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The Rules of Concert Etiquette


As any good old American knows, in this here country of ours we have certain inalienable rights. No one knows what inalienable actually means, but we sure do cherish those rights of ours. We've got the Bill Of Rights, The Right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (or something like that), the right to make a right on red, the right that two wrongs don’t make, and all kinds of other good stuff.


But perhaps the most abused and often misunderstood right is The Right To Be An A-Hole. And damn it, no one can ever take that right away!


I was reminded of this special privilege after attending a concert a short time ago. It was truly amazing how many people just seemed so intent on making other people around them miserable. But maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt and just hope that no one ever sat down and explained to them that there are laws and there are rules – and you need to know both. The difference is that breaking a law (robbing a bank with a water pistol, for example) can land you in the clink, while breaking a societal rule (cutting in front of others in line and the like) just makes you one who is exercising the aforementioned right that began this chautauqua.


So as a service to society, I am proud to present:


The Rules Of Concert Etiquette.


Now these rules are different than things that just make you look like a moron but don’t really hurt anyone else. For example, everyone who’s anyone knows that you don’t wear a t-shirt to a concert that includes the name of the band that is performing. After all, if you weren’t a fan of that band, you wouldn’t be there in the first place! This is called a “T-Shirt Violation” and is a total sin and sign of ignorance amongst concert insiders. (By the way, this also includes, for example, things such as wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt to a Robert Plant/Alison Krauss show, or to make matters worse, a shirt that looks brand new but says “Led Zeppelin World Tour 1972” on it. This violation is wrong in so many ways that it barely warrants a mention. But back to the topic at hand…)


Things like t-shirt violations, while good for a few laughs from the true aficionados, aren’t really breaking etiquette rules because they don’t bother anyone else. But breaking the Rules Of Concert Etiquette actually diminishes the enjoyment of others. So let’s get on to-


The Rules Of Concert Etiquette


Rule # 1: Know When To Stand And When To Sit


At certain shows, maybe like AC/DC, Phish, or a show at a small venue with no seats, it is totally acceptable to stand for the entire show. But at less raucous type events, other than standing as part of an ovation or maybe during an encore, it is usually best to sit. As a rule of thumb, if everyone around you is sitting and you are standing – you are bothering them!


Recently I was unfortunate enough to witness a big sweaty dude right in front of the stage who was standing during the entire show, and not even multiple yells of “Down in front!” or the pleading of an usher would get him to sit down. To make matters worse (much worse) he was making these crazy kind of dance-like motions the whole time, even during the very slow songs, which resembled a grand mal epileptic seizure. I didn’t know if I should have called over security or a doctor! Unfortunately, this one jerk thought it was his private show and ruined it for many others.


Rule # 2: Don’t Try To Join The Band From Your Seat

Yes – I’m sure that you have an amazing singing voice and know every word to the songs of your favorite artist, but please save it for the car, shower, or your nearby karaoke bar. Unless the performing artist is encouraging a sing-a-long, keep your mouth shut.


Many years ago, when I was younger and braver (or stupider, as the case probably was) I was at a Jackson Browne show and the guy next to me was singing along so loudly I could barely hear good old J.B. So I turned to him and said,


“Hey dude – I can hear you sing any day of the week, but Jackson Browne is only in town for one night.”


Fortunately he took the hint and stopped singing instead of punching my lights out.


The same rule goes for doing anything else that makes it seem as if you are in the band. One time this chick who sat next to me was clapping along to every song so loudly I swear she had microphones installed in her hands and was wired through the house sound system. It would have been no less annoying had I brought my Fender Telecaster and a portable amplifier to the show and played along.


Rule # 3: Sit In Your Own Seat

The tickets have designated sections, rows and seat numbers. If you couldn’t get to the internet on time or were too cheap to call your local scalper….ummmm…. I mean StubHub, then just sit in your crappy nosebleeds and make the best of it. Don’t sit in someone else’s seat and then act surprised when they show up. It’s just annoying.

Rule # 4: Shut The Hell Up!!


You wouldn’t go to a play or a movie and sit there not paying attention and yapping to your friends all night. Well, just because a concert is loud, talking during the show still annoys people. And that counts for the opening act as well. Show the artist some respect! If you don’t care about the opening act and want to talk, stay in the parking lot or go out to the foyer. There are some people in there called music fans who enjoy hearing an act they may not be familiar with. And don’t forget – whoever your favorite band or artist is, they were once an opener. After all, Jimi Hendrix once opened for The Monkees, Bruce Springsteen once opened for Chicago, The Who once opened for Herman’s Hermits, and Wilco once opened for Bedtime For Jack. (Well, maybe the last one was my fantasy, but the others are true.) You never know what great band of the future you may be seeing.


Rule # 5: Keep Your Intoxication Level To A Minimum


Sure – some people like to have a drink or two before a concert. But if you show up drunk off your ass, not only will you not remember the show, you will make a fool of yourself and annoy everyone around you.


Rule # 6: – Stay In Your Seat!


Why is it that Americans cannot go for more than 45 minutes without having something to eat or drink? When you decide you just can’t live without that hot dog and Coke for another second and have to make an entire row stand up to let you out, you may be interrupting someone else’s favorite song. And if you’re going out for that fourth beer, just pee while you’re out of the venue instead of coming back in and then leaving again twenty minutes later.


