How Not to be a ‘Complete’ Douche at a Punk Rock show – aka, Bad Religion and Against Me! at the Starland Ballroom.

I’m going to say some things in this post that some people aren’t going to like. Suck it up. I’ve just been kicked in the head well over a dozen times and might wake up with a fat lip; I’m understandably a bit cranky.

So, allow me to cut through all the fluff and get the complaints out of the way first. Let’s face it, at a concert, modes of socially acceptable behavior are altered from what they are in our day to day lives. People get riled up and stop thinking straight. Then, you add booze and it gets worse. I’m going into this through that lens, of ‘okay, people are going to be dicks. They’re going to elbow me in the spine a few times. There’s going to be shoving. At a punk show, multiply that by a factor of 50, at least. You’re going to be standing front and center in the pit? Yeah, things could get a bit rough.’ That’s normal and expected. But, there are a few behaviors that tip the scales and say ‘it’s not the show/energy; it’s you, douchebag.’

Ready for some pro-tips for not pissing off your fellow audience members too much? Here are a few pointers from that short chick who only chooses to be close to the stage because it’s either that or not be able to see anything at all(seriously, I’d rather not be in the pit, honestly. But if I can’t see the band at all, I might as well stay home and listen to the album):

  1. If you think you might crowd-surf at the concert you’re going to, if there’s even a 1% chance, please don’t wear the clunkiest shoes you own. I know, they look cool. But you know what? They fricking hurt when you’re getting kicked in the head by them. I know, I know, you weren’t planning to kick anyone in the head, but if you crowd surf, you’re going to. Shit happens. And if you happen to clip me with your chucks, or generic athletic footwear when I’m too sandwiched in to move my arms or duck to avoid your gargantuan beast of a foot, I can shake it off. Whatever. I’m at a punk rock show and this is the sort of thing that happens. But, when you’re wearing some heavy duty, military grade, ten pound boots, I’m going to be seeing stars for at least the rest of the song and have multiple security guards ask if I’m okay, which – fun as it is – gets old fast.
  2. More on crowd-surfing: if you, as a single person, account for 50% of all crowd-surfers that surf the audience during a show, people are going to notice and hate you for it. I’m not that annoyed when someone clips me once, but if you’re the guy who sails over my head 6 or 8 times in less than an hour, and when you land in front of me and I see it’s THE SAME GUY every time, I fucking hate you, dude. Seriously. Go drink yourself into a stupor and fall asleep in a pool of your own vomit – it’s that kind of hate. The feeling is especially strong after I’ve been kneed in the cheek and had my nose make a close, personal relationship with an iron bar. The more times I see you, the more likely I am to deign you my arch nemesis for the evening. I would thwart you, if I had enough personal space to move my arms.
  3. It is never acceptable to use the person in front of you’s back as an impromptu drum set if you did not come to the concert with them and/or do not know them at all. There is literally no benefit to beating on a stranger’s back like it’s a drum unless this is some new bizarre form of massage you’re practicing – in which case I think it’s still good manners to ask first. (Then again, what do I know. It would hardly be the first time I’ve been dragged into a situation where I get repeatedly hit in the back in a semi-rhythmic fashion for no reason. …that’s a weird story. I’ll leave it to your imagination.)

With these three tips, you should be well-armed to not be a complete concert douche. That said guys, it was a good show. Really. I’ve just got this concert problem where I think I’m getting too old for the right up against the stage seating due to the extreme levels of jostling about, but I’m also kind of too short to see pretty much anywhere else.  I haven’t figured out the right balance for that, but I have figured out that if I go to another Bad Religion show in the future, I’ll hang toward the back where I’m less likely to get kicked in the head.

I thought I had a great spot when I got there. I was excited because I thought it meant I would get a few really good photos. I don’t take many, and I’ve learned it’s best to get them out of the way in the beginning of the set, before the energy level really kicks up, but I like taking a few snaps of the band. It’s the main appeal of being right up against the rail. I mean, acoustics tend to be clearer further back, so if you don’t care if you can see, it’s not really worth it to be smashed up that close, in the thick of it.  I was really happy to have a leaning post that could help me keep my balance when things got rough later in the night, and to not be behind that 6+ ft tall guy who somehow always ends up directly in front of me at concerts. But, man, I took a beating for it at this show.  I was under at least a dozen crowd-surfers. I got kicked in the head by a shoe at least 4 times(I lost count. I remember two that hurt rather a lot. The others didn’t leave a lasting impression, so to speak.), I got kneed in the face once, and then an utter failure of a crowd-surf had my face pressed into the barrier so hard that for a few moments I wasn’t sure if my nose was bleeding or not. I had several different security guards ask if I was okay, on several different occasions. I must have looked pretty rough. One of them offered me a bottle of water (which I declined. I wasn’t thirsty. I was just seeing stars from being kneed in the cheek only moments after having my nose all but smashed in, and water wasn’t going to help that. If they’d offered me an ice pack, on the other hand…).

One thing I did notice was that periodically, right when the crowd was a bit too hyped, when the crowd surfers were coming too quickly…there would be a calm, slightly extra long intro to a song that eased everything up just long enough for me to re-calibrate before the next round. I don’t know if that’s pure coincidence, or the work of an experienced genius at gauging a crowd, or just happened to coincide with points where the band squeezed in a moment’s reprieve from playing, but whatever the case, it was amazing every time. Because I wanted them to play, I wanted to hear all these songs I grew up with, but I also wanted my head to stop spinning long enough that I could actually enjoy hearing them live, and that’s a bit hard when you’re experiencing head trauma every 90 seconds.

