by Sydney Schaefer, guest contributor
In 1971, Hunter S. Thompson published his classic novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas highlighting his psychedelic adventures with his attorney/companion Dr. Gonzo during the latter years of the sixties. In his novel, Thompson wrote,
“All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What [Timothy] Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole lifestyle that he helped create... a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody... or at least some force - is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.”
For this piece, “Acid Culture” can be thought of as today’s music scene, especially the music scene in which heady music lovers continue to thrive. Those who Thompson claims are “pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit” are the audience members which consistently create a nuisance to the rest of those in attendance by using musical events as a social gathering, and never comprehend the beauty of the art and its supporters which provides them with the event. The following highlights the do’s and don’ts of behavior at a music event in order for everyone in attendance to enjoy the optimal live music experience.
Technology in the Scene
Technology plays a major role in the music world today, but should it have such a vital importance during live music events? To see an ocean of screens from stage view during a performance is very discouraging and disrespectful to the artist, especially to The White Stripes frontman Jack White. White recently banned mobile devices from his performances and released a statement stating, "We think you’ll enjoy looking up from your gadgets for a little while and experience music and our shared love of it IN PERSON." Several music festivals and bands have created a live stream available to those not able to attend a performance, and perhaps those who wish to mindlessly scroll through whatever social media melts their brain should resort to listening to the show at home. Streaming saves money and time to those who do not wish to truly be a part of the live experience. Before the show starts and set breaks are the optimal times to check cell phones, as many use this as a personal time to visit with one another or use the restroom, but once the talent graces the stage, it is just common courtesy to put phones away. Personally, I find it quite offensive to audience members who are dancing and jumping around to their favorite artist only to stumble upon a screen zombie.
Samantha Ansell, from New Hampshire, stated she damaged her phone right before leaving for Chicago to see DJ Pretty Lights, she shared, “All I was responsible for was that moment and enjoying every bit of such a special environment. I feel like when you let go of your personal phone or reflection of yourself in your phone, you understand you can experience every moment for itself. A different sense of presence if you will.” Concert goers around the globe can learn from Samantha and several others who choose to not use cell phones at live music events to show common courtesy to the performers and the audience. An up and coming jam band, Twiddle, even hinted at the ridiculous amount of cell phone use society has developed with their lyrics in “Polluted Beauty”: “Always texting driving tweeting into cyber overdrive. It's a hi-def fog blurrin' out the earth's pride. We're the lazy generation our questions answered with a click. Leave your house to seek out knowledge when it's all at your fingertips.” If musicians like Twiddle and Jack White are getting disgusted with the amount of cell phones at concerts, maybe take a note and leave the phone at home next time.
Music is the Drug
Drugs and alcohol are sure to be found at almost any event, some making it much more obvious and noticeable than others. In general, alcohol and drugs should be used responsibly to avoid the obvious such as illness and even death, but at music events, alcohol and drugs should be used, if at all, responsibly to avoid embarrassing behavior. There is nothing worse than a user who cannot stand on his or her own two feet and instead decides to use everyone in the audience as a walking aid, it is distracting and frustrating to others in the audience much like cell phone use. Although artists like the Grateful Dead are famous for their “Acid Tests” in which concert attendees took LSD before entering the venue in the sixties to watch the band, several artists are preaching a different message to fans such as EDM artist Bassnectar.
In response to a fan who attended the DJ’s New Years Eve show and commented about the amount of people in the medical tent too high to function, Bassnectar and his team stated, “We are not about substance abuse, heavy drinking, or reckless behavior of any kind. OG Bass Heads [Bassnectar fans] know this, and we ask everyone’s help in echoing that out loud and proud. We want our community to be about health, happiness, music, and celebration. Nobody needs a chemical to get high - we get high on the music and the energy around us. Music is the drug.”
While some Bass Heads are sharing Bassnectar’s drug-free message, others continue to use at his shows. Drug use cannot be prevented, especially in the music scene but it can be safely advocated for. When drug use begins to affect your health and others, perhaps it is a sign to take a break and just enjoy the music. In a past interview, Frank Zappa stated, “If an individual decides to participate in any kind of chemical alteration – whether it be drinking too much alcohol, smoking marijuana or a regular cigarette, or taking some other kind of chemical substance – he has the right to do it without the government getting on his fucking back. Where I draw the line is when the individual's actions impinge on the safety and lifestyle of another person.” Try not to let the highly intoxicated distract your enjoyment, but if an attendee shows a risk to his or her health, checking in on them is always a very generous move, and quite honestly, a responsibility to your concert brothers and sisters. You may just save someone’s life and both of you can learn to enjoy the music without substances.
Concerts exist for one very obvious reason: to hear live music from musicians. Somewhere along the line, it was thought that talking over the music was the real way to enjoy shows. This in fact, is so highly wrong. Talking, much like cell phone use, is annoying and inconsiderate to others. If a conversation must exist mid-show, take the discussion to the lobby or outside, chances are, no one around cares what you have to say. There have been plenty of times I was finally seeing a much anticipated artist and was interrupted by several fellow attendees just to talk about essentially anything, not even music related. While I appreciated the friendliness, it was very distracting and almost frustrating. During one of his performances, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco brought up the issue of talking during performance to his audience and said, “Tell me what I need to do in order for you to listen to the concert you paid money to go see… If you’re happy talking, then why did you come here? Because honest to God, I’m here too and I want us to be here together, can you shut up for once in your fucking life? And have some fun without moving your mouth?” Soon after his rightful rant, he insisted everyone in attendance took a moment of silence to observe just how peaceful quietness is. Every single concert goer can learn from Tweedy and take into consideration musicians want to spend time with their fans connecting musically together. Joe Retzer, a live music fanatic said,
“I had been excited to see Wavves for a while now, and I had even driven a few hours and rented a place to stay for this concert, so I was very excited for this and I had been waiting there for a while and as it filled up, it got hotter and hotter, so tensions are kind of high anyway, and then Wavves finally came on and it felt like such a relief. I was uncomfortable, but here came the band I was excited to see. But soon enough, this excitement was shattered by the fact I couldn’t even hear the words the singer was singing because of the disrespectful audience talking the entire time over the music. They were even chanting the name of the headlining band over Wavves the entire time.”
Next time you attend an event, try to remember the disrespect talking brings to the performers and audience. Both want to enjoy an amazingly musical night with YOU and your friends.
In the End…
The more concerts and music festivals I attend, the more I begin to observe the audience almost as much as the musicians performing. Fellow concert goers have also began to take note of the audience and create discussion threads on social media to discuss the behavior of those they have observed during a show or festival. Some claim the rising popularity of music festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza have created a party atmosphere at live music events as opposed to the traditional music loving audiences who are solely focused on the quality and passion of the performance. This is concerning to music lovers as their passion is being taken advantage of by others as a time to party and disrespect the art form. If music lovers never discuss the real issues at hand taking place during live music events, our time to thrive will soon be overshadowed by those who take advantage of the events we spend our whole lives celebrating. Perhaps concert behavior will remain consistent, but if avid concert fans spread awareness about the main annoyances at these events, they will soon vanish. Concerts are a time for everyone to enjoy the beauty of music together in harmony. Without distractions at live music events, we can learn to enjoy every moment in our everyday lives without the extremity of these elements.