Local Current Blog

How much will we put up with to see a show?

Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR

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.


  • Sarah

    This is why I love seeing Jeremy Messersmith in concert, Andrea. His shows tend to attract fans in the 30-50 age range, and his music lends itself to just standing and grooving…respectfully. I have noticed a trend among my friends now that we’re all in our 30s: a 9 PM show on a Tuesday night just isn’t our thing anymore. Not when we have to be up at 6:30 the next morning for work, or have young children, or even just as we feel our physical selves age and find it more difficult to stand for 4 hours at a show. I’m okay with leaving that to the “kids”.

    • Wendy Smith

      I just saw Jeremy do an acoustic set at The Whole in Coffman Union. His young fans were polite, well behaved, knew his music, and even helped Jeremy out with the lyrics he forgot.

  • Matthew Becker

    Sometimes it isn’t the concert goer that is the problem, but the venue itself. I am thinking primarily of First Avenue who will hold thump-thump-thump DJ nights in the adjacent Record Room while an acoustic act tries to play in the Main Room.

  • Wendy Smith

    I choose to live my life and forget my age. People around me do stupid things I choose to ignore it. Live music is too important to me to let a few drunk idiots ruin it for me. One thing that has improved my experience is that I am direct with people. I don’t “subconsciously send out subtle signals”. If someone is loudly yacking about what they did last weekend as they stand three feet from the stage and even the performers can hear them, I will turn to them and politely as them to stop talking or go to the back of the room. (Usually met by guilty glares from the talkers and many nods of thanks from people around us). That tall drunk idiot digging his elbows into my short sister’s back as we stood at the barrier? A few words to security and he was gone.

    • I try to forget my age, but I have to admit, I went to see the Arctic Monkeys at First Ave and Queens of the Stone Age at Roy Wilkins and after hours of standing, my back was killing me! Yikes! :) I also had funny age-related encounters. My friend and I at the AM show walked by some young men and they said–wow, I didn’t know so many old people like the Arctic Monkeys. At QOTSA, some young guys behind us said they were glad to see so many older people–that meant the music was good. :)

  • Deb

    As a person who hates crowds, going to live shows has always been a challenge. If I can have my little bubble, then I’m fine. Unfortunately, that usually means not being front and center.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention not being able to see the show in front of you because everyone has their phones and tablets up the whole time. That’s so irritating.

  • Nick Rocks

    I don’t understand why people need to take photo’s, film, and then post at a show. A few quick photo’s are fine, maybe film your favorite song, but then just enjoy the show. Post after the show. Just try to lose yourself in the moment, good or bad at the next show you go to. We did it all the time in the 80’s and 90’s, and the memories are better than the posts. Best example I can think of this was Jimmy Cliff last year at First Ave. I didn’t see maybe one phone all night, and the crowd seemed lost in the moment together, there just to enjoy the show. That’s what concerts are suppose to be about, enjoying yourself, the music, and your fellow concert goers.

    • I hear you Nick. I was just thinking the same thing. I have friends that are so worried about taping everything, they miss the show. What a waste of money–if you want to watch it on your computer/pad/phone, just forget the ticket and watch the concert online.

  • Nicole

    I am actually a very much older person, and if I want to be on the barrier for a show (always for Muse) I will put up with a lot. I expect a certain amount of moshing and shoving if the crowd is getting into some kickass rock & roll. Luckily I am a fit and sturdy person and can simply hold my ground; I even make some attempt to keep the worst of the crushing off my more fragile companions. I don’t mind people getting excited, but if you try to peel me off the barrier, or stick gum in my hair because you couldn’t , yes, I will think you are a jerk. Good security people can help a lot with these kinds of problems.

  • Different shows have different vibes, I was at the Replacements show and enjoyed the respect and lack of pushiness in the crowd. This may because I chose to stand out near the sound board and VIP coral with the intent of NOT getting bounced around but as I get older I want to push and shove with 20 somethings far less mostly because they can be volitle. A good show cannot be missed because of rocknroll fatigue but I agree sometimes your physical placement should be planned to enjoy it more.

  • Sarah

    I saw Neutral Milk Hotel last winter and a lot of people there were not courteous to other concert-goers or even the band. NMH specifically requested that no one take pictures and people had their phones out the whole time trying to capture anything and everything. Drunken kids shouted lyrics and danced into people. A tweaked out kid was walking around loudly annoying people with nonsensical questions as his slightly more sober friends giggled. I love NMH and I love live shows (I even put up with the fact that at 5 feet tall I see very little of the live shows I attend), but that experience almost turned me off of live shows completely.

    With that said, I could also try being less passive-aggressive when I am unhappy with the oblivious people around me…

  • I don’t understand how you can watch Lizzo without moving. I saw her a few months ago at the Current birthday show and was shocked to see all the fuddy duds just standing around like they had to turn up their hearing aids. I’m pushing 40 but I’m not dead.

    • Minneapolisa

      Not everyone expresses joy the same way.