The thing is, a crap crowd can really mar a set from a band at the top of their game, but a high-energy but technically ramshackle performance can be elevated to ‘one of the best ever’ status if everyone in there is part of a shared mind-set. The tricky bit is, there’s a whole spectrum of shitty spectators to look out for.
The absent audience:
This one can be literal or metaphorical. On a literal level if there’s hardly anyone in the crowd, it can get awkward. The band knows nobody showed up, you know nobody showed up, and no amount of extra loud clapping from the seven attendees will make up for that dearth. Metaphorically, we’re talking the people who spent £15 on a ticket for a night where they would rather be pretty much anywhere else, and will make this clear by doing a variety of things: drinking excessively, chatting loudly with friends, making phonecalls, eating sandwiches, taking photos of themselves in the crowd… basically anything and everything except watch the band.
The over-eager beavers:
Yeah, this might be one of We Are Scientists’ best songs and biggest singles, but the chorus of ‘After Hours’ really isn’t the time to start a mosh-pit (Nov 2010, Newcastle o2 Academy). Typically instigated by excitable teens and groups of LADSLADSLADS.
The screen queens (and kings, but that has less of a ring to it):
For some, attending a gig by one of your favourite bands is pretty important. But even more important is making sure you get the absolute BEST footage to put on YouTube the next day so that you can re-live that memory you were too busy filming to actually take in in the first place. Please stop holding your phone cameras in front of my face, I want to see the people on stage, not pixels providing a digitised representation of the people on stage, thank you.
There’s a decent amount of people, nobody’s really talking, the phones are away. Good start. The band comes on, everyone cheers. They start playing, and it’s one of the most visceral performances you’ve ever seen. So why is everyone just standing there? Yeah, it’s great if you’re giving the band your attention, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bob a head, shake a leg, maybe even do a little jump every so often. It’s not appropriate to lose your shit at every gig you go to, but if the band wanted to play to a load of statues, they’d have gone to the garden centre.
So, how can you avoid being ‘THAT PERSON’ at a gig? If you have difficulty spotting any of these characters then you might just be the perpetrator, so take notes:
1) Do your research
Don’t get me wrong – it’s an absolute joy when you see a band you know nothing about, and they play a set so blindingly excellent that they’re practically walking you to the cash machine so you can buy their CD. But, are you just coming along to see the latest buzz-band? Have your mates dragged you along on the promise that you’ll really like it? Well, give them a listen first so you know what you’re getting yourself in for, and that the band you’ve come to see aren’t in fact an all-the-time four-to-the-floor Mumford and Sons tribute act, but something much, much better full of beautiful, downtrodden lyrics, atmospheric arrangements and, erm, clarinets.(Admiral Fallow, Dec 2012, The Cluny)
2) Don’t chat
So, you’ve just discovered that Admiral Fallow don’t have an extensive back-catalogue of barn-storming hoe-downs and they’re not going to be playing a set full of ‘Friday night songs’. Your mates might have lied to you about what type of band you’re off to see, but instead of just wandering off to the bar and having a chat, you decide to stand around and talk to your friends about how boring and rubbish it is. If you’re not going to follow the first rule of being a gig twat, then don’t be an even bigger twat by talking about it. Are you more a fan of the singles? Fair enough, but every album track you talk through will probably be somebody else’s favourite song.
See also: the time a girl behind me started talking to her friend about what she was doing the next day in the middle of ‘Transatlanticism’. I’m not the bad person for having to shush you. (Death Cab For Cutie, Aug 2011, Nottingham Rock City)
3) Don’t be a cup-thrower
You might have to go really, really badly, but I don’t want to spend the majority of my time at a gig wondering whether that cup of lukewarm liquid that hit me in the head five minutes in was hand-warmed beer or colder-than-usual piss. (NME Tour ft. Metronomy, Feb 2012, Newcastle o2 Academy)
See also: every single festival set ever.
4) Have fun
You might not have gone to see House of Pain, but that’s no excuse not to jump around. Is the band putting a tonne of energy in and playing a great set? Show further appreciation than simply an end-of-song-clap by trying some established gig ‘dance’ moves:
• The fist-pump: Generally for rock bands. Clench your hand into a fist, and simply bob it up and down in time to the music.
• The pogo: Arms down by your sides, feet together, BOUNCE. You might lose your balance, so combine it with the fist-pump at your peril.
• The shoulder-wave: Better for electronic gigs when you’re waiting for things to really kick off, as it’s quite low key. The basic move is to raise your left shoulder, and then your right at regular intervals in time with the beat. Accessorise this move with a tapping foot, and add a bobbing head if you’re a real pro.
• The leap: At a more high-intensity gig? Jump up and down, but don’t worry too much about remaining in one spot, a la pogo. If others are leaping about a bit, they won’t mind if you accidentally bound into them. But, crucially to the next point, don’t start a silly shoving match/punching war. It’s not nice.
5) But don’t have too much fun
OK, I’m glad you’re involved in what you’re watching and you’re not just standing around while the band play, but is this barrage of fists really appropriate at a Mystery Jets gig? (Nov 2012, Manchester Ritz). If I’m having to spend my night watching the people around me so that I can avoid a stray limb rather than getting to watch the band, I’m not going to be happy. Take it easy and have a sing-along, although maybe avoid lighters when the anthems come out if you’ve got rage issues.
I think in essence, it comes down to awareness. If you want to avoid being a Gig Twat, be aware of who you’re going to see, aware of the other gig-goers, and aware that phones at gigs are the devil. Now, go forth to your local venue and have moderate, restrained amounts of fun.