cf etiquette special: chatting during the opening act

if you go to see a band in a small space, and the opening act is boring, is it okay to chat?

jennifer o’connor: no.

don smith: I still remember a drunken kelly young from death worm radio yelling at the great plains when they played with beat happening at d.c. space to shut the hell up when the aging replacements-era indie rockers tried to make a go of it about 18 months after their last point of relevancy. the crowd was talking amongst themselves and the band clearly was making no impact on them, but at that heckling comment they seemed really hurt and confused, barely able to muster “what is this, new york?” they quickly played “why do punk rock guys go out with new wave girls” and left the stage. in the end I felt really sad for them, even if they had totally missed the boat musically and bored us to tears. up until that point I had never considered that the band wasn’t onstage in a cone of silence, unaffected by the audience’s reaction. but still, they were doing material appropriate for 1986 and here it was 1988. ron house redeemed himself for the four-eyed posse crowd with thomas jefferson slave apartments.

matt shinkansen: it’s fine to chat if you’re bored but, as a courtesy, you should include the band in the conversation. ask them what chord they’re playing and stuff like that. suggest more interesting open-string variations etc.

david huon/driving past: it’s ok to chat whether they’re boring or brilliant. chat is grouse!

lisa cf: not right in front, where people are trying to listen. this is why more clubs should have an in-and-out policy.

tracy dreamy: no, it’s about respect. go next door, or if you must say a few words, keep it brief and the volume down.

ld flare: only if you don’t know them. if you do know them, it’s absolutely unforgiveable.

mac of oxford: no, shut the fuck up, you may find them “boring” but elsewhere others may be straining to hear that boredom.

clarissa cf: if the policy of the space is that you can’t leave and come back in, be discreet (at the back of the room, very quietly). otherwise, leave and come back in. you’ve paid your money, which gives you some rights, but there is the matter of simple politeness to the people who do want to hear the band.

mike yesenosky: out of respect for the people in the opening act, who might be decent human beings even if they don’t make music you like, no. at least they are doing something productive with their time. keeping your mouth shut for 45 minutes shouldn’t be that big of an ordeal for an adult. plus there are probably people in the room who are enjoying them and didn’t pay to hear you chatting.

stuart moxham: yes, ’cause they’ll improve (or quit.)

robert tono-bungay: interesting. it might be a matter of degree: a word or two here or there, y’know, I don’t think you can help that. although I don’t think it’s ever “ok to chat”, to really go at it. I mean, you whip out a cell phone, everyone thinks you’re a creep; but you do the same thing with a live person standing next to you and that’s ok? on the other hand, a large background murmur DOES send a perhaps valuable message to those in the midst of performance that they might should, y’know, rethink things. and it doesn’t have to be a small place either — I saw portishead at the hammersmith and it was as if someone had drawn this “line of yak” right at the mixing console. everything from the board on up was rapt attention, and from the board on back the place sounded like a broadway theater lobby during intermission. tell you one thing — you sure could tell who paid to get in and who didn’t! CF

how many of the things you have to say cannot wait? do you usually stay toward the back or by the bar so as not to disturb people who came to hear the music?

lisa cf: catty comments about band cannot wait. spotting someone’s ex in a crowd cannot wait. if you are about to faint or vomit, that can’t wait. everything else can.

david huon/driving past: everything that comes into my head cannot wait, because I’ll lose it if I don’t say it straight away. if I don’t lose the truth of it, I’ll lose the appropriate, spontaneous form of it, it won’t be convincing anymore.

liz clayton: I was once at a show at a very small venue and it so happened that a friend of mine, who had just returned from an eventful trip with her husband, was there. while we shouldn’t have been talking, I didn’t shush her when she started to tell me how she was probably about to get divorced, because it seemed pretty important. in between songs, the performer, who was a friend of mine, said “have you ever been performing a song at a quiet club and you’re really getting pissed off because you can hear someone talking and you look over to find the person and it’s someone you’ve been friends with for years?” and gave me a look of death. ouch!

