Are Shows Becoming More Of A Hangout?

I’ve been to a lot of shows in my lifetime. I’ve cried. I’ve laughed. I’ve met some really cool people with like-minded interests. I’ve been so caught up in the band, silently freaking out on the inside that I was finally able to see my favorites live. At shows, I’ve probably experienced it all. Being a music writer only heightens that excitement as you get to share your experiences with other listeners. But I’ve been noticing something lately going on amidst the crowd and the bright lights that doesn’t sit right with me as a hardcore music fan. I’ve noticed that people are coming to shows just to hang out; not to check out the band, not to score some tour-exclusive merch or even to meet other fans of the band. For them, the artists on stage are just background music and the louder the conversation, the easier it is to pick out the real fans in any given crowd. What gives?

Surely anyone could catch up with friends at a restaurant or bar. Why pay for a ticket if you’re only going to be screaming the details of last night’s hookup over the sounds of music you should be paying attention to? During the last show I attended, a guy over 6 feet tall decided it would be cool to park his ass right in front of me as he texted the entire night, not even looking up from his phone for a split second to pay attention to the artist on stage. The group behind me had a 3 hour conversation about total nonsense that they probably could have talked about anywhere else all while making fun of the real fans in the crowd. Why even bother showing up? Is this a sequel to Mean Girls?

“I don’t even know who they are,” is one statement you’ll hear at any given show in NYC as unfortunately, disrespect is easy to find and hard to avoid. It breaks my heart to see videos taken at a show by fans only to hear people talking in the background (especially during a ballad) as the artists on stage pour everything they have into their performance. Not only is it disrespectful to the artists you paid to see, but it puts a damper on the entire concert experience for all of the real fans around you. Ticket sales are great and all but I’m pretty sure artists want actual fans in the audience who are taking everything in.

Real fans wait on line all day if they have to. Real fans buy tickets months in advance. Real fans are the ones singing along to every word. Real fans are going to multiple shows a month and supporting the artists they love by buying whatever they can at the merch table. Real fans don’t show up to a show late only to push their way to the front. They also certainly don’t hang out towards the front with their faces in their phones while obstructing the view of others. Real fans pay attention to everything going on on that stage and you can be sure that every single moment is savored. Real fans don’t spoil the fun of everyone around them and they’re not only there to get wasted. The words, “sold out,” used to be a good thing for artists but now, it’s becoming more of a free-for-all for those who just want to bullshit and act reckless all night.

It used to be that we thought cell phones were ruining the concert experience but as time goes on, we’re learning that humans themselves are spoiling perfect music moments that should be remembered. It’s time to stop being selfish. It’s time to stop showing up to places because you think there’s a scene there that somehow might make you cool. There are real fans waiting outside of sold out shows in hopes that in some way, a ticket might become available. Think about them before you decide to show up to a place you don’t really want to be. But most of all, it’s time to stop disrespecting artists. Show up and pay attention or get out. It’s that simple. I’m sure there’s an Applebee’s up the block with free tables where you can bullshit all night.