It's a sad fact of life: manners are disappearing from the national landscape. Sometimes the most obvious place to witness this fact is at a concert venue. I have endured a number of negative experiences at concerts over the years. I would think that things might have improved over the years, but no. If anything, thanks to the lack of manners being taught, things are getting worse. Therefore, as a public service, here is a simple introduction to concert attendance etiquette.
The Big Commandment
DO NOT TALK DURING THE SHOW
Gee, this one should be a no-brainer. You'd be amazed how it is NOT. I've been to shows (the most recent being in early January) where people seemed to think that their purpose for being at the concert was to drown the band out with their conversation. Take a hint (or two, or three, or 50): NOBODY paid a penny, whether it's a $500 Eagles ticket or a $5 bill placed into the tip jar of a bar band, to listen to YOU. YOU ARE NOT THE STAR, SO SHUT UP DURING THE PERFORMANCE. If you think your gift of gab (and/or that of your friends) is that incredible, open a club where you can charge people to listen to you and/or your friends talk.
This really cannot be overemphasized. That money paid for the ticket came out of someone's pocket. It may have been something they had to save up for over a considerable length of time (a big arena show) or something as simple as skipping the weekly dinner night out to see the concert. Someone is interested in that band onstage, even if it's only the drummer's sister.
Don't Get "Stupid" During the Show
I didn't grow up listening to rock and roll, so the notion of doing drugs at a concert went right over my head. I was also 18 when I went to my first rock concert, and I had no clue what that weird smell was. Nearly 40 years later I still don't get the idea of having to "dope up" or "drink up" to go to a concert. In my opinion if you need some "mind-altering substance" with which to enjoy music, you are listening to the WRONG MUSIC. Music (when performed correctly) is a natural euphoria-inducing element.
Try listening to something "straight" or "sober." You'll get more out of the show, and the person next to you who's sick of your drunken obnoxious behavior will thank you. There are also a couple of added benefits: buying one drink instead of six or seven is much cheaper, and you won't be nearly as likely to have an encounter with a policeman on the way home.
Think Before You Douse Yourself in Perfume
Take a shower with soap and water before you leave. That way, you won't need to douse yourself in 80 gallons of perfume or cologne and choke the people within a 20-mile range of where you're sitting or standing. This is another thing that cannot be overemphasized. We all know people have been hounding for "clean air" for decades, resulting in cigarette smoking being banned in nearly all indoor facilities. The same issues, however, can arise with perfume. Most perfumes are made from natural substances such as flowers, things that many millions of people are HIGHLY allergic to. Your desire to smell like the entire perfume department at Sak's Fifth Avenue just might turn a devoted fan's special night of seeing their favorite music act into an emergency room run. Take that from personal experience. If you have a Pepe LePew cloud over your head, or if someone can trace your footsteps from ten minutes ago based on the cologne you're wearing, then you're wearing too much.
Use Your Head When It Comes to the Doors
One of the most embarrassing things I ever saw happen was when the BoDeans played Louisville in 1988. The venue had a sign that clearly said, "Doors open at 8 PM" on the door. I saw no fewer than 40 (yes, FORTY) people walk up to the door, read the sign, check their watch (it was about 7:30 at the time), read the sign again, check their watch again, then try to open the door. As Homer Simpson would say, "D'oh!"
If there's a line outside the door, especially if the web site or tickets say "doors open" at a certain time and it's 20-30 minutes BEFORE that set time, use your noggin. It's different if you see a few people 20-30 feet away from the building smoking, but if they're all neatly lined up at the entrance then you can bet the doors aren't open yet. If the doors aren't open for those people waiting, they aren't going to be open for you, either. Your mom might have told you that you're special, but the venue's door man or ticket taker doesn't think so.
Remember the "No Talking During Music" Rule? That Means the Opening Act, Too!
You wouldn't believe how many people I have seen come to a show just for the opening act. (An aside: if you truly are there just for the opening act, leave as soon as they get off the stage. Don't walk out in the middle of the headliner's set to make a spectacle of yourself.) I saw Joe Walsh in Philadelphia in 1981 with David Lindley as the opening act. I had a front-row seat, and the woman next to me was there solely for David Lindley. Have you ever heard of Sheryl Crow? She toured as an opening act once upon a time (for the BoDeans).
A lot of your favorite arena headliners hand select the opening acts (the aforementioned BoDeans were chosen by U2 themselves to open the 1987 leg of the Joshua Tree tour). It's not always just some cover band from down the street asked to do 40 minutes while the headliners are scarfing down dinner backstage or on their bus. I assure you that I've seen some of the most atrocious things masquerading as "music" doing opening act duties in my time. I've also seen some INCREDIBLE opening acts. After seeing the Cactus Blossoms opening for Dale Watson a couple of nights I became a fan. Give the opening acts the same respect you'd give the headliners. You just might walk out of the concert hall a new fan.
Remember The Golden Rule
Most concerts I've been to have been very enjoyable experiences. Those few exceptions, however, stick out. Sometimes I want to follow the people who dump beer on me or gouge me with their elbows all night home..and slap their mother for not teaching them manners.
Remember the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."