I’m a singer/songwriter. And a music lover. I’ve played shows in venues from living rooms to arenas. I play with a band sometimes, but mostly I play intimate shows, by myself, in seated venues and theaters. These are some things that irk me and my fellow songwriting gang of acoustic troubadours when we play acoustic shows intended for a listening audience. So, please, for our sake (and the audiences’), refrain from the following when you find yourself at a singer/songwriter’s concert.
1) Be On Your Phone
There is nothing more annoying than looking out and seeing your face illuminated by your phone. Am I boring you? Please leave. There are other people who paid good money to be here who would like not to be distracted by your texting, tweeting or whatever the hell is obviously more important than this song I am currently pouring my heart into. When you go to an intimate concert, put your phone on vibrate or turn it off completely (gasp!) and keep it in your pocket. If you want to take it out for a few seconds to snap a couple Instagram photos or take a video of a song, fine. Post that to social media and help spread the word. But let that be a very isolated, quick moment. And for god’s sake turn the flash (and sound) off. Every time you take your phone out you leave the moment that I’ve worked so hard to create – and you bring others with you.
I can hear you. Even if you’re in the back by the bar. Notice that no one else in the place is talking. Most of the time everyone is respectful, listening and silent. But occasionally, you get that oblivious group of d-bags who stumble in, say “what the hell” to the $12 cover, order a round of shots and disrupt the show for the entire room. Whispering a few statements to your friends at your table about the song or story I just told is totally fine. Starting a therapy session with your BFF about how you, like, just don’t understand what your boyfriend is thinking, is not.
We tell jokes. We talk quite a bit in between songs. We ‘work the crowd’ if you will. But, like a comedian, it’s a one way show. Discussing things happening in the room is not an invitation for you to begin a public conversation with the guy on stage. If you must get your thoughts out publicly, use Twitter (quickly). I don’t want to have to make my show about you. But I will if you make me. And you won’t like it.
4) Requesting A Cover
We’re singer/songwriters. Please note the second word in our title. Don’t come to our shows and expect cover songs. I usually fit in a cover song or two per show for fun. But by requesting cover songs says to me “I don’t like your originals, I’d much rather hear my favorite songs.” If you don’t like my originals, why are you here? The only exception, is if I’ve made a cover song my own and perform it regularly, then, maybe, if you’re a die hard, requesting this song is ok. But even then, it’s safer to just pick your favorite original. If I play that cover, well, then, it’s a happy surprise.
5) Leaving In The Middle Of The Show
If you’re in the back of a dark theater, don’t worry about it. I can’t see you. But most venues I can see most of the audience. If you get up and leave, even for a piss break, I’m going to see and most likely (jokingly of course) call you out on it. You’re now a part of the show! So be prepared. I don’t play for a very long time. There’s plenty of time before my set to pee. I get it, sometimes you have to wake up early, but come on, most singer/songwriter shows don’t go that late. You can suck it up this one time, on this one night. If you leave, I’ll think you hate the show. It will rattle me. And once you leave, I’ll most likely make the rest of the set about you and your weird button up.
6) Getting Drunk
Sure have some drinks. That’s wonderful. Support the venue. I’ll have some with you after my set. But know your limit. A singer/songwriter show is not a rock concert. There’s no mosh pit. For some reason, the ones who tend to get drunk at concerts are the obnoxious drunks. They get loud. They start to heckle. They yell to their friends right next to them. And they get a little too close to the stage. Dude, it’s a seated show. But props on making it all the way down here. That took quite a few steps in one direction!
Photo is by Gadi Rouache and used with permission.
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake