Friday, November 30, 2007

This is what happens when I feel passionately about something

Jose Gonzalez was in town last night (Thursday), at The Parish Room. I had never been to that venue before, but I'll definitely be going back. The sound was excellent, the room was a nice size, larger without losing intimacy, which worked incredibly well for the show last night.

Gonzalez played a great set, not too long, not too short, about half the songs totally solo, the other half with a "percussion section," which was made up of a girl that shook something and maybe played keyboards, and a dude that played the congas and occasionally a woodblock. I actually like him better in live performances, by far over the studio work. I like hearing just his voice, not a multi-layered effect on it. And his voice was pretty amazing last night, as was his guitar playing. The lighting was good, and the general vibe during the whole show was great. I'd write a glowing review of it, but while I was at the show, I got to thinking about things. Like, the reason that I'm not exactly sure if the girl was playing a keyboard was that there was some 6'4" dude was standing in the very front, right in front of her. Standing straight up. In the very front row. WTF? Come on! Don't do that. Which got me thinking, this is the perfect time to unfurl:

Flenker's 10 Simple Rules for Going to a Show!!!!
(small venue edition)

  1. You make a better door than a widow - If you're 6'2" and above, it's ok to stand near the front. If you want to, go right ahead! But if you're in the very front, at least make some sort of effort to minimize your stature and the amount of vision blocking from less vertically gifted concert goers. Stand off to the side, maybe, or bend down, or, you could be really kind and let some shorter people in front of you. You don't have to let some 6' dude in front of you, because fuck him, he can see around you. But if there's a girl or guy that's kind of short, I'm sure you'd make their day to not have to have their noses stuck firmly near your armpits. It's just a common courtesy, man.
  2. Don't be That couple - I've been to concerts with a girlfriend (yes, I've had a girlfriend! A couple actually! You may only need to use one hand to count them, but they're there, I promise! KP can back me up on this one.), it's a common thing to do, concerts are fun! It's totally ok to hold hands or give a quick peck on the cheeks, or maybe even real kiss! But do not, under any circumstances, let your mouth open. No tongue action. No one, I repeat no one wants to see that anywhere, let alone in a concert with hundreds of sweaty people around you, most likely a high number of them perpetually single guys (at least at the concerts I'm going to. Sad bastards abound). Especially if your girlfriend looks like Tori Spelling plus 60 pounds, give or take, and if you look kind of like you belong in that family that grows hair all over their face. And take off your stupid fucking hat. (sorry, I've been wanting to say that since the show) Also guys, don't stand in front of your girl. That's just tacky. Unless she's more than 5 inches taller than you. In which case, ummm, good for you?
  3. Leave the fedora to Indiana Jones - This applies to not only fedoras, but any other wide-brimmed hat, unless it's appropriate (I'm sure there's some "You might be a redneck" joke here, but I'm above that). Not only does it block the vision of the people behind you, there's also a good chance that you look like a tool. And, it'll contain body heat, so you'll get warmer in an already hot environment. Plus, if you have to comb the hair on your face and are clinging onto your tubby girlfriend, you're gong to need all the help you can get to keep your body temperature at a life-sustaining level. Leave your hat in the car, wear it to the bars with your hipster friends so they can reassure you how awesome you look. (really, I'm just bitter that this dude had a cool hat and had the ability to grow facial hair, two things I could never pull off.)
  4. The floor is not for empties - I know, the empty bottle is heavy, it's cramping your style, and you can't comfortably hold more than two bottles at a time. You don't have to. Find a table or use a trashcan to dispose of your bottle. Don't set it on the floor. Because it will invariable be kicked, and roll around, and hit my foot. Then I'll be paranoid that I'm going to step on it and break it, so I'll have to run the risk of bending down in a crowded area to pick it up. Not good times.
  5. No smoking - I know it's, like, awesome to get stoned and stuff. Whatever. Especially in a smaller, inside venue, don't be rockin' the ganj (do kids still say that? have they ever said that?). I honestly hate the smell of it, and get a headache. You can wait another 20 minutes, or go outside or something. Just don't do it in the middle of a crowded floor. Same with cigarettes. In a crowded place, someone is getting ashed on, and someone else is getting smoke in the face.
  6. When I'm in the pit - At some concerts, mosh pits happen, there's no avoiding them. A ska concerts, skanking will occur. It's natural. Just go with it. Don't assume it's your responsibility to protect your girlfriend by unnecessarily throwing 'bows at nearby moshers. Moshing should be confined to a specific area, so just avoid it if you have a problem with it. And moshers: don't go out of your way to shit-stomp people that have no inclinations on being shit-stomped. Really, you shouldn't be shit-stomping at a concert. You don't need to fuck up shit, no matter what Reel Big Fish tells you.
  7. Surf's down - It's not really that cool to body surf. Sorry to break it to you this way. It's one thing if you need to, if you're getting overheated or can't take the crowd, let people know around you, and they'll pass you back (this actually happened to me once, without me knowing. I somehow got way too overheated and blacked out for a minute. The next thing I knew I was being passed backwards. Definitely a weird set of events). And guys, if there's a girl crowd surfing, don't grab her ass or boobs. Not cool.
  8. Sing it proud - If you know the words, it's ok to sing along. Sometimes even asked of you by performers (see: Ben Folds Live, on the songs Army and Not the Same. It's something that he's done every time I've seen him). One of the coolest experiences I've had was seeing Thursday, with the crowd singing the back-up vocals on some songs when the lead singer Geoff wasn't able to (he did all of the vocals, I think and there were some multi-layered parts that he obviously wasn't able to do live). If you don't know the words, though, please, please do not try to sing along.
  9. Move! - It's ok to dance, it's ok to feel the beat, and it's ok to move with it. Do it naturally. If you're like me and have absolutely zero dancing ability, that's OK! Bobbing your head is fine, bouncing in place it a good start, and just letting yourself go is the best. I've come to learn, it doesn't matter. You're having fun, go with it! It shows the performers that you're enjoying what they're doing for you. Of course, if you're seeing a band like Kind of Like Spitting or Low or Mojave 3, it's not really appropriate to be frantically jerking your body around. But you can close your eyes, let the music envelope you, nod your head, enjoy it, take it all in.
  10. And this is by far the most important rule for me - SHUT UP AND LISTEN!!! - You paid $15 or $5 or $30 for a ticket or cover to get into the club and hear a band play, not to have a conversation with your friend about what you're going to do tomorrow. More importantly, everyone else around you paid that same amount to hear the band play, and not to try to hear them over your shouting about how you don't really like wheat bread but feel like you should be eating more of it anyways. NO ONE CARES. Show the band some respect, listen to what they're doing. This is much more than just a show to them. It's their livelihood. It's their life. They've invested so much into practicing and touring and pouring their hearts into their songs, the least you could do is shut the hell up for an hour and really appreciate it. Nothing bothers me more than to hear the din of conversations going on in between songs, unless I can hear it during songs. Show some fucking respect. If you have to say something, do it as quietly as possible, to as few people as possible. Turn your ringer on silent. And don't have text message conversations. One is ok, if done inconspicuously. But don't send 5 or 6 messages back and forth with someone about how you hate your boyfriend that is AT THE SHOW WITH YOU and how you are thinking of breaking up with him, especially if you're standing right next to me and the light from your phone is annoying as shit while I'm trying to watch Loney, Dear (true story, ask H!).
There you have it. It may sound like a lot, but really, following the rules will lead to such a great experience. And it's all basically common sense stuff, just use your heads, people! I'm sorry if you break the rules and don't think it's a big deal. It is. I mean, it's on my blog and everything.

