For the first-time concertgoer, music halls can seem like lawless places. Once you get past the ticket and bag check, it’s often a free-for-fall through the sea of sweaty, booze-breathed bodies between you and a half-decent view of the stage. If you’re a fan of harder rock (anything where the line between singing and screaming becomes a bit blurry) the jostling can get especially rough, though the aggressiveness of a band’s music isn’t always a reliable indicator of the aggressiveness of their fans— the tweens at this summer's 1D show beat out Avenged Sevenfold as the most ruthless audience I’ve encountered.
But even at the rowdiest basement bar show, there are rules. Not that you’ll be thrown out for spilling your drink, or texting during the encore, but concert going has its own etiquette: a set of unwritten guidelines that give some order to the chaos. Whether you’re dancing on the lawn, or head banging by the stage, here are some tips on how to rock out with good manners.
1) Respect the needs of short peopleAll right, so I’m slightly biased here. But if you’re a foot taller than the guy behind you, he’s probably having a much harder time seeing what’s going on onstage than you are. And if his forehead is roughly level with your chin, your own view won’t change. So be decent, and offer him the two feet of space between you and the normal-sized guy in front.
A tip for short women: You’ll probably have an easier time getting taller guys to let you cut in front. But to avoid the issue, wear a pair of comfortable wedges. It’s hard to stick out a three-hour standing show in heels, but the extra three to four inches are a major plus when the mohawked Neanderthal in front of you isn’t giving up ground.
2) Don’t overdo the videosSo, you absolutely have to record that one song to show your sister later. Fine. But you came here to watch the band play live, not on the screen of your smartphone. The more you get on film, the less you experience now. You can watch them on Youtube anytime, and reality doesn’t have a replay button. Plus, the camera light is super annoying.
3) Don’t smoke out the crowdNowadays, fire codes mean most indoor concert halls are smoke-free. But if you’re at a music festival, or an outdoor venue where smoking is allowed, finish your cigarette quickly and exhale up, not into the hair of the girl in front of you. If she’s not smoking, she probably doesn’t want to smell like your menthols for the rest of the night. Or don’t smoke—your lungs are already shot from screaming every time you think you know the lyrics.
4) Minimize the bathroom breaks, and understand the consequencesIf you’re not at a venue with specific seating, your spot is yours only as long as you stay in it. The fact that you’re leaving because you have to pee doesn’t give you any special right to re-claim it once you get back. So keep the breaks to a minimum, and don’t freak out when the kid behind you takes “your” spot. Just wait until the woman next to him leaves to take a call, and snag hers instead.
5) If it’s a standing show, stay standingIf you’re at a festival, you’ll most likely run into one or two teenagers who think it’s perfectly okay to take a seat in the middle of the crowd before the next band goes on. They’ll tell you standing is exhausting, but sitting down is also a sneaky way to secure a few extra square feet of standing space. Call them on it—it’s not fair to the rest of you, who have less room in the meantime.
6) Respect the weird dancersFrom the kid in tie-dye having some form of psychedelic seizure, to the middle-aged couple grinding like they’re at a high school dance, concerts are a prime scene for some of the most bizarre dancers you’ll ever see. They’re clearly having a good time, so let them enjoy it without being the subject of your next Snapchat story.
7) Make friendsYou’re probably in closer physical proximity to more strangers than you’ve been in any other situation. If you’re uncomfortable being shoved up against people you’ve never met, then meet them! Concertgoers are generally friendly people, and you’ve already got a favorite band in common.
8) The show ends after the encoreAt nearly every show, there are a group of kids who refuse to leave the floor, as though it’s the secret ticket to the after-party. Even worse, they’ll try and follow the band backstage and snag a seat in the limo by telling them how psyched they are they played that one super obscure song no one knows because, honestly, it’s not that great. Don’t be one of them. The show ends after the encore, and, no matter how exceptionally wonderful of an audience the singer said you were, these guys are exhausted. The best way to show your love is to head to the merch table, and buy their CD.