Crowds can be wonderful, scary, welcoming, intolerant, and so many other things all at once. I know I’ve made mistakes navigating them over the years, and perhaps you have too. So, here are my hot tips for supporting your scene, making friends, having a good ol’ time, and learning how to not be a jerk at gigs. Become a R-O-A-D-I-E today.
R: READ THE ROOM. Are other people moshing? No? Cool. Don’t mosh. Is the rest of the crowd listening in enraptured silence? Sweet. Don’t pick that time to talk loudly to your mates about how the band here last night were way better. Crowds are intangible, dynamic things. So, get a little bit spiritual; check the vibes of those around you and make sure you’re in-sync.
O: OWNERSHIP. Take ownership of your actions. Understand that your behaviour has expected and unexpected consequences. Losing control of your body when you’re intoxicated never excuses harmful behaviour. Being called out is an opportunity for you to grow. Be the change you want to see, but hey, don’t expect a medal for being a decent human being.
A: AWARENESS. We all take up space, and that’s something we need to remain aware of. Dudes, this one is of particular importance to you. Be aware that your physical and psychological presence in a crowd is felt. And remember, the onus isn’t on everyone else to let you know when they’re feeling uncomfortable. It’s on you to realise that your wild dance moves (whilst epic) might be imposing on the personal space of those around you. Or you might be, you know, literally casting a shadow over somebody else. It’s all good. Everybody is there to have a good time, yourself included. Just be aware.
D: DON’T TOUCH. Just don’t. If you’re interacting with somebody else, and you don’t have explicit knowledge of your boundaries and expectations with them, then keep your hands to yourself. And just avoiding violence, sexual or otherwise, isn’t enough. If you’re congratulating a performer on their set, or trying to get the attention of someone near you, understand that unwanted physical contact, whether it’s a pat on the back, or a touch on the arm, can be a huge black spot on their night. Respect that you don’t know enough about the person to be sure that physical contact isn’t going affect them in ways that you don’t understand.
I: INTERVENE. Don’t stay quiet. Avoid the bystander effect. Has someone in the crowd collapsed? Does the person leading that intoxicated gig-goer outside look different to the one they came in with? Is a small part of the crowd ruining the show for those around them? Do something. As someone with a body, you have the power to be a physical presence, a wall between people. As a human with a phone you have the power to call an ambulance (and if there is any question as to whether you should do so, make sure you do). Maybe, for whatever reason, you don’t have the capacity to intervene. In that case: talk. Communicate with those around you. Notify the staff. Notify the band on stage. Don’t be a bystander. Ask someone to intervene for you.
E: EXPERIENCE. Everyone has a unique human life. Everyone has lived experience, so personal to them that the rest of us will never have the opportunity to understand it. And that is a fact we have to respect. If your friend never seems to want to dance, perhaps there’s a reason. If the bar staff are kinda grumpy, perhaps there’s a reason. Respect that you don’t, won’t ever, and don’t need to know everything about the people around you, and understand that you are going to have to regulate your behaviour accordingly.
And remember that there are an enormous number of people working in the background to create the spaces for you to experience art and music. Do it for them, do it for your pals, do it for you. Be a R-O-A-D-I-E.
With thanks to Jayne Hoschke and Augustine Bamberry.