In the past eight years, I have gone to more live rock ‘n’ roll shows than I can remember. I’ve been to Madison Square Garden, sat behind Conan O’Brien, and played air guitar with Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. I’ve had mud tossed on me by a hippie chick who didn’t understand that not everybody at Bonnaroo flirts by throwing mud.
Most of my live music experiences are not in big arenas or famous venues but rather in music halls and rock clubs. Well-worn buildings that make you feel like the first time you put on a Rolling Stones T-shirt.
These places are where you see the real rock ‘n’ roll. The up-and-coming acts. The hip underground bands. The working, touring musicians that will never be rich, will never have Grammys, but by virtue of staying on the road and making good music, they will always have a fan base.
While these places can be the heart and soul of a touring band, they can also be traps for the dumb, the uninitiated, the old, the young.
My beef is with people that go to see live music but don’t know how to act at a rock club. If you go to a music venue, you must follow these guidelines.
If the place is crowded, don’t cry over spilled beer. Somebody is going to accidentally knock into you. Somebody is going to accidentally knock into your girlfriend. Someone is going to spill a little bit of his or her drink on you. So don’t make an issue with every incident.
If you can’t see, simply move. Don’t bitch because you are sitting behind me and I’m standing. I can’t play appropriate air guitar while seated. Furthermore, neither can you. Stand your happy ass up and rock out.
It’s only appropriate to buy two drinks at a time. You have two hands. You can navigate back to your friends with a drink in both hands without bothering too many people. If you decide to get four or five drinks at a time and a crowd has to part like the Red Sea in the middle of a loud and crowded rock show, I’m going to take one of your drinks, slam it, and then make fun of you for ordering box white wine.
Do not carry on loud conversations while the band is playing. Regardless of the volume of the show, if you and your friend are standing right behind me, yapping about how ugly your other friend’s maternity dress is, it’s going to annoy me. Unless you are going to do anything but high-five, play air-guitar/drums, or dance, get your ass to the back of the room
Adhere to the Chris Robinson Rule. According to the lead singer of the Black Crowes, it is OK to wear a T-shirt of the band you are seeing to the show. It is not OK to buy a T-shirt at the show and then wear it.
If you see the band or artist before the show, please leave them alone. They probably just woke up or need a shot to get ready for the show. They may be grabbing some food. You’ve paid to see them perform, not to talk about a hidden track on their first record that is out of print. It is perfectly OK — and usually appreciated — to go shake their hands and then bow out and let them be. They’ll let you know if they are up for a conversation.
Rock clubs and bars are safe zones. It is not OK to be unaccepting. The rules are in place to safeguard things, not to make judgments. If you don’t spend much time at shows, we welcome you — just act right. It is not OK to make a judgment on a person’s dress or appearance. It doesn’t matter if you have dreads or you’re in a three-piece suit. As long as you are there for the right reason, you are in a safe haven.
Joel Frank is a veteran Charleston radio personality, music promoter, and freelance writer.