Going to a Show ? Consider Your Gig Etiquette

Concert CrowdIn discussion with some of my music-geek colleagues about the important issue of gig-etiquette, here’s a top ten list of the people that you don’t want to be when at a gig.

(image courtesy of psylight)

1. The Cellphone Talker – “I’m at a cool gig and I’m loudly bragging about it at the expense of people who are trying to watch the show!”

2. The Drunken Tupperware Party. This is a group of loud-talking people at a table who ignore the act on stage in favour of banal conversation and gales of screechy, inebriated guffawing. Thanks to my colleague and gig veteran in New York City who coined the term.

3. The Elbower. This is the person who pushes his way past you without so much as an ‘excuse me’ to get to the front, to the bar, to the bathrooms, to wherever.

4. The Bath/Breath Mint Aversionist. In a crowded space, need I elaborate?

5. The Flailer. By all means, dance! Dance like you’ve never danced before in an Flashdance stylee! But know that you’re not the only person in the room and proceed accordingly. I don’t want my nose on the other side of my face due to a wayward “dance move”.

6. The American/Canadian/Whatever Idol. As above, feel encouraged to sing along. Just don’t do it in my ear when no one else is singing. All night. Off-key. Using the wrong words.

7. The Stand-up/Sit-Down Merchant. If you push past me too many times, I get to give your seat to someone else when you’ve got up and shoved past me for the tenth frickin’ time (tenth if you’re lucky…). I feel that’s fair.

8. The Request Shouter (aka ‘Free Bird’). Has any act you’ve gone to see actually stopped the song they’re playing or ceased their on stage banter to say: “Hey, person-who’s-just-shouted-out in the middle of my set, that’s a great idea! I will play “Free Bird” even though I’m a writer with my own material and don’t happen to be Lynyrd Skynyrd”? No? That’s never happened? Hmm. What does that tell you?

9. The Heckler. You’re not funny. You’re not witty. You’re nothing. Shut up.

10. The Bootlegger. This is a touchy subject. Some bands encourage bootleggers and actually have a space for them to set up. If you haven’t been assigned a spot in this area, or worse – there is no area – setting a camera on your shoulder mid-way up the row to effectively block the view is not cool. If I were not a man of peace, I’d say that it borders on being a punchable offence.

And these are of course only a few. I encourage you to share your own rogue’s gallery of gig-etiquette criminals. Tall guys (having faced the Gig Dwarf’s cry of “I can’t see around you!”), short people (having equally faced the Oblivious Tall Guy), and women who have been touched up (by The Surreptitious Groper), are particularly encouraged to contribute.

Badly Drawn Boy Takes A Phone Call

Badly Drawn BoyDamon Gough AKA Badly Drawn Boy provided me with a memorable show in 2000, but for more than the most obvious reasons.

In the summer of 2000, the name Badly Drawn Boy was just one I’d heard of, not one from whom I’d actually heard. At that time, Gough had been the centre of a buzz surrounding a number of EPs he’d put out under the BDB name on the Twisted Nerve label. Since I had somehow got a hold of this buzz through some music paper or other (probably MOJO), and subsequently found myself at the Glastonbury Festival that year, I decided to adjourn to the “New Bands” tent, and see this Badly Drawn Boy for myself.

I have to say, that I was impressed overall. It was clear the guy had (and has) talent. But, his sense of showmanship was non-existent in any traditional way. And this is not to say that it wasn’t entertaining. He would start a song – like the upbeat and joyous ‘Once Around the Block’ (see link below) – and the crowd, who knew his stuff, would go nuts. Then, he’d stop completely and say, “ah, you like that one, do you?”. But, then went onto to something else. I guess it should have been frustrating. But, because I didn’t know a note of the guy’s music, I was intrigued.

Black rotary phoneThe pinnacle of the show had to be when he stopped a song to answer his phone. I am not talking about a cell phone here, people. I am referring to one of those big, black, rotary-dial table phones popular in the 70s and 80s. It was a Jim Rockford phone. And it was on stage in full view of the audience. I’m not even sure I noticed it to start with, although I can’t believe I didn’t.

