Image of rock concert at Great American in SF in 2008

What is it about concerts? (part I)

I’ve been meaning to write about rock shows for a while now.

I love going to concerts. If you know me, this is not a big surprise. I’ve been to dozens in the past year. Numerous times in the last few years, I’ve gone to two or three in the span of a week, when it’s a band I love like Sloan or Of Montreal. I love being there when people create music at room-filling magnitude. Music transcends everyday life for me in a way few things do.

There are some things I don’t like about rock concerts, though.

Some of those things are some of the people.

Most of the time when I go to one of my little (or big) indie rock shows, I get a sense of camaraderie with the people around me. I have been known to chat pleasantly with my fellow concertgoers, especially when I go to shows by myself; I tend to assume it likely that their reasons for being there overlap mine to some degree, maybe even including liking the band.

And there’s a kind of unspoken code between me and my concertmates. Usually, when you stake out an area of the floor during an opening band’s set, you do it with the intention of controlling that roughly two- or three-square-foot area for the rest of the show. You move up to the front early on (usually after one of the openers) if you want close proximity to the band or want to dance enthusiastically (depending on what kind of show it is). You stand somewhere in the middle if you want decent sound. You stand in the back if you don’t care.

This is the code. No one really talks about it. But it seems obvious, at least to me, and to the vast majority of people I’ve ever encountered at concerts. They like music. They like being there when people perform it. And they like watching it without being distracted by other people as much as is humanly possible. They forgive you for going to the bar or the bathroom and coming back, if you take a reasonable path through the crowd. They like drinking and smoking pot (at the show, if you’re seeing it in San Francisco). They are a pretty chill lot of folks.

Then there are the assholes who completely flout that code. You’ve seen them. You’ve been there. Maybe you’ve even been them.

I’ve recently come up with an idea about what people might be thinking when they push through row after row of previously contented people who are enjoying the show, invariably two to four songs into the headliner’s set. Maybe they think, “This is ROCK AND ROLL. Fuck everybody else but me! I want it, so I’m taking it. I’m moving up to the front.” Maybe they’re already seriously drunk. Maybe they’re just sociopaths (I guess every crowd has ’em).

But the fact is, they suck. And they kinda ruin it for a lot of people.

I’ve been meaning to write an article for a while now about the different kinds of concertgoers. But these guys (and gals), the “mid-set crowd crashers” or something, really generate a kind of populist, righteous anger in me that I should be famous for.

Especially when those interlopers, those groove-ruiners, those space usurpers stand about 6’4″ and are standing right in front of me.

Hmm, perhaps there’s a story here that made me finally post this. Perhaps there’s a reason to come back to this blog after all.




Learning To Love You More


  1. JonAkerman

    A cliffhanger as much as CBS’s Shark’s cliffhangers! Bah!

    • Jason L. Gohlke

      Hey Jon – I finally wrote Part II, seven years after the original entry, and am remembering to mention it here five years after I wrote it.

      Time is a funny thing.

  2. Hey, I finally de-spammed your comment, new user… 🙂 Now you may feel free to post at any time (though I myself hardly take that opportunity).

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