don smith: you are laying a lot of the blame for this talking at the feet of the audience. did you ever giggle, pass notes, or doodle during high school classes? why would you divert your attention from the teacher and perhaps inhibit the other children from learning? because ya get bored and you want to gossip. or were you the kid who tsk-tsked the talkers? and besides, who said that every band is good? the venue’s architecture allows this behavior. the new 9:30 club has a second level and easy-to-access spaces that would allow for conversations during lulls in band’s sets, both the old and new black cats have a wide area in the back for conversations. if I came to a show with friends or came to see bands that I don’t really like just to hang out with friends then the bands need to move me to keep my attention, but that’s what I paid them to do when I walked in the door. another problem which you address is the inappropriate booking of bands into certain spaces. on the east coast the major venues for bands, even indie pop or quiet acoustic bands where songwriting is key, are rock clubs and bars completely inappropriate for such quiet and introspective music. I have seen such mismatched shows before and the crowd can get annoyed that people are talking and drinking in the very bar they went to see quiet library music. the bar patrons probably share the ill feelings about the people who aren’t partying it up in the bar they went to. I would think that if a band is quiet or plays lyrical music where people want to hear the words, the last place that they should play is a bar. that’s why art gallery shows exist. in the end gail, I beseech you, don’t be a playa hata.

tracy dreamy: mostly my words can wait — unless there is a fire or other emergency that I must warn people of.

matt shinkansen: no, because it disturbs the people trying to order drinks. bands have to compete with the bar, and one of them’s bound to lose out — it’s basic darwinism.

robert tono-bungay: I kind of never converse during someone’s set, at least I try not to. I just feel like I want to concentrate on what these bands worked hard (presumably) on presenting. and anyway, I think more people can attribute whatever hearing loss they may have to getting their earholes screamed into at close range than getting a buttload of skronk from some PA.

ld flare: I use sign language or write notes in lipstick on cocktail napkins. CF

originally published in chickfactor 15’s special etiquette poll section.

cf etiquette poll: floor sitting


when, if ever, is floor sitting acceptable at shows?


liz clayton: floor-sitters: please, no lollipops.

dickon fosca: only if such people reserve the right not to mind when I trip over them.

daniel handler: floor sitting is only ok in some sort of hostage situation. I don’t care how mellow the band is—I’m not sitting on the floor. do the words “dry clean only” mean nothing to you people?

matt shinkansen: absolutely never ever. this is hippy talk, and I’m with cartman when it comes to hippies. I’m with cartman when it comes to most things, actually. I used to want to be lisa simpson, now I want to be eric cartman. what does that prove? what’s happening to me?  who are all you people? incidentally, out of curiosity, I just looked up “hippy” in the dictionary. one of the definitions is “having prominent hips.”

ld flare: I wouldn’t really, ever—but mostly because I value my trousers.

alex chicks on speed: when the music requires it! sometimes it’s cool to sit and listen and lie on the floor and sleep a bit, ambient music requires this.

lisa cf: never never never unless you are outside.

claudia the magnetic fields: we asked the entire audience of the great american music hall to sit on the floor during the first half of 69 love songs, and they did, all 500 of them, laughing. but then they got annoyed and rose for the second half. we thought we were doing them a favor but they weren’t comfortable.

david huon/driving past: it’s always acceptable, if it’s doable.

andrew eggs / talk it: imagine all the gross stuff on your average city street. dog urine, frozen spit, god-knows-what. we all walk on it, and then we go into clubs and track this mélange onto their floors, which then develop an overlay of beer and cigarette ash. if you plop your butt down on this surface, please don’t shake my hand.

mac of oxford: never, it’s a fire hazard.

don smith: floor sitting is only acceptable when miss julie asks you to sit in a semi-circle for storytime. or if you’re passed out

tracy dreamy: I think it’s okay.

clarissa cf: if it makes things easier to see and does not disturb the vibe of the show (e.g. if the artists are also sitting), I’m all for it.

john phosphene: nothing wrong with floor sitting. the pastels lead the way on that one, as far as my gig-going is concerned and it can bring a really nice atmosphere. I once saw someone crowd-surf at a pastels show: they landed right in front of aggi! somehow, it just didn’t fit!!

james +/- versus: it’s only acceptable if there are seats already and people want to scoot in front of the first row of seats, but don’t want to block the first row’s view…

mike yesenosky: you can sit at the band’s request. sitting between sets is also ok. you stand for someone you respect in all other situations, and if you just shelled out money to see an artist, you respect them. so stand up.

robert tono-bungay: the floor should be relatively free of sticky residues.

this poll originally appeared in chickfactor 15’s cf etiquette special section. photo of liz clayton by gail o’hara.