Anyway, it rang. Loudly. A few times. So, he stopped the tune he was playing and answered it.

It was his Mum.

He had to explain to her that he was currently on stage and didn’t have time to talk because he was playing Glastonbury. It was pretty odd. But, funny as hell. It couldn’t have been his Mum. It couldn’t have been anyone. We were in a field!

At the end of the show, he told us that his record was coming out at the end of the summer, and that we should buy it because he “needs the money”. Fair enough, I thought. And I did buy his record – The Hour of Bewilderbeast – which remains to be one of my favourite albums of all time. I’ll bore everyone with my thoughts on it another time. And he went onto to have a pretty great career, even scoring a movie starring Hugh Grant, About A Boy, the soundtrack of which is also a great little record.

I don’t know whether I should have felt ripped off. But, I didn’t. Maybe if he’d pulled it when I’d paid specifically to see him, I might have. But as it happened , he was playing the new bands tent, and I suppose he knew he’d have nothing to lose by playing it (very, very) casually to a members of the crowd who could see whoever else was playing if they wanted to get their “money’s worth”.

Having said that, I heard his headlining shows in the years immediately following my show had a similar feel, and that some did feel a bit ripped off by his lackadaisical approach to showmanship. But, I’d like to think that if his Mum were to call again, she’d make sure that it wasn’t when her son was playing the Hollywood Bowl.

Still, you never know. A mother worries.


Here’s some footage of Badly Drawn Boy performing his ‘Once Around the Block’ as I might have heard it, but without the interruption this time.

Hover over the image and click the ‘play’ icon. To enlarge the viewing window, click the magnifying glass icon.

Badly Drawn Boy in Performance


Live Music Notes

I’m not sure why, but lately going to gigs has left me a bit cold. I saw some great acts while living in Britain for the past six years – Gomez, Macy Gray, Orbital, Elvis Costello, Pulp, et al. But the venues in London I went to were all standing only gigs, always oversold and always (as a result) too crowded. Getting to the bar was a major undertaking, and I always got the really tall guy standing right in front of me through out. Of course, this doesn’t include the people who find it necessary to have meaningless conversations, and/or to sing along badly, right in your ear while the band is playing. There have times, despite the fact that I really love live music, when I prayed for the end of a show just so I could get the hell out of there.

Last night, the wife and I went out on the town to see one of my favourite electronica outfits, Royksopp. I really love their record “Melody AM”, and I had heard that they put on a really good show. The gig was at the Commodore Ballroom, a palace of a venue in Vancouver, which has always been a breath of fresh air when compared to some of the venues I’d been to in London. It should have been better than it was for me. It wasn’t the band’s fault I don’t think – they were very exuberant on stage and they played their song “Eple” which I love, among others. My wife and I danced a bit, after having had drinks delivered (!) to our table (!!). There were no obnoxious conversationalists within earshot (although there was when we went to see Wilco there in the summer…), and we could see the stage and the band clearly.

But there was something missing. I have had this feeling before and I don’t know where it comes from. Maybe it was that my wife was not enjoying the show as much as I was, and this made for a less spectacular time for me in the end (I’m the music fan in the family). The sound was a bit muddy too, so some of the subtleties of the record were lost – I suppose this happens at every gig to some extent. But I left feeling vaguely dissatisfied, as if I had come in late and missed part of the show. The frustrating part is that I do not have the reasons I might have had when going to gigs in London. The Commodore is great.

Still, despite all of this, when I am in the financial position to do so, I must resolve to go to more gigs. Being in school at the moment, money is not exactly hanging out of my pockets and I suppose money worries come to the surface when you’re out having frivolous times. Maybe that has something to do with it. I think going to more shows may be the answer in defiance of this vague dissatisfaction. It’s the rock n roll thing to do!