There's only been one concert that I can remember where all of the rules were followed by everyone: when Jeff Tweedy played in the Iowa Memorial Union on February 19th, 2006. It's been the show to which I compare other shows. There was such a good crowd, they were quiet and listening, with such positive energy, that, as Mr. Tweedy stated, "it feels like everyone in the room is working towards the same goal." It may be the best show I've ever been to. It'll definitely be very hard to top. (I do have a, uh, how you say, bootleg of it, if anyone is interested. . .)

So what are some rules that everyone else has? Of course, there are different circumstances. If the band playing is some crappy frat band, who cares. Or a tribute band. They're on the low end of the totem pole, barely qualifying as "bands." Then there's the opposite end, the arena shows, where everyone not on the floor is seated and eats $7 popcorn while the Red Hot Chili Peppers "thrash." (I have seen them in concert too. . . That was actually the show during which I blacked out! I'm not sure if it was from the heat or from what was coming out of the speakers) And festivals are something completely different altogether. But I'm talking about shows at places like First Ave in Minneapolis, or Emo's here in Austin, or 9:30 Club in DC, or the Metro in Chicago, or Zaphod's in Ottawa (probably the bar with my favorite name ever), or Gabe's/the Picador in Iowa City.

And yes, if it hasn't been painfully obvious for a while now, I am a music elitist. That's who I am. And these are my rules.


Minty said...

Those are rules that should be observed by ALL show-goers! I've had a beer dumped on me by a chick with implants and gray hair at a Freddie Jones Band show... I've been groped endlessly! And the full-on tongue-choke-kiss thing is just detestable.

I'm 5'9" and considerate of my height!


H said...

Amen, Flenker. Amen.

But seriously - rockin' the ganj? Who says that? Or has ever said that? Did you become a 65-year-old man since I talked to you yesterday?

I had forgotten about that from the Loney, Dear show. That was ridiculous.

I have my own little rule to add, regarding cameras/cell phone cameras, since everyone has them these days and takes them everywhere and takes pictures of everything (myself included): Taking a couple pictures is fine. But taking multiple pictures, especially if you're raising your arms all the way up to do so, is not cool. Keep your arms down and your flash off, please.

You should also have a rule about relieving yourself during the show. was awesome.

standoutinacrowd said...

The bouncer at the PigPen has put you in timeout, Oh wait that was me:)

My biggest peeve is the scenesters who don't really know any of the music but say that the band is great.

btw, you haven't missed a hawk game worth watching and its back to being the river bandits

Minty said...


My biggest peeve is the scenesters who don't really know any of the music but say that the band is great.

Excellent addition. Jesus, those people suck so much ass.


Flenker said...

minty - I'm glad you abide!

h - I thought about adding an iPhone corollary, maybe I'll add it in later.

stand - you're the only person I've known to get put in timeout at a punk show. I totally agree with the scenesters comment. But I'm glad to hear that they're going to back to the River Bandits. good news

Captain Crab said...

I'm sure you feel better now that you've gotten that off your chest.

Whiskeymarie said...

I think all the kids are saying "smokin' the doobies" these days. Sheesh, F, get with the program already.
I just discovered this Jose G. guy, I think I like him.

Jad said...

Not only are you a modern prophet of music venue etiquette, you mentioned Zaphod's.

There's only one thing I would add, and this is probably because it's a rule I expect myself to follow, but most others seem to ignore: no flash photography. If it's an arena show, fine. But in a small club you're basically blinding the artist every time you take a shot.

Well done though. I'm glad I'm not the only guy who thinks like this.