By: JoAnn Snavely
After the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the entire world and canceled a year-and-a-half-ish worth of concerts, the live music industry has seen changes. A new generation of teens are beginning to attend concerts full-time as music venues are hosting artists that haven’t been able to play in years. Huge musicians like Taylor Swift, The 1975, and Arctic Monkeys are going on tour for the first time in years. It seems as though the world is finally back to normal post-Covid, or is it? Camping, cutting, and being downright unhealthy are apparently en vogue now with concert etiquette almost non-apparent. Can we please run it back to when concertgoers were civil?
This conversation seems to be popping up all over social media. It began during Harry Styles’ Love On Tour, which he has been touring ever since 2021. There was a significant rise in people camping overnight, and even for multiple days just to get front row seats for shows they paid hundreds to thousands of dollars to attend. While it isn’t directly attributed to Harry Styles’ tour directly, many fans and people involved in the industry began to criticize fans camping out multiple days before his residency shows in NYC, TX, and LA. And this criticism comes rightfully so. It’s insane, unsafe, and is single-handedly destroying concert culture. When fans feel the pressure to wait more than 6 hours for a show, it becomes unfun. This is because often, by the time the show comes around, everyone is tired and cranky and no longer wanting to attend the show.
Camping culture is being taken to new heights with stadium tours. People are now camping to get merchandise for concerts. When did we start waiting 8 hours to get a t-shirt from a show? Why did I spend $300 to have to wait 8 hours for merchandise?
Most recently, this issue has been swirling around the internet with Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour. I am personally seeing her in May and have been keeping up with the things surrounding the tour, and as I’m seeing people line up at 3:00 am to get a coveted blue crewneck that’s reselling for an arm and a leg, I must comment on it– it’s outrageous. This is a show with assigned seats, it is overwhelmingly ignorant, and once again simply dangerous.
My first concert experience post-Covid was also consequently my first experience waiting more than an hour for a concert. I was seeing Wallows in Charlotte, and although it was a phenomenal show, the lead up to it was really discouraging. I arrived to the venue at 12:00 pm, which was more than 6 hours before the show would even begin. I ended up being the 30th or so person in the VIP line–there were countless more in the GA lines– which would eventually place me in the third row for the show. I had to make a 2-and-a-half hour ride to get there and was quickly stressed out when I discovered people had been waiting since 9:00 am. People had been waiting since 9:00 am for a VIP line that is limited to a select few purchasers. When it’s 80 degrees outside and you’re standing outside a venue with no seating options, it gets dangerous. I quickly learned that going to a show without food or any preparation would be a bad idea but that was due to my own unpreparedness.And while I was guilty of doing the very thing that draws my ire today, it was a first-hand experience of how dangerous and irresponsible camping can be on any scale.
The biggest issue I saw at the show was the severe lack of community for the show. It was a decently sized venue with a 2,000 person occupancy. Throughout the show, people were pushing and being rude- even I got pushed out of my spot from the second row when the show began. People were so crammed together that almost three people passed out throughout the show, leading it to have to stop multiple times. When people are fainting and beginning to get unwell, there is clearly an issue, and it that needs to be addressed.
I have had a couple more experiences similarly to that show that left a bad taste in my mouth. Whether it was waiting 6 hours in hurricane weather to get pushed away from my spot I spent an entire day waiting for, or people spending entire days worth of waiting outside a venue just to stand there lifelessly throughout the show, it all amounts to growing rage
The fun in concerts seems to be lost, and it’s a scary look into what the future of concerts may look like.
Another issue I have with concerts is the lack of respect for openers. Both on social media and in real life, I have seen a very large disregard to the openers of shows. I personally have discovered many of my favorite artists when they opened for a musician I love which makes me angry when I see this blatant disrespect. I get it, everyone is here to see the headlining act. However, the opener was curated by the headliner we know and love. They were chosen specifically to match the genre of the headliner. This not only is rude to us, but it is so disrespectful for the openers themselves. I think a good lyric that explains this would be in Field Medic’s song “used 2 be a romantic” where he says “I need a cigarette. Those f**kers talked over my whole set. But I don’t have any time to reflect. I gotta sell some shirts to try and make the rent.” At the end of the day, these musicians are practiced in their craft and aren’t just playing for fun- they have a talent and there needs to be a lot more appreciation for them.
I do think there are reasons for this; I think it’s usually the bigger venues with artists that have one or two hits that end up being poor experiences for me. I’ve been to plenty of concerts in >1,000 person capacities and they have been amazing shows- I think that the bigger shows are where the joy is and are the epitome of what concerts should be.
I do think these experiences can vary. I personally haven’t been to a stadium show or even a show with more than a 2,000 person audience, so I can’t really speak to those size shows. I also have had good experiences at bigger shows: my first concert pre-Covid was at a large venue and was one of the single-most core experiences in my life. And it’s also not to say I disliked the shows I mentioned above, I just noticed parts of the concert experience itself that aren’t necessarily my favorite.
Additionally, I think there are ways this can be addressed by the industry. Setting restrictions for camping (i.e. no overnight camping), assigning time-slots for merch, providing seating for those camping, and simply demanding a general sense of respect for concert-goers is essential. I do think venues are doing a good job at taking care of its customers, passing out free water to prevent fainting, the kindness and security many of these musicians provide are helping reshape concert culture, but in order to fix it, we must all work together and just stop being a**holes.
However, I am no monster. I am not simply going to complain about concert culture and give no tips and tricks on how we can make concerts safe and enjoyable experiences. Based on first-hand experiences and things I’ve heard over the past year, here are some tips:
- If you must camp, come prepared. Bring food, water, and be prepared for weather.
- Do not touch people in an unconsensual way without consent. Sexual harassment is a serious issue at concerts.
- Do not push– many people who are in front of you have waited a long time to be in the spot they have.
- Be kind. You’re all there for the same person, be kind to one another.
- If someone is faint, make room for them, there are medical professionals on site that can help.
- Try to not film the entire concert. It can be hard–my tip is to record 10-15 seconds per song, if that. Enjoy the experience you paid for.
- Enjoy the opener. Who knows, they may be your new favorite musician.
- HAVE FUN. DANCE. ENJOY THE MUSIC
Concerts are all about fun. Be safe and enjoy concerts; they’re the little moments that always count.
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