Saturday, February 16, 2008

Concert Etiquette: Is There Such A Thing?

So while plodding along on snowy interstate roads early last week, and ignoring the weatherman's forecast of more blizzardy conditions a couple days later (and joyfully finding bare, dry roads for the round trip), I logged quite a few miles to attend a couple good concerts.

On Tuesday, I drove to Milwaukee to see Alanis Morissette put on a pretty decent hour-long show. I'm a big fan of her stuff. She doesn't blow people away with her stage presence, but her presence in general is just...something that's fun to be a part of. And she writes some good, honest songs.

She was on tour with Matchbox Twenty, who came on after her and cranked out 24 songs in two solid hours on stage. Rob Thomas live is something to behold. (no, I don't mean cuz he's oh-so-dreamy.) How an artist can pour himself into a song he's probably sung several thousand times and make it appear like he's experiencing the emotions of the lyrics for the first time is beyond me. Rob Thomas kinda does that. Man, is he good.

During the show, two ladies were sitting next to me who ran the gamut of audience participation during the Matchbox Twenty set: they sat and jawed during the slow songs, talking loudly enough above the music to hear each other, and be heard by me; they spontaneously screamed at the stage from time to time, because, you was Matchbox Twenty, and Rob; and when the music was too loud for them to hold a conversation, they stood up and shook their groove thangs, fueled by the beers they were drinking.

For instance, during "If You're Gone," when the boys had things turned down pretty low, and Rob was out in front making all the girlies swoon, here's what I got in one ear:

Drunk Lady No. 1: "...and Rick was there, too. I haven't seen him in soooo long, not since that night at the cas—"

Drunk Lady No. 2: "WHOOOOOOO!!"


Drunk Lady No. 1: "...since that night at the casino when I won all that money, remember? I won like seven hundred fifty bucks!"

My reaction to all their loud talking:

"Ladies, ladies...if you wanted to sit and have a gossip session tonight, you could have just put a Matchbox Twenty disc in the CD player and sat on your couch with a few beers, shooting the bull, couldn't you? But see? *pointing* That's Rob Thomas up there, all live and in person. So would you please..shut..the fuck..up, and let him sing to you?"

[Note: All words in italics never actually made it out of my mouth, but they sounded good in my head.] old would I have sounded if I told two ladies at a concert to stop talking, while the room is filled with maybe 14,000 other cheering people? Fans can choose to do whatever they wish at concerts. I saw a girl last summer with her face buried in her phone during a Sister Hazel concert, sending text messages for at least half the show. And when her friends asked her the next day how she liked the concert, she probably raved, "You should have been there!! They were soooo good!"

— • — • —

Thursday night I found myself in Madison for a Will Hoge show. Much...much...smaller venue. As in, maybe a couple hundred people in a small bar, where we were ten feet from the stage, and five feet from the bar when we needed refills. Nice.

It was a twin bill show, and near the end of Hoge's set, I felt someone behind me bump into me. Happens, crowded big deal. But happened again. And again. I turned around to see a girl shaking her groove thang. On my groove thang. (What can I say? I'm completely irresistible.) She gave me a grin, and started laughing. I turned back around, because...well, she was, um, resistible.

She squeezed into a small space in front of me and my buddy, and motioned one of her friends to come and join her, and so for the last couple Hoge songs we had two personal space invaders in front of us, and my buddy had to be careful when he tipped his beer that he didn't have her hair in the bottle.

When Hoge was finished, that's the last we saw of those two. Aww.

Side note: When setting up a twin bill, shouldn't the more talented of the two groups perform last, and longest? I know music is all about personal preference, and very few people know who Will Hoge is. But the other act was...Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. (say it with me: "who??") He's a former member of the Drive-By Truckers (umm..."who??"), and struck out on his own. With the 400 Unit, I mean.

We got 50 minutes of Hoge that night, and more than an hour and a half of Jason Isbell. He's a guitar player. And there's another guitar player in the band, too. And they play a lot of guitar. Loud guitar. Some good guitar...but also some very average guitar.

He must have had his share of fans there, though, because many people in the crowd were doing the obligatory head bob during his songs.

Does anyone know Jason Isbell? Or the Drive-By Truckers? (or the 400 Unit??)

That ticket was only thirteen bucks. And I could have left satisfied after Hoge's last song.

Next time I hope he's the only act on the card.

"All my concerts had no sounds in them;
they were completely silent.
People had to make up their own
music in their minds!"
—Yoko Ono


  1. Now I know why there was no new posts, you were on a mini Vach-a-pulooza. NICE!!!

    To answer your question, there sure should be. In my humble opinion I imagine the lack of attention goes hand in hand with the artist performing and what age group they tend to appeal to. The younger the crowd, the more likely they are to not appreciate the music as much.

    We ran into the same thing at Nathanson in Madison if you recall. It does floor me how people go to a concert and then do everything but see the concert. I had no interest and cannot even recall the name of the dude who opened for Nathanson but the way the murmur of the crowd could be heard over him singing, just plain rude.

    I hear you on Rob Thomas and i'll see you one James Taylor. Mrs. THE KID and I have seen him 5 times (I remember four and after the first one i learned my lesson...) and it is amazing how they can sing each night like it was the first time. Taylor tells stories in-between and I think i know the stories by word as well but he tells them with such enthusiasm each time.

    Along those lines we saw Hootie & The Blowfish in their hay day in 1995 at the Dane County Coliseum and the rocked. We saw them again a couple summers ago at the Oneida Casino and ten years later they rocked out just as hard. As they did when they played (not so world famous) Washington Park in Manitowoc the weekend of the PGA Championship (and guess who I saw’s coming to Ho-Chunk in Baraboo on Saturday 7/26???...yep, keep your calendar clear!!!). I’ll also give credit to Edwin McCain. A couple summers ago we left Elcho Fourth Of July Weekend Festivus early to see him play at some festival at a park near the river in Steven’s Point. Rocked.

    I look forward to accompanying you sometime to a Will Hoge led concert. As I’m hoping Nathanson will headlining this summer if nowhere else but a side stage at Summerfest. And we’ve got to get you to a Big Head Todd & The Monsters show sometime.

  2. Hi, Gregg!

    My husband Scott at My Thermos is an avid reader of yours, and after he directed my attention to this post of yours, I think I will be one too.

    Back in September I spent some time up on my soapbox on this very subject. Perhaps you'd like to give my thoughts on concert etiquette a read:!.html

    I also see that you commented on my "100 Things" list! Thanks for that! I'll be getting to my comment replies on my site soon.

    I hope you'll check back at Upside Down Cats again!

  3. I forgot about the opener dude for Nathanson, TheKid! That's a great example. I almost felt like we were out of place because we weren't trying to talk above the music.

    And James Taylor FIVE times! Very impressive. He'd be cool to see.

    We'll definitely be seeing Hoge, and Nathanson, again soon. Or...whenever they decide to grace our state with their presence.

    Gina...Sounds like we have some of the same opinions about concert crowds. (although your post title certainly outshines mine!) :O)

    I'm all for letting people be who they are and do what they want...for the most part. But sometimes they sure do get annoying, don't they?

    I hate to say it, but I might be one of the people you get frustrated with at a show, because I''4". (I can't help it!)

    Thanks for stopping by, Gina.

  4. Great Yoko quote. I've seen Alanis in person myself.

    Yes, I realize this comment has absolutely nothing to do with your topic. But I haven't commented anything in a long time. So I thought I would.