In the nearly eleven months that I’ve lived hear in Nashville, aka Music City, I’ve seen my share of live music, mostly of the local variety, some strangers I’ve seen at a random open mic, some exceptionally talented friends and coworkers playing shows or simply sitting in living rooms (check out The August for some infectious country rock with a powerful female vocal for lead).
I’ve also had the great fortune to see two of my all time favorite artists.
Of my top 15 most listened to artists (according to my Last.fm profile), I’ve seen all but six live, and three of those are either dead or defunct. The two acts I was lucky enough to see here in Nashville were Neko Case, the beautiful and mesmerizing chanteuse, and the Old 97’s, one of the truly seminal alt-country rock bands.
I’ve adored Neko since I came across one of her albums in Philly. I’ve followed the 97’s since my college days, sitting in my brother’s house with his friends and listening to songs like “Barrier Reef” and “Streets of Where I’m From.”
The Neko show was intimate, the Old 97’s were raucous, but in both cases, the concerts lived up to my expectations and reminded me why I will always love live music, even when sometimes the experience can be exhausting or, at times, frustrating when the crowd sucks.
Going to a concert should be fun and memorable. Your experience of it should be something you want to relive, and when an artist is especially effective, it’ll make you re-appreciate old favorite songs. I think the sign of a good concert is if you want to listen to the music the next day.
There are some unwritten rules to concert-going. Well, I say unwritten, but I’m about to write them out for you. These are not only rules for how to best enjoy a show while not annoying your fellow concertgoers, they are also rules of behavior that distinguishes a fan from a noob.
The Rules for a Concertgoer
1. Sing along with the music. Absolutely. Half the fun of a concert is the communal thrill of a room full of people singing along to a favorite song. Nothing sucks the fun out of a room like sitting next to a guy who is too cool to enjoy the music he spent $20 to see live.
2. Don’t sing loud. The other, more important half of going to a concert is hearing the band perform. Nobody paid $20 to hear your shitty karaoke rendition of the song, so sing along, but contain yourself. If the lead singer is holding out the mic to the audience, then go ahead, belt it out. Otherwise, keep to your inside voice.
3. Don’t listen to the music of the band on the way to the show. That’s no way to appreciate the experience. It’s like cramming for a test 5 minutes before you take it. It’s perfectly fine to blast the music when you’re leaving the show, but not on the way.
4. Don’t wear the shirt of the band at their show. This one is rookie. Concertgoers know this rule like it was part of their DNA. And you can spot a rookie concertgoer because they’ll be the one asking, “Why?” Just don’t do it. You look like a chode. Wear your Beatles t-shirt if you must wear music paraphernalia, or better still, just wear a regular shirt. You’re going to a concert, not a Star Trek convention.
5. Buy the CD at the concert. If you are the type of person who still buys CDs (how quaint), do the artist a favor and buy it straight from them. Or buy a t-shirt. Or a poster. Most artists who aren’t the Black Eyed Peas (ugh) make their living by touring, and if you really want to support an artist, this is where you can do it best.
6. Don’t be a dick. Everybody wants the best view, everybody wants to get as close to the stage as possible, and everybody wants a kickass picture of the band to show they were there. But there are other people around you, and if getting the closer, better view for your picture involves standing directly in someone else’s view, stop it! I don’t know how many times I’ve been at a concert and seen some inconsiderate ass step right in front of a girl a foot shorter than him and just stand there. I always make the point of offering my spot when I see this happen, but if you’re a decent human being you should be aware of the other people around you. Don’t ruin someone else’s concert because you’re a selfish prick.
7. Don’t talk. This is really a continuation of the last rule, but it must be stated on its own. It’s fine to talk during a break in the song, when the band is bantering or drinking their beers. But when the music starts back up, you need to shut up. If you insist on talking through the song, then you and your buddy (or the drunk chick you’re trying to bang) need to take it to the back and give up your primo spot. The rest of us paid to see the band, not to listen to your boring life.
These are some good rules for the discerning concertgoer, and if you follow them you’ll not only enjoy the show, but the people around you will, too. Let’s keep concerts fun for everyone, because I would hate to live in a future where a lack of interest relegates music to Live Nation events and naked cowboys on the street.
Support live music.