Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Beth’s Music Moment: Should I Stand or Should I Sit?

Beth's music moment6[4]When I was waiting for Ken to get home last Friday so we could head out to the Smash Mouth show, I was getting psyched for the show and started to post a few Concert Rules. I don’t know what made me think of that, but I had fun with it. Hell, I’ve been to enough of ‘em over the years...I think it’s fair to say that I’m a seasoned concert-goer!

Some were just for fun, like “It’s not cool to puke anywhere other than the bathroom,” “It’s not cool to yell political rhetoric at the band” (Shane and our friend Steve and I still laugh about seeing REM at Notre Dame, and some guy by us yelling, “Michael, what about the Contras?!”), and “Guys, don’t push up against a girl...boners in the back are SERIOUSLY uncool.” Others were more serious, like “If someone is in distress, like if they get pushed down or hurt, HELP THEM.”

A couple were related, and are the subject of this entry. “Show the band some love. They’re working hard up there, and want to hear you’re enjoying the show” and “Don’t be a dick and tell the person dancing in front of you to sit down. It’s a concert, not high mass.” The latter generated a lively discussion. Some of my friends who are very much into music knew exactly what I was talking about, but a couple of others disagreed. (I would like to point out NOW that this entry is in no way a slam against was an interesting discussion, and they had some valid points.) One said that no, they don’t pay a ton of money for tickets to have their view blocked by someone don’t be a dick and block others’ views. One said “Dance on a dance floor. Sit in a seat.”

I just couldn’t disagree with this more. Certainly, there are some shows where you sit. I didn’t stand up and dance at Harry Connick, Jr., for example, except for the few times when everyone did; plus, we were in the balcony. But this was Smash Mouth, a band that I would put right up there at party level with the World’s Greatest Party Band, the B-52s, and we were in the third row. I feel that it goes back to the “show the band some appreciation” rule. I said that I doubt that any rock musician wants to see the crowd sitting politely. They want the crowd up and on their feet, having a great time. They’re rockin’ out up there, and they want us to rock out with them! So I decided to ask some musician friends their feelings on it.

Jim (My good pal from the lab days, and the guitarist for the local Cornerstone Blues Band...they’re great!) gave a thoughtful answer, saying that if you get seats on the floor for a rock show, you should expect that people are going to be dancing; but the only guy in the mezzanine standing usually is right in front of Jim. Haha! He also said that when he’s onstage, he wants to see the dance floor packed and people having a good time. My friend Cindy, who sings as Alice in an Alice Cooper tribute band (Malice Cooper in Winnipeg...judging from their videos, they’re great, too!) was also thoughtful, but more succinct, saying that it’s supposed to be a party, and that if the band is sitting, you’re allowed to sit...otherwise, get up off your ass!

I mentioned here that the guitarist for Smash Mouth, Sean Hurwitz, was a super nice guy, and we had exchanged a few messages. Since he is my new “pal” (Okay, I just follow him on Twitter and his artist page on Facebook...but he’s very willing to answer questions and interact with fans.), I thought, “Hey, maybe I can get his take on this!” The guy has had some real national exposure with several artists, and is doing an extensive national tour this summer with Smash Mouth, so I’d say that’s some serious cred. I sent him an admittedly rambling message explaining all this, and he messaged back something like “Beth...I’m not sure I understand what your question is. Did I miss something?” LOL I realized that I never really had asked a question. I had to laugh at myself, and responded:
As a performer, would you rather see people in the audience getting up and dancing, or do you think it's more important that people in the audience who DON'T want to stand up and dance have an unobstructed view? Like, is it cool for people to tell those in front of them to sit down at a rock show?
He very kindly sent me back this answer:
Look, my perspective is that it's all about what kind of show you're at. Gotta match that energy.
If I'm going to a Foo Fighters show, I BETTER not be sitting down, and if someone got up and started dancing in front of me, well then, that kind of comes with the territory. 
Now if I'm at a Jazz show where all the musicians are sitting down and the vibe is SUPER chill...well then that's a sitting down vibe (except for the couple dancing on the side). 
As a performer, I like to see MY energy, OUR energy, take over the crowd. 
If I'm jumping around all over stage during a rock performance and the crowd is just sitting there...that doesn't really work for me. It's a back and forth energy.
Ya feel me?
OnstageYES! I DO feel ya, Sean, and that’s exactly what I was getting at about showing the band some love. They’re up there working hard to entertain us (My friend Rick, Cindy’s husband and the drummer for Malice Cooper and a few other bands, says that it’s not unusual that he drops eight pounds during a show...holy shit!), and I feel it is my sacred duty (now for the future) as a fangirl to let them know that I appreciate it and I’m lovin’ what they’re doing. Part of that is getting up, getting crazy, and shaking my booty. Interesting that he mentioned a super chill jazz vibe...I responded that yes, I’ve been to Preservation Hall, and that’s an atmosphere where you sit and enjoy the musicians and no one gets up and dances. I also loved that “couple dancing on the side” remark. Very evocative and kind of dreamy. That’s a short story waiting to happen. [writing it down in my idea book]

So there you have it. I truly do get where my “don’t dance” friends were coming from, and I agree with it for certain shows—it can even depend on where you’re sitting. But for rock shows, especially a party band like Smash Mouth, the band feeds off of our energy. The crazier the audience gets, the better their show is going to be. It’s synergy, man, and who doesn’t love some good synergy? It’s a positive thing. Show the band some love. Get up, get crazy, come on, get happy! It will make the show even better, and we’re all there together to rock the joint, right?

For me, concerts can be a communal experience. I never felt that more than at the Springsteen show at Wrigley Field last September, where I really felt like I was part of a group of thousands of people experiencing over three hours of sheer bliss and everyone just grooving on the band and connecting in a very profound way. I try to approach every concert like that, and I get off on the crowd getting into it! I don’t doubt that I’ll feel that way this Friday night when we see the Stones in Chicago. So I totally get my musician friends’ remarks on this, and how they love to feel our energy as much as we love to feel theirs.

I got permission from Sean to share his response here. A major “thank you” to him for the nice response. You’re a peach, Sean! *mwah*


  1. with the exception of the huge stadium shows i've seen, most shows i go to are general admission. you stand. you move with the crowd or you risk the chance of becoming a show casualty. stage diving happens (and it can kill you and the dude from lamb of god got tried for murder because of it but that's a different story for a different day). the stadium shows were rock and no one sat down either. when i saw u2 i was standing on the top of my folding chair on the main floor and it was awesome. when i saw rage against the machine people rushed the main floor from the seating area and it was anarchy (i was upper bowl, no shimmying down for me). your dude is correct- it goes with the energy of the crowd!

    i hope to hear all about you standing at the stones!


  2. someone who has had to do his thing in front of arena-sized crowds, if you are sitting at one of my fights, then for sure something is NOT going well for yours truly..!

    Every now and then, someone who 'appreciates' the artistry of say, the Deftones, will make the show and be upset at the anarchy there... and with apologies to your friends, I am like 'f*ck those people'..! Especially at a rock show, because rock n' roll has always been an emotionally charged brand of music... hey, it ain't table tennis..!

  3. Smashmouth rocked it, it was fun to get on stage with them!


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?