Rule # 7: – Don’t Yell Out Requests


Unless it’s a small bar gig or a solo acoustic performance (and it’s somewhat obnoxious then as well) these highly trained professional musicians that you have paid a small fortune to see have their show planned out, including a list of songs they will be playing that night. They have sound cues, lighting cues, guitar techs, crew members, and many other things going on that follow that list. And I got news for you – Bono ain’t gonna drop everything he is doing and play “Sunday Bloody Sunday” at the wrong time just because some moron is screaming it out.


Rule # 8: – Don’t Pretend You Have ESP


Look – everyone knows that these days you can go on the internet and get setlists from previous shows on the tour. But there may be people there who don’t want to know ahead of time what songs will be played and in what order. So when you very loudly proclaim “They’re gonna play Go Your Own Way and then Silver Springs and then come back for another encore,” it doesn’t make you appear any smarter and you may have just ruined a great surprise for someone. You wouldn’t sit through a showing of The Crying Game yelling “She’s got a penis!!” so don’t do it at a concert either.


Rule # 9 – “Cousin Neal’s Rule”


Getting a bunch of friends together to see a show is usually a great experience, but for the person who has (or was) volunteered to secure the tickets, it can be a pain in the ass. So – if someone else got the tickets, please please please don’t complain about anything, including the exorbitant cost of the concert, crappy location of the seats, quality of the show, the fact that Ian Anderson’s voice has gone considerably downhill, or anything else for that matter. Just thank them for doing the dirty job that no one wanted. Oh – and if you owe them money for the tickets, pay up before the show starts – in cash.


Rule # 10 – Reach A Reasonable Level Of Hygiene Before Entering The Venue


Listen up Flower Child. The 60’s are over, and these days it is the societal norm to shower daily and use deodorant. And believe me honey – that patchouli ain’t doing a thing to mask the foul odor coming from those unsightly unshaven armpits. It is tough for others to enjoy the concert if they are scowling the whole time due to someone’s severe case of bromodrosis.


Rule # 11 – The Golden Rule Of Concert Going


Concerts are a great place to cut loose, get into some fine live music and have a good time. After all, it’s only rock and roll. But if your having a good time interferes with someone else’s right to enjoy the show, you’ve gone too far. So sit down, be quiet and oh-oh-oh—listen to the music. That’s what it’s all about.

The Best Live Album Ever?


Live albums have always been a staple of the rock and roll industry and have produced some it’s most worthy AND cringe-inducing moments. Whether to fulfill a recording contract without going back into the studio, squeeze a few more dollars out of rabid fans who will buy anything, or make a true artistic statement, the live album is here to stay.


Most live albums follow a pretty simple formula. Capture a “Greatest Hits” style performance, throw in a few rarities or weird cover versions to make it interesting, wind the songs up with some extended solos or introductions, place in some semi-witty stage banter, crank up the crowd noise at just the right moments and boom! – you’ve got yourself a live album!


Not that there is anything wrong with that formula – there have been some truly great live albums over the years using exactly that.  But what is actually the greatest live album of all time? In my opinion, it’s one that doesn’t follow that formula at all.


But first, a quick personal story. On August 27, 1977, I had the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite musicians, Jackson Browne, at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD. It was a fantastic show – Jackson in great form with the best touring band of the late 70s doing a well thought-out mix of crowd favorites, album cuts and a few new numbers including a song near the end of the show dedicated to the crew who sets up and tears down the equipment. Jackson said it was the first time he had ever played it in public – and it totally brought the house down, especially when he asked all of us to “Stay – just a little bit longer.”


It was almost a perfect evening, the only distraction being an over-zealous fan sitting right behind me who didn’t understand that concerts are planned events and that all of her screaming would not get Jackson to change the setlist. Nevertheless, I endured the entire show with her yelling “Road And The Sky” in my ear the whole time – hoping that JB would play that classic from the Late For The Sky album. He didn’t.


Fast forward a few months to December 6, 1977. The new Jackson Browne album comes out and I skip class to rush to the record store in order to be the first person to hear it. With eager anticipation I place it on the turntable and immediately notice that it is a live album. The first thing I hear? That woman who was sitting behind me screaming “Road And The Sky!!”


The album in this story is “Running On Empty” – in my opinion the greatest live album ever made. It is the rare live album that is both a concept album and one made up of songs never before heard on any previous Jackson Browne records.


The concept? Record an album about what it is like to be on the road in a rock and roll band – the good, bad and ugly. Record the songs not just from the stage but from hotel rooms, backstage rehearsal areas and even as on the song “Nothing But Time” – on a Silver Eagle Tour bus as the band travels from Maine to New Jersey.


The songs here really do tell the story – the thrills and spills of growing up as a touring musician (Running On Empty), sad tales of a minor league musician going through the motions (The Road), the woes of a truck driver (Shaky Town)  – even a hilarious story of a roadie pleasing himself in his hotel room because the drummer stole the girl he had his eye on (Rosie).


Simply put, there has never been another live album like it. Since all of the songs are new to the album (and everyone of them is a winner!), there aren’t any twenty minute bloated drum solos or sped up versions of songs you are already sick of. The recording quality is excellent, the band top-notch, and the concept wholly original, Running On Empty is a live album which stands above all others and sounds even better today than it did upon its release over thirty years ago.


So there you have it. My vote for the best live album ever? Jackson Browne’s Running On Empty. Yours?