Concert Etiquette: The Meet & Greet

Somehow, your fantasies have come true. The clouds have parted, the cherubs have fucked off because they’re not who you paid to see, and you find yourself actually coming face-to-face with the object of your musical affection. “I can’t!” you cry to your friend as you squeeze her forearm right on her camera strap bruise. “I’ll just babble and sound like an idiot!” Rest assured, music fan, you can actually talk to a musician and not explode into a cloud of goose feathers and pheromones. Just try to keep a few simple things in mind, okay?

– They’re only human. Yes, they may be surrounded by the shimmering aura of the Chosen, but they are actually people. They eat, they drink, they sleep, they occasionally procreate (probably not with you). Talking to strangers can be just as awkward as approaching someone you admire, but at least you have a starting point. Just be genuine and show your appreciation, and unless you’re dealing with a total asshole or end up speaking another language, it should go fine. Just don’t try to push your tongue between their lips because that is not a good way to single yourself out.
– Respect personal space. If you see a celebrity in the street, it’s okay to say hi. It goes with the territory, and they’re not obligated to do anything in return. If you’re triangulating their location via a map and their Twitter information from the past thirty minutes so you can confront them at the next stop sign they encounter on the road, you really need to slow your roll. Know that being in the same place doesn’t mean you’re there, together, sharing, oh my god look at us we’re friends. Likewise, try not to trample other fans because you NEED an autograph before they jump into a white van and retreat into the disappointing night. It’s just not polite, and a shoving frenzy doesn’t exactly invite someone to relax and mingle.
– Strength in numbers. It’s better to make a friend rather than an enemy of the person next to you. Combining your awesomeness, you have someone to take your photo, hold your stuff, and generally back you up so you don’t spit out a proposal or rudely ask where the hot guitarist is hiding out. Also, having friends nearby means that if the person next to you is obnoxious, you can come up with all sorts of clever ways to start your own miniature war against an enemy that does not recognize the declaration. Bonus: bone up on The Art of War! My college roommates used to hang excerpts of this tome in our sophomore bathroom, and it clearly changed my life. I’m sure Sun Tzu was great fun at parties.
– Be prepared. If you’re waiting outside, dress warmly. If you want something signed, bring a Sharpie. If you want a photo, stop ruining the world with your Instagram shots that have minimal lighting before you add your awful filters anyway. Being prepared gives you something to do while you nervously wait, and it makes you look attentive and special later on, just like you so obviously are.
– Gifts are good…sometimes. Life on the road can be challenging, so sometimes a nice book, a CD, or just a chocolate bar is just what someone needs for a quick lift. Homemade crafts can be sweet. Just know your boundaries. Unless they express undying devotion to baked goods, you should probably steer clear of actually offering them freshly baked treats from your own home. After all, would you eat a cookie that someone handed you in the street? Oh, you would. Well. Awkward. Anyyyyway. Don’t spend too much money, and don’t expect something specific in return for your effort. It’s a gift, not a bribe.
– It’s not a contest. Feel free to share a little about yourself. If you had your life changed by a song in some way, sometimes that’s great to share because really, what’s more empowering than saving a life? Just don’t make it a competition. Spending the most money, logging the most miles, having listened for the most years? Those things don’t matter. Someone will always outdo you, but that doesn’t make them better. Can we not be one encouraging, nurturing society that wants people to go after what we want? No, because we’re selfish human beings. Shit.
– You are lucky OR you have not been rejected. Look, not every gig gives you a chance to meet your idols. Do you realize how incredible it is to go to a concert and hear the songs you love, live, in person, with all the beauty and flaws and chaos and unpredictability of the present tense? I grew up in West Virginia, and the only tour that blew through my hometown when I was growing up was 98 Degrees. Needless to say, I did not attend. Live music is powerful and a privilege. Sometimes shows go badly, but it shouldn’t be because they didn’t play a specific song, your camera batteries died, or you didn’t get a hug after the show. These things are superfluous, and it’s no slight to you if your Future Husband doesn’t come out to meet you even though you’ve been waiting two hours in the rain. You still got to experience something that 17-year-old me would have killed for, and even if it only happens once every two years, that adds up. You’ve paid for entertainment, so enjoy yourself, make some friends, make some goddamn memories. And if you get a really great photo and an autograph, well, then you can high five that image of yourself for years to come, baby.

Concert Etiquette: The Queue.

Between bits of fiction, I’ll take a bit of time to exploit my domain and rant, generally about music. I’m winding down from five concerts in two weeks, so there’s a lot to critique. Of course, the queue (as many of us with European inclinations tend to call it) or the line is the logical place to start. So, here are ten simple tips for a pleasant (mostly general admission) queuing process.

