Tag Archives: fans

Oooohs, Ohm’s, and Ohhhmmms: Concert Etiquette, Physics, and Yoga


From the stressful thrill of purchasing tickets to inevitably sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, no other music experience can quite compare to the coveted live show.  There is the build-up, the planning, and the pregaming that  leads up to the big event, during which time fans speculate on anything and everything from the potential “gems” that may be played to the probability of getting a perfect vantage point in the GA pit section.  This type of speculation tends to linger until the lights and house music come on to indicate that the show is over–that is unless you plan to try to meet the band after the show, which brings on an entirely new level of anxiety and hypothetical scenarios.

For those who are familiar with the live show experience, it is well-known that the overall experience itself depends on several factors–the band’s energy, acoustics, security staff attitude, weather (if outdoors), lighting and stage effects, etc.  While all of those factors are important, nothing quite kills the vibe of a live show more than a rude or obnoxious person in the crowd.  Whether it’s a drunk, belligerent frat boy, an eager Instagramer, an incessant texter, a tone-deaf wannabe singer, or that person who will just not shut-up, these people will successfully and often single-handedly ruin shows for both the crowd and the band, time and time again.

The debate about concert etiquette is certainly not a new one.  However, over the past decade we have moved into new territory with the advancement of technology, where every concert goer is packing a smart phone or pocket-sized camera.  With the smart phone comes endless options for distraction during a show–Facebook updates, Instagram uploads, tweets, texts, emails, concert calls, and–the worst yet–actually having a conversation with someone while standing in a crowd of people who are trying to enjoy the show.


These disruptive and distracting behaviors don’t only affect the crowd, but can translate all the way up to the stage.  If fans think that musicians are just going through the motions and not trading energy with the crowd, they have obviously forgotten one of the simplest laws of physics–The Law of Conservation of Energy.  Thanks to ancient philosophers, we know that energy is neither created nor destroyed.  Rather, it is converted, which in concert terms means that there is an ebb and flow of energy between a musician and the crowd.  If you think of it in terms of science, it makes perfect sense.

Anyone who pays attention can tell that musicians definitely adjust their energy depending on the crowd’s energy.  Take Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, for example, who recently told Rolling Stone Magazine (August 15, 2013 issue) what he thinks about while on stage:

I used to believe that it was up to the band to set the tone at a show, but now, having played a thousand shows or so, I think the crowd has a bigger effect.  It’s funny.  When the crowd is really bad — when they don’t give a fuck, or you’re playing some awkward festival — you work extra hard.  And of course, when the crowd’s going crazy, it brings something out of you.

In Koenig’s case, a bad crowd may motivate him to work harder, but that is certainly not the case for others musicians.  As fans, we can’t control how a musician responds on stage, but we can modify our approach to the concert experience.  The first step is to take the focus off of yourself and put it on the collective.  Let’s look at the example of the eager Instagramer.  The temptation to capture every moment of a show is real–I’ve been there, done that, and may do it again.  While snapping a few choice photos throughout the show is acceptable, watching the entire show through the tiny, bright screen of your phone is a waste of money and annoys the people behind you.  I realize that it takes a conscious effort to fight that temptation, but if you start to think outside of yourself it is possible.  When you view the concert as an experience of the whole rather than its separate parts, that temptation will fade.

An easy way to do this is to approach a live show like you would a 90-minute Bikram yoga class, where it is seriously frowned upon to disrupt the energy of the room and the experience by serving your own needs.  You suppress the desire to leave the class because it’s hot as Hades, your down-dog is pathetic, and you have to pee.  You push through for the group and the final emotional, physical, and mental experience is that much sweeter–for everyone.

While there are several articles that boast lists of proper concert etiquette, it really just comes down to the fan’s approach.  If you jump in that pit with a self-serving attitude, you are sure to piss people off and potentially get yourself escorted out.  If you approach the show from a point of view of respect for others and fellowship, you will elevate the experience to a euphoric level.  So, at your next concert if you are doubting this approach, try channeling your inner yogi, let out a quiet ohhhhmmmm, and watch as the energy spreads to the group.


DISCLAIMER: Like my yoga practice, my concert going practice is an ongoing work in progress, so if this comes off as preachy, don’t worry, I’m preaching to myself as well!

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October Music Mindblower: Family of Fans

Music connects us all

In my 23 years of concert going, I never really looked at shows as opportunities to connect with fellow fans and make friends.  If anything, I may have fantasized about meeting the band members and becoming one of their dearest friends, therefore being forever catapulted out of the land of groupies.  This thought process began at the tender age of 11 when my friend Angi and I made a sign for our first concert – New Kids on the Block.  The sign, which read “We Love Joe”, came fully equipped with our phone numbers on the back (house land line back in the day) and a request for Joe to “give us a call to hang out.”  After displaying our masterpiece throughout the entire show, we proceeded to ask a security guard to bring it back stage and deliver it to the young Joey McIntyre.  He said he would, and we believed him.  I’d say we waited for a good three months by our phones, but to our dismay Joey never called.

