT coats, purses, hats (and hair!) at home. No one wants to fight your Patagonia jacket for the armrest or attempt to see the band through your hair that is teased to Jesus. Don’t pick fights with other attendees or with staff (this won’t end well) and don’t jump seats. You are not entitled to a closer seat because it is empty…you know who is? The person who paid for it. In a general admission show, its first come first served…but contrary to lower Alabama beliefs, you CAN and SHOULD stand in that area in front of the sound booth. Take a cue from the kids who dominated the pit at the David Ramirez show…get close to the music! It’s the reason you’re there!
Technology has opened the world to us, and in turn, has made everyone into their own version of a celebrity. To say that you should not use your cell phone, camera, or device during a concert would be laughable. So, instead I’ll say that MODERATION is key. Take your 50x selfies BEFORE the concert starts, not during. Don’t use the flash, it’s distracting, and your pictures won’t turn out anyway. Try taking a video of just the chorus OR your favorite lyrics of 1 or 2 songs…and don’t upload them until the concert is over. Don’t worry about checking Facebook, latest sports stats, the weather, or buying that thing on Amazon (I saw you) until you leave the venue. Keeping the retina searing light that emanates from your screen to a minimum is always a good idea.
Save the socializing for after the concert. Yes, it is technically a SOCIAL event, but it’s also not your class reunion. It is a place to see and be seen, but we would all rather not hear you. You might say that this varies depending on what type of concert you are attending, but reality is, if it’s loud, no one is going to hear you anyway…and if it’s an acoustic set, you just look like a tool. No one cares that you broke your PR at CrossFit this morning…at least not right now. Treat your friends to a drink afterwards at that great bar down the street, and tell them there so they can celebrate you with fanfare.
Along those same social lines fall my next two points, the first being yelling out requests. Ma’am, you screaming out the title of your favorite song at sonic levels is not going to change the set list. It is either there, or it’s not. I watched this scenario play out recently when I went to see Ray Lamontagne. There were a handful of guests who were not going to be satisfied until they heard “Trouble”, and they were very vocal about it. Oh, he played the song. (it was on the list) But let me tell you, you could hear the anger in his voice. Some might even say he butchered it on purpose to make a point. Don’t be the person who ruins the moment. It is up to the artist what parts of themselves they want to share with you.
Now…CATCALLING. I could have lumped this right in there with yelling requests, but I didn’t for one very specific reason. I experienced the WORST example of this right here in Dothan last October. Lillie Mae was on stage at the Opera House, in the middle of her set, when a man (I use that term extremely loosely) bellowed from the balcony “Take it off!” Yes, really. Let that sink in. It took every ounce of self-control I had not to come up out of my seat. This beautiful woman did not travel the country with her fiddle, to stand in front of a crowd and be sexually harassed. I was ashamed at the level of disrespect this person lowered himself to. Sir, if that’s what you were looking for, there is a place right around the corner where that’s their forte…not here. I apologized to her after the show, hugged her neck, and asked her not to allow that to keep her from returning to Dothan. We are better than this.
There is one theme that seems to affect all the areas I have covered, and that is drinking. Please do so RESPONSIBLY. I am all about having a good time, and will be the first in line if there is Folklore involved, but when you are carrying as many Michelob Ultras as humanly possible and stick them under your seat, I already have a pretty good idea who will be king of the concert before long. If you are willing to pay venue prices for all those drinks, more power to you. Just stay in the fun zone. No one wants to babysit you. PLEASE…please, please have designated driver or call yourself a cab at the end of the night. There would be nothing worse than seeing your wreck on Rickey Stokes the next morning. To continue to be what’s happening, being alive is key.
Lastly, if you enjoy the show, let me encourage you to buy the merchandise! There is no better way to support an artist than to purchase the CD, vinyl, t-shirt, hat, poster, and whatever else they put on that back table. It could mean having money for a tank of gas to get to the next gig. Take the time, shop the table, meet the band if they hang back there, and let them know you are glad they came. Ask them to come back. That’s Southern hospitality at its finest…that should be where the Wiregrass shines.