1. Know what you’re getting into. Personally, I’ve never attended a U2 concert, but those fans live amongst the anointed few in their legendary dedication. If you’re waiting outside for a long time, you’re going to want to figure out where you can go for food, drink, and the inevitable emptying of the bladder. If you’re going to a coffee shop or a bar, throwing in a tip for use the bathroom is a nice gesture, particularly if you don’t buy anything. Wear reasonable shoes. Wear comfortable clothes that fit the weather. Don’t be that dehydrated, starving girl teetering on stilettos, trying to keep your skirt down while the wind blows. Unless you’re there for me to mock, of course.

2. Make friends or use the buddy system, but don’t be rude. Look, I’ve got a day job. I know that I can’t always be there for five hours waiting for the doors to open. Most of the time if the show’s important to me, a friend is willing to be there a long time and then let me jump line. I don’t do that to be an asshole to the other diehards; I just have to make the money so I can afford to be at the gig at all. I hold spots too. Many people do. For a couple of people, that’s cool. If you’re waiting for your high school reunion to join you in that very spot, you are an asshole.

3. Save your bragging for the Internet. Reciting facts that you know about the band is boring. If you’ve seen then for the past ten years, good for you. Sometimes you have significant milestones that are genuinely worth the conversation. I was at a gig this year where it was someone’s 50th show for that artist, and that was a pretty cool deal. We were all happy for her. Fast forward to the next week. Same artist, different city, different girl seeing them for the 50th time. She thought this meant she deserved to be first in the queue, even though she didn’t get there first. Not so cool. Be open and friendly, not just trying to outdo others.

4. If you think you might get a chance to be sneaky, you won’t. Don’t try to start a queue on the other side of the door, squeeze through to look at a poster (just to stay there), ask a question and then loiter with your new friends who don’t want you. Show up when you wish, but take responsibility for it and don’t try to dick others over. People get very angry about these things.

5. Nobody likes it when you ask really stupid questions. Often there are all sorts of incredible facts printed on your ticket. Set times and when doors open are generally right there! Sometimes the support acts are listed! Hallelujah, praise the lord! So there’s usually no reason to go up to the guy at the door and confirm the veracity of that very item that gets you into the show in the first place. Bonus round: if you want to know if there are tickets still available, buy your tickets first. It’s really magical.

6. Nobody wants to hear about your hypothetical tryst with a band member. Look, the ’80s are over. Nobody’s denying that rockstars will take advantage of fans sometimes, but unless you’re kind of slutty, extremely good looking, and actually manage to get two seconds alone to enact your plan of seduction, it’s not going to happen. I don’t care what position you picture “your boy” doing with you from the Kama Sutra. Chances are he doesn’t either. Keep that 50 Shades of Grey shit in your imagination since surprisingly (or not), 99% of the time I hear those thoughts spoken aloud, they come from people far too young or too old to be with the musician in question.

7. You don’t “deserve” to be at any spot in the queue. I don’t want to hear you say that you should skip in front of me because you are: too short, seeing the artist for the first time, going through some shit right now, their BIGGEST fan, running late, not feeling well and needing to lean on the rail, or my personal favorite, just there for the opener and will leave right after they’re off the stage. Everyone gets a fair shake. This is war. Put on your combat gear and take responsibility for where you wind up. And if you shove your way forward during the show because you didn’t get the place in line you wanted, I will stop on your foot with my boots.

8. Don’t show up wasted. Come on. I know that sometimes you have to kill time at the bar or in a drinking establishment, or there’s a bar before doors open to give you their “happy hour” price of only $7 for a weak drink. I’m not opposed to the alcohol, but if it’s 4 pm and you’re drunk, you should know things about yourself. First of all, everyone can smell it and see it and hear it. You are that drunk person going HAW HAW HAW with your bloodshot eyes and wobbly steps as you quote songs and think you are HILAAAARIOUS. You’re going to need to pee (don’t break the seal omg!1111). You’re going to get thirsty. Worst of all, unless you keep going back to the bar, you’re going to sober up. So don’t be that obnoxious person.

9. Take it easy on the social media. Most of us have smart phones now. They’re pretty neat, I guess. You can snap some photos, tweet if you’re alone, check your email, act like you’re not sitting outside in 20 degree weather for five hours because you really need to get up close to the stage. Just don’t overdo it. Instagram is basically ruining the world because if I see one more photo that’s artfully blurred around the edges and tinted and is supposed to show me a marquee, I’ll fucking scream. Also, if you’re tweeting or facebooking or whatevering about how you see the band around the corner, omg soundcheck, omg they just walked past omg omg they smell like apples and eternal satisfaction, we can never be friends.

10. Be happy. You made it to the show! Nothing is dumber than getting all pissed off because you are in the second row rather than the first or stage left rather than dead center. Music is about your ears, not your eyes. Be grateful and be good to one another. It’s not a competition, it’s a treat for yourself. Fucking enjoy it, okay?