Now, having got through my complaining, and being in the house for a bit, having iced my poor nose/lip and had a little something to eat, I think I’m ready to break out the individual bands and show you some photos. I’m not sure if I got pics of all the members of Bad Religion. I tried,  but due to the lighting and the fact it took all of 10 seconds of them being on stage before the crowd was so riled up that I couldn’t keep my hand steady to get a decent shot, I think I might have missed one guitarist and had a very hard time getting a decent shot of the other. I did, however, thanks to all the bouncing and not having arm mobility enough to put my phone away, delete four photos of my hand and the underside of my nose.

Dave Hause

Out of context, this seems like an odd opener for a punk show since it was just two guys with guitars and a keyboard (in context, he apparently played with several punk bands through the 90s, so there’s the connection). I dug this set. Without bass or drums it was pretty mellow considering what we all knew was coming, but I really liked what I heard and will most likely be picking an album to buy once I have hearing in both of my ears again so I can decide what I want.

Also, his partner in crime this set was his brother, Tim.  The family that plays together, right?  Or something like that.


Against Me! 

This is actually the 2nd time I’ve been to an Against Me! show – actually the 2nd time I’ve been to an Against Me! show at the Starland Ballroom, come to think of it. The first time, I forget who was opening for them, but it was some emo band guy that apparently is all the rage with the high schoolers. I remember that being a cause for disdain for me, because of the crowd, and because the crowd was all quite young (and annoyingly teenaged. lol). I thought opening for Bad Religion it would be better for me, less bubbly screaming teenagers, a more age-mixed crowd. And, while that was true, I still managed to somehow end up standing next to teenagers. I guess that’s just my lot in life.

Still, while the crowd was riled, it wasn’t so riled that the jostling prevented my view, which was much better than the last time I saw them. So this was a win for me. I got to see the stage clearly for them this time. Yay.

On a side note, their bassist is seriously bouncy. I’m convinced the only time you can get a picture of him that doesn’t turn into just one giant mostly human-shaped blur is in those rare moments when he’s at the mic.

Bad Religion

I was actually kind of surprised by the amount of younger people at a Bad Religion show. It’s not a complaint, but I was definitely expecting a crowd from around my age on up. I think it was fairly mixed, though. Here’s a ‘showing my age’ sort of story for those of you too young to remember what the world was like before a computer in every house. While a lot of my classmates did have computers at home, we didn’t get one until I was in college and couldn’t possibly do without one any longer. So, in high school, the way I discovered new bands was mostly by taking note of the patches on the jackets of my classmates. If I saw a patch of a band or two I knew I liked, I mentally recorded the other bands that person was wearing to look up later. And, that’s how I discovered Bad Religion back in the day. I ended up buying one of their greatest hits albums because it had the most songs on it so was therefore the best deal for a high-schooler living on limited cash, and just playing the death out of it. By the time I got my first ipod, I ended up having to replace several of the tracks because the CD was so battle-weary from overplaying that I couldn’t digitize about 1/4 of the album.

They ended up hitting on a lot of my favorite songs in this set, which was cool for me. They’re one of those bands I love, but somehow still managed to lose track of over the years, so I didn’t know if I’d be going into a set of mostly songs I’d never heard, or what, but I heard most of my favorite tracks, which was pretty cool, all said (in spite of repeated blows to the head).


On a side note, the Starland Ballroom has added metal detectors, which I find a little odd when put into the context of other, similar venues in higher-risk locations still being satisfied with bag checks and a pat down. I also notice more security guards every time I’m there. It’s true the Starland’s crowd tends to be rowdy, but more ‘should have worn a helmet and/or padding’ kind of rowdy, not ‘concealed weapon’ kind of rowdy. It’s not that big of a deal, but be aware that going in you’re going to have to empty your pockets completely. They’ve got a sign above the door telling you what to take out and what to leave in, but they’re going to make you empty your pockets of everything anyway during pat down, so you might as well just throw that hair tie and chapstick in the bin at the start so you can avoid digging through your pockets twice. I actually stuffed my things directly into my pockets to streamline the process – it was just hair tie, chapstick, a bit of cash, a pack of gum, my ID and phone, and earbuds (which I just forgot to take out of my pocket from earlier in the day). A quick pat down usually goes faster than opening up even my little wallet-sized handbag for them to dig through, but having to empty my pockets actually took longer than a bag search would have, so next time I’ll just use the bag and save myself twenty seconds of trying to remember what’s in my pockets when the security guard asks.

Actually, every time I go to Starland there’s a shiny, new security protocol in check. I get big, bad, crazy world, etc etc, and it doesn’t hurt to be cautious. As it stands, it’s really not that big of a deal (I just find it peculiar, really, given the area and demographics, when put into the context of other, similar venues.). I’m just saying that if they add any more security protocols, I might have to make sure to wear slip-ons. As it is, having a cup of water in the pit instead of a bottle is such a nuisance that I just don’t hydrate at concerts anymore (this is also normal. I’ve noticed all the venues do this now. I have no idea why. Was there a water-bottle throwing riot that I don’t know about? And, if so, why are people so effing weird?)

Anyway, that’s really more than enough of my rambling for one night. I was planning to upload a bunch of pictures today, but got as far as putting them on my desktop before I ran out of time. Getting my phone cleared up and uploading the mobile photos to instagram took longer than I expected it to. Maybe I’ll get around to uploading from the camera to the blog tomorrow, but given how many things I still have to do, I don’t suggest holding your breath waiting. I was also planning to record the new song this afternoon, which also did not happen. I have a lot to do over the weekend, but hopefully I will manage to tackle at least something from the blog to-do list.

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