Despite the lack of follow through on Mr. McIntyre’s end, my will was not destroyed.  Over the next 22 years, I did my fair share of trying to meet various artists from Green Day to Dave Matthews Band.  Some attempts were successful, some partially successful (getting acknowledge with a wave through a window), and others just didn’t pan out.  Not until recently has my attention on making connections shifted to include the fans that surround me at shows.  Enjoying music is no longer an individual experience, but rather one that includes my immediate family of fans.  This is especially true when the band’s performance is a direct reflection of the energy they are getting from the crowd.  Whether waiting outside the gates to hear a sound check or sprinting to be front row at a general admission show, we are all there because the music moves us, inspires us, and makes our lives better.  These are powerful emotions that also apply to friendships, so why not share the experience with strangers at a show!?  Smile, dance, and sing together and you  just may leave the show with some new friends.

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August Music Mindblower

photo by Jonathan Furmanski

Band documentaries give us fans an intimate glimpse into the daily lives of our favorite artists, and allow us to feel a little bit closer to knowing them personally.  Whether on tour, in the studio, or at home, these behind-the-scene videos can represent artists as being “just one of us” or perpetuate the notion that they are larger than life.  I recently watched a documentary about the Pixies reunion in 2004, nearly 10 years after their sudden breakup.  While I am moderately familiar with their story and music, this movie candidly revealed the waxing and waning dysfunction that underlies the group’s impressive cohesiveness on stage and unyielding fan appeal.  Interviews in separate hotel rooms and tour buses drove home the fact that these 4 artists have little to nothing in common minus the fact that they once wrote songs together.  Now they just perform together and then go their separate ways.  As I watched I began to feel emotionally connected to their stories, almost sorry for them.  I suppose that was the whole premise of the documentary, so BRAVO to the directors!  Thanks to them, I am a bit more prepared now for my first Pixies concert in November!

FYI: Netflix has a ton of music docs that can be streamed with just the click of a remote control button. Check them out!     

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Lawn chairs and flip flops…looks like it’s time for a music festival!

One more for the road

With sunny skies and warm weather upon us, what better to do than to schlep a lawn chair and cooler to a giant grassy field with thousands of other music lovers and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells (yes, smells) that meld to create the music festival experience?

Over the years I have tried my hand at a variety of music festivals including Newport Folk Festival and New Orleans Jazz Festival, along with some smaller day-long festivals like The Warp Tour, Lilith Fair, Family Values, and Lalapalooza.  One of the first things you learn as a newbie festival goer is that there is a  calculated method to a fan’s madness.  Seasoned festival attendees plan well in advance and have each day’s “must see” line-up mapped out to maximize the number of bands they will hear.  First timers may see this and begin to scribble out band names, stage names, and set times on the back their ticket stubs, which at the least will ensure that they see the bands they’ve heard of.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I typically do just enough research on the line-up to know the main bands I NEED to see, and try to brush up on some of the not so well-known bands, so as not to miss out on the festival “gems”.  This helps me determine if it will be worth my time to haul my stuff to and from different stages (note: the less “stuff” you bring in the more freedom you have).

I haven’t been much of a repeater when it comes to music festivals because I revel in the variety and enjoy seeing how different festivals organizers make the “magic” happen.  I love the emotional thrill of a new experience that is centered around music, but has so much more to offer as well.  For example, the food village at the New Orleans Jazz Festival overloaded my olfactory and gustatory senses and kept me salivating between sets.  I think I took in more food than I did music!  Sure, The Newport Folk Festival stacks their line-ups with the music industry’s most respected and talented artists, but the festival also offers a gorgeous harbor backdrop sprinkled with tall white sails and surrounded by mansions atop lush hills.  The festival itself takes place at a historic landmark, Fort Adams, so attendees can basically take in a history lesson by exploring bastions and barracks of the old fort while music floats on in the background.

While the music draws the people in through the festival gates, the people themselves make the experience.  Often times, when I am not completely engaged in watching the band, I sit and watch the fans and their reactions to the music and overall experience.  While I enjoy capturing the band’s energy on stage, photographing a fan’s anticipation leading up to or pure joy and ecstasy during a performance is just as satisfying.  Over the last few years I have taken pictures of musicians and fan and everything in between.  Here are some of my favorites:

There are festivals of all genres popping up in every state, all centered around the theme of community and music.  Check out the festivals near you for an amazing experience of the senses.

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Filed under Festivals, Live Shows, Music