The greater Detroit area is peppered with charming, relatively small venues that host a plethora of local and upcoming acts week after week. If you are relatively familiar with the indie music scene, you might recognize names like the Majestic Café, Marble Bar and UFO Factory (among others). Most recently, El Club has been added to the growing roster of hip concert spots, hosting shows by Car Seat Headrest, Porches and Titus Andronicus in its first six months of operation. Despite the undeniable coolness of the venue and of the many acts who have already graced its stage, there has been one markedly uncool aspect of every show I have attended at El Club: people just don’t seem to understand the certain unspoken rules to follow when attending a show at a small venue.
At first glance, my complaint — we’ll call it a grievance — might sound like indie snobbery, but hear me out. Understand first that I do not seek to blame El Club for its misbehaved clientele; there’s nothing the venue can do about it. Eventually the hype will die down, and El Club will no longer be the extra-hip new spot. But until then, as is common for newly opened bars that double as concert venues, locals will attend for “alcohol and live music!” rather than for, say, Joyce Manor or Twin Peaks specifically. This results in a crowd that is an interesting mix of young professionals — for whom the show is a spectacle — and fans of the specific artists, for whom the show is the only reason to attend.
At a large venue, it may be acceptable to shout and scream “we love you!” between (and during) every song, primarily because the performer probably can’t hear you, and the rest of the audience is being loud enough that you’re not distracting anyone.
In a smaller venue, this changes considerably; anything said between songs at a volume normally reasonable for conversation can and will likely be heard by everyone in the venue, including the performer. So when one individual decides to be particularly loud, that person, whether they realize it or not — and often they don’t — is drawing attention away from the performance and directly to themselves. In the extreme, these individuals essentially become hecklers, and more than once I have seen performers at these small venues stop their shows to directly ask the person to stop or leave.
Therefore, I implore you: do not be the kind of individual who is so loud that you draw attention away from the actual show. By all means, cheer at the end of every song! Lose your voice in doing so! But don’t repeatedly shout the name of the song you most desire to hear them play, even if you just “need” to hear them play it. And no matter how “clever” or downright “hilarious” your borderline jeering may be, I’d put my life on it that the show as a whole will be at least marginally more enjoyable without your contribution.
These notes about etiquette should really go without saying, and they may seem underwhelmingly apparent. They are, but, for whatever reason, there remains a small portion of the population that remains oblivious, or just doesn’t care. Anyone who has been to any general admission concert has likely witnessed — if not dealt directly with — someone pushing straight through rows and rows of strangers to guarantee themselves the best spot possible. In and of itself, this behavior is relatively harmless, but the ideology from which it proceeds is dangerous.
Maybe the person believes that they deserve a better spot because they’re a more ardent fan than everyone else in the audience — that’s why they showed up early to get a good spot, right? Or maybe they’ve adopted a contortedly capitalist approach in which he who shoves hardest deserves the best spot — politeness is weakness, and non-confrontational tendencies simply a reflection that you aren’t a serious enough fan.
I have only the desire that you realize the following (or, even better, that the following is already painfully obvious): the show is not about you. It’s about the performer, who has spent innumerable hours producing art for not only you, but everyone in the audience. If you truly have respect for the artist and their work, then you will also respect your fellow audience members. Your goal should be to ensure that everyone has the best experience possible, not just you.