The other night, while listening to Caroline Smith belt out a ballad at her very sold-out concert with Lizzo at First Avenue, a young woman booty-shook her way into the very small space where my friends and I had gathered and started flailing her arms and thrashing around like the beat had just dropped at a Skrillex show. All of a sudden, a forcefield of space started to form around her as her neighbors tried to escape her flying limbs and avoid any kind of confrontation. But try as they might to subconsciously send out subtle “please don’t touch me” signals, the woman threw her entire body into a group of innocent bystanders and sent a whole row of people tumbling down a small flight of stairs.
Before that, I went to the same venue to see the War on Drugs and got such an intense and sudden migraine from the heat, body odors, and pot smoke in the air that I had to leave the show. And at the concert I attempted to attend before that, I was treated to not one, but two bare-ass moonings while trying to make my way out of the Midway Stadium parking lot after the Replacements show, followed by the mooner attempting to climb into the backseat of my car.
For a frequent concertgoer these are all fairly common occurrences, and ones that are easy to laugh off. But lately all of these things that are happening outside of the music at a concert—the pushy crowds, the questionable bathrooms, the bad sightlines, the achy feet, the drunk people holding their iPhones directly in front of your face so they can film the entire show, etcetera—have started creeping toward the front of my consciousness and making me feel like a big ol’ fuddy-duddy.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m no longer in my twenties, or whether I’ve simply hit my quota for how many events I can attend carefree. But as we head into Rocktober, historically the busiest month of the concert calendar, I’m curious: Just how much will we put up with to see a show?
About a month ago I stood for seven solid hours in a sea of people watching some of Minnesota’s most beloved bands fill the State Fair Grandstand for the annual Minnesota-Music-on-a-Stick show, then made my way to the Entry the next night to catch a special concert Bob Mould was playing in the teeny-tiny room of the 7th St. Entry. While I was waiting for Bob to take the stage, I pulled out my phone and started composing a tweet: “Not to generalize, but I love going to rock shows filled with older people because they’re afraid of touching.” Before I could hit send, I heard a woman laughing behind me, then turned around and noticed that she was reading my tweet over my shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” I said, hoping she didn’t take offense to my pithy remark.
“Don’t apologize,” she said, giggling. “It’s true!”
I honestly don’t even think our tolerance for all the extraneous elements of showgoing has to do as much with our age is it does with how often we’re out and about. For people who attend a lot of shows, the odds of having an incident-free experience are definitely in our favor, and we’re more likely to shrug off the occasional raucous encounter (or, in my case, bare butt cheek). But for those who aren’t getting out as much, one ugly turn of events can ruin the whole shebang. Of course there are common courtesies we can all offer each other to help avoid bad trips—namely, staying sober enough to maintain control of our bodies and being mindful of our surroundings—but I have to admit that there is something kind of nice about going to a gig every now and again that isn’t packed to the gills or that, praise the rock gods, ends before bar close.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find someplace to sit down.