Sunday, September 23, 2012

Standing In the Crowd


There are a few things I’ve never understood about people’s behavior at concerts, such as how do you expect to carry three cups of beer through a tight crowd and still expect them to be full when you finally find your friends?  But aside from the casual stupidity of our species, there seems to be a larger set of problems that basically boils down to one thing:  People at concerts are selfish.

It’s generally accepted that once you’re at a concert, there are certain things that happen and you just kind of have to deal with it.  When standing in a crowd at a general seating event, you are bound to be bumped into as somebody passes you by on their way towards the stage, no matter how little room there is for them.  This is a constant, an ever-present occurrence that has been happening, I assume, for a long time.  I can only speak from personal experience back to somewhere around 1990 when I went I saw the Beach Boys at my first concert.  But I was four or five and asleep most of the time so maybe my authority on the situation is even less than that.

It only takes a short drive down the road to see that most people lack a sense of common decency and respect to a certain extent, but if you’re in the aisle at the grocery store, people will still generally say, “Excuse me,” or at least avoid shoulder-checking you as they make their way towards the string cheese.  However, once those same people get into a show, they seem to flip a switch and say to themselves, “Screw everybody because I want to get close enough that the band can distinguish my Woo! from everybody else.”

I have a theory as to why people do this.  When you are at a concert, the crowd is a part of the atmosphere, just like the lighting and stage decorations.  It’s simply something that adds to the “experience” of seeing music live as opposed to listening to the record through your stereo at home.  And since the crowd is a part of the atmosphere, it is taken as a whole and not as a collection of singular people.  With this mindset, you are pushing to the front through The Crowd and not past Jim and Ellen and Billy and Sam and Ian and Margot and Jamie and Todd.  You’re not offending a person as you push through; you are simply a wave in the crowd.

I think this is also the reason people smoke like assholes at shows.  If someone lights up in the middle of the crowd, they will most likely smoke like they are alone in the woods.  Just bring the cig to your lips and blow forward because it’s not like it’s hitting someone directly in the face.  Except it is.  And even if you smoke, it’s still annoying.  But this is because The Crowd is not a collection of people, but a singular entity.  You see the ocean, not the individual drops of water.

In my younger days, I was always towards the front of the crowd, occasionally on top of them, and I don’t know why.  All that happens at the front is that people squish together and you spend the whole show simply trying to avoid falling over while feeling the sweat from the shirts of strangers soak into your own.  These days, I generally stand towards the back and watch the show.  This can, at times, suck because you feel like you are witnessing a concert instead of participating in it, but that’s okay with me.  I don’t need to have some guy wearing the shirt of the band onstage spitting in my face as he sings the lyrics to the song.  Last year I got curious and walked to the front of a Glassjaw set (for old time’s sake) and was punched in the nose before I even reached “the pit.”  There’s a lot to be said for standing towards the back where you can drink your beer and crack jokes at other people’s expense to your friends.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I have a question that I would honestly like answered:  What’s the deal with people holding up their hand at a show and sticking out their pinkie?  Imagine the “hang loose” hand thing with the thumb and the pinkie out, but it’s just the pinkie.  I saw people doing this at FYF Fest at a wide array of acts that seemed completely unrelated to each other.  There would be trains of people walking through the crowd, all of them with a fist in the air with their pinkies sticking out.  I wanted to ask somebody what the hell was going on but I didn’t get the chance to chase one of them down.  Could someone please explain this to me?

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