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Gig etiquette: or how to behave at a gig

Recently, a friend went to one of Newcastle’s most beautiful live music venues to watch a well-known soloist play an intimate gig. The lighting in the venue was spectacular, creating a beautiful setting for a show my friend had been eagerly waiting months to see.

Afterwards I asked her how the show went. She said the artist was incredible but both the artist and the crowd became frustrated by a group of people who would just not shut up.

The artist was frustrated, the audience (other than this group) were embarrassed that Newcastle people were displaying such disrespect and, sadly, the whole experience was tainted by a few ignorant people.

We all want to get the most out a gig, and make sure that the performer keeps coming back to Newcastle, so, here’s a guide to help.

Okay, so we’re going to divide live music into four common yet different experiences:

  1. The Intimate Gig
  2. The Pub/Club Gig
  3. The Concert
  4. The Outdoor Concert or Festival

The Intimate Gig

This is where you’re going to see an artist or small combo perform in a small venue. The artist will usually, but not always, be performing their own songs. The atmosphere is electric because you are up close to the artist – it is a small audience and often a special, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

At these gigs, you (as a member of the small audience) either don’t speak and instead concentrate on listening to the artistry in front of you or, if it is absolutely necessary that you must speak, whisper so you don’t affect the atmosphere.

You’ll be surprised at how even a low voice can carry onto the stage and put the performer off, let alone the impact it has on those around you who want to hear the singer – not what you got up to on the weekend.

Simple – be quiet and respectful at all times during the performance.

The Pub/Club Gig

Okay, this is where you can let your hair down. These gigs are usually either a cover act performing multiple sets or an original act doing a set on stage. As these gigs are held in places where there are extraneous noises anyway (bar, pokies, people talking), there is less of a need to keep your voice down. The idea is to enjoy the music and dance if you want to.

There are, however, a few don’ts.

  • Don’t ever walk onto the stage/performance area – there are electric currents and leads everywhere connected to expensive equipment. Your place is in the audience so, for reasons of both respect and safety, stay off the stage or performance space – even if it’s a duo performing on the floor.
  • While you might sound great in the shower and your mate used to sing in the school band, this is not the place to see if you or your mate can take over the microphone and do a song or two. Singing around the house and singing professionally through a PA system are two different things. Leave it to the professionals.
  • While it’s okay to request songs, don’t try to do it while the singer/act is mid-song. Wait until a break and respectfully ask if they can/will perform your request. And if the act can’t or won’t do the request, accept it with grace. Don’t scream it out at every opportunity throughout the night.
  • Finally, a lot of venues don’t have a stage and the act is required to perform on the floor. If you’re dancing near the front of the stage/performance space, don’t touch anything. I’ve seen people grab microphones or stands and chip performers teeth – just enjoy yourself but be careful not to bump into or touch any of the sound equipment or, worse, fall drunkenly on the stage/performance space.

The Concert

Okay, so we mean a concert that is indoors and people pay for seats – for example, at the Civic Theatre, at NEX or at Wests, New Lambton for example.

  • Firstly, as recently seen for the Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) performance at the Civic Theatre, don’t throw stuff. Even if the performance doesn’t live up to expectations, it’s not the Civic Theatre’s fault and it their staff who are going to have to clean up the mess. Don’t throw stuff!
  • Don’t speak loudly in the quiet moments. If you’re watching an act that performs at a fairly significant volume, you obviously have more scope to speak a little more loudly to who is next to you. Between songs or when the artist is telling a story or sharing an anecdote, it is respectful to both the artist and those around you to keep quiet and listen. After all, people will have paid a considerable amount to do just that.
  • In a setting such as this, it’s important to consider your fellow audience members as much as the artist. Apart from being considerate in how loudly and when you might speak, think also about not standing up in your seat. If you want to dance, do it somewhere that isn’t blocking someone else’s view – the aisle, down the front, up the back – anywhere but in your seat blocking those behind you.

The Outdoor Concert or Festival

The boundaries in these environments are far more flexible than others but it depends on the type of concert and the type of audience. If you’re watching a hard rock band, it’s probably okay to jump around and scream and shout. If you are watching an outdoor opera or a classical music concert then not so much.

In the general admission session people may have picnic blankets spread out, so respect their boundaries and keep your feet out of their french onion dip.

The key to all of this is be respectful to the artists, whoever they may be, and considerate of the audience around you.

If you think your individual rights to climb on the chair and dance at a seated concert are greater than the rights of every other person there, you need to have a good look at yourself. If you think it’s okay to talk loudly while a solo performer in doing a beautiful ballad in an intimate venue, then you need to review your thinking. You become a problem for everyone there.

Finally, in any and ALL of these performance types, violence is not okay. Any behaviour that impacts on the ability of others to enjoy the show is not acceptable. That includes any form of sexual or racial harassment. Stay classy.

Oh, and mobile phone use at gigs? That’s a whole other story (and here’s one that we prepared earlier…)

Written by Newcastle Live

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