As humans, we're all born with a few "not-so-adorable" traits that really get on other people’s nerves. It's ok though. Hopefully we've all learned to tolerate each other and to get along well for the most part. But despite our generally good, accepting and forgiving nature, there are certain things we can do that really try the patience of everybody around us, especially as we sit in theaters, bars, concerts and restaurants. These things are on full display to us musicians, who spend a good bit of time watching people interact as we scan the crowd during performances and set breaks.
So in the interest of human brotherhood and happy audiences, here are 10 commonly observed behaviors to avoid at venues of various kinds.
1. Cackle Screaming & Bro Yells: Cackle Screaming is the term I use to describe the half-laugh/half-scream that erupts out of some women after several glasses of whatever it is they're drinking. Usually reserved for bar and restaurant situations, the Cackle Scream often happens during periods of relatively low crowd noise, although it is certainly capable of cutting through the loudest of rooms. A startled silence usually follows the Cackle Scream while others in the room process the origin of such a disturbing sound. Men aren't off the hook though. Bro Yells are basically the male equivalent of the Cackle Scream except that men usually yell words like "bro" or "dude", or perhaps some other barely intelligible phrase. Bro Yells sometimes come with another irritating characteristic- arm swinging. Whether swung up, down, backward, forward, in or out, the arms usually ending up hitting innocent bystanders, adding to the irritation.
2. Your Baby Is My Baby: As any parent knows, eating out or attending concerts with very young children is a risky venture, as unpredictable as a game of craps. Your Baby Is My Baby occurs when Junior's behavior gets out of control and the parents do nothing about it, allowing everybody else to suffer as well. Junior should not be screaming, talking loudly, fidgeting excessively or running around the place. Junior's behavior should not distract others from listening to the music, watching the show, or carrying on with conversation or dinner. If any of these things occur, Junior needs to be taken out of the room by a parent. Yeah, that stinks for Mom & Dad, but that's parenting. Plus, it stinks worse for everybody else if Mom & Dad don't take care of business with Junior.
3. The 24/7 Comment Period: Attending concerts, theater shows and movies is not the same thing as watching YouTube videos at home with friends. At home, it's totally cool to talk before, during and after each video. It's ok to give all of your opinions anytime you wish. The 24/7 Comment Period occurs when concert goers don't know that YouTube rules do not apply to live concert performances. In live settings, it's only ok to share comments between pieces, during applause, at intermission, or after the show. And people who straight-up talk during the performance are the worst! I don't know why, but we seem to have forgotten how to whisper. Now many of us just talk full volume in all situations. As an experiment, the next time you feel the urge to say something during a performance, stop and imagine what would happen if everybody in the audience did it too.
4. Arrive Late But Don't Wait: This bad behavior is seen in more formal concert settings when latecomers allow their tardiness to effect those already in their seats. By itself, showing up late to an event is not a problem. Life gets messy and plans get derailed sometimes. The problem of Arrive Late But Don't Wait occurs when latecomers fumble around in the dark, looking for their seats, often shining cell phone lights, climb over others to get to their seats, and repeatedly apologize as they step on everybody else's toes. Instead of this scene, latecomers should just listen patiently from the back of the house and get an usher to assist them at the end of the song or piece.
5. Fist-fighting? Really?: Come on man. I don't even know what to say about this one.
6. Public Break-Ups: I'm probably the wrong guy to talk about this since I only ever had one serious girlfriend and I married her. I've never been through a break-up. Maybe some people think it's better to break-up with their partner in a public place, where the crowd can act to deter either party from causing a scene. I don't know if this method is effective, because it would go unnoticed if it worked. But I can say for sure that it sometimes does not work. Then, everybody in the room can't help but to become armchair, break-up analysts as they comment on the proceedings.
7. The Cell From Hell: This is a theater violation that occurs when somebody's cell phone lights up in a darkened room. That little light is super distracting to audience members and performers and goes a long way to ruining the concert or movie experience for both. Check that text? No. Respond to an email? No. Update Facebook? Nope. Answer a call? God help you if you do! Even better than silencing, just turn the stinking phone off and put it away until intermission. Remember how we used to live just fine before we had cell phones?
8. No Trespassing At The Bar: Getting a spot at the bar? Cool! Using your body to overprotect that spot, making it physically impossible for somebody to pop in for a second, get a drink, and return to their place elsewhere? Totally not cool. It's actually really juvenile.
9. The Royal Service Evaluator: This offense occurs in restaurants when patrons see themselves as deserving only of perfect service and the highest quality meal a human chef can muster. The "Royals" judge every little thing the wait staff does. They hyper-criticize the food. With every little imperfection, they make a face and lower the tip a bit. I wonder how they would like it if their boss treated them that way at work?
10. Obliterating The Band: This last behavior is another bar violation, usually occurring in places where the music is to be heard, but is not the central focus of the evening as it would be in a dance club or concert. Obliterating The Band is done by clueless, usually intoxicated individuals who stand right in front of the musicians while talking very loudly. The musicians get distracted, and the patrons who sat up front in order to hear the music get annoyed. Hey Obliterators, please back away from the band and go scream at each other in a different corner of the place!
Besides being irritating, all of the things on this list have something else in common. At their core is a lack of awareness and respect for others in the room. Too often, in our "Me"-based culture and self-absorption, we forget the value of community standards and the wishes of others. Nobody likes to be the one to say something to misbehaving adults in public, even when they deserve it. So let's all police ourselves as individuals and make spending time in public places something everyone can enjoy.