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The 10 Commandments of Shows: Guidelines for Maintaining Self-Respect, Keeping Safe

Originally Published: Tuesday August 21, 2007
Written by: Laura Conrad

I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m a total music nerd. One of my greatest pleasures in life is going to shows. My music taste is best described as schizophrenic, so I go to all kinds of shows that span every genre of music and every show presents itself with a different sound, smell, feel, and energy.  As eclectic as the shows that dominate my schedule are, they all have one glaring thing in common: the presence of total assholes in the pit. These assholes can range from the run of the mill people who have no concept of respect for themselves or others to the misguided kids who just don’t get it. My recent encounters in the pit have compelled me to write my very own, unapologetic version of the 10 Commandments. The Commandments are applicable to any genre of music and breaking any of them may result in a loss of respect or getting completely rocked in the pit.

1st Commandment: Don’t overdo it with the band merch while dressing for the show.

Personally, I take my show fashion cues from that old Jeremy Piven movie PCU. There’s a scene where his character Droz and Jon Favreau’s character Gutter are getting ready to see The Merkins. Droz stops to scold Gutter, who has dressed in a shirt bearing the name of the band they’re seeing: “What is this? You’re gonna wear this to the show? You’re gonna wear the shirt of the band you’re gonna go see? Don’t be that guy.”

While I’m definitely not “that guy,” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wearing a band’s old tour shirt to a current show; it shows you’ve been there supporting them for a while. I can even accept fresh off the Hot Topic rack band shirts. What I can’t understand, however, are the kids who go through their closet and dress in every piece of merch related to the band that’s playing. At a Rise Against show in early July, I saw a guy in a Rise Against scarf. It was 88 degrees out-doors, and I would estimate probably 108 in the pit later that night. That’s not showing support—that’s just looking silly.

2nd Commandment: If you have a vagina, please respect yourself.

This might make me sound like a complete asshole, but I don’t care: if you are under the age of 15 and have posters of the band you’re seeing on your bedroom wall, you should automatically be denied access to the pit. I’m tempted to take that statement a little further and banish you to the parking lot, but I’ll be nice.

Looking around the pit these days honestly makes me sad. Are strong, independent females on the endangered species list or something? Did I miss that memo? Holy shit, girls: this is about music, emotion, energy, and passion, not who’s on the cover of People this week! Please stop chattering about how this guitarist is your soul mate, or how you want to sleep with the drummer.

I was in the front for a Fall Out Boy show in May. They played a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” a song from a record I’ve been obsessed with since I was a little girl. Taking into consideration the fact that I’m 24 and have supported FOB since 2003—which apparently makes me the OG pit mom to some of these kids—and that the average FOB fan was born well after “Beat It” was released—not too many people up front knew the words. I was the only person in the first three rows singing all the right words, which earned me a point, nod, and a, “She knows the words!” from one of the dudes in the band. The three younger girls standing beside me turned to me and gave me glares so evil that I kind of wanted to hide behind someone. Come on! It’s not like they’re curing cancer or anything; they’re just shitty dudes in a band. Get over it and realize that this is about the music and you’re looking incredibly immature. If you can’t, go home and cry into your Tiger Beat.

Oh, and girls: when that certain band member stands where you can touch him on stage, keep your hands off his dick. Nine guys out of ten guys find that kind of stuff completely trashy. What’s that free feel getting you: a collective eye roll from the entire venue, not to mention a complete swan dive in the respect department. And for fuck’s sake, this isn’t 1972 and we’re not seeing Tom Jones. Keep your undergarments to yourself!

3rdCommandment: Check thyself, homie—preferably before I check you.

Dude, don’t be an asshole. Don’t get drunk and start hugging up on everyone. I saw Type O Negative in Pittsburgh this year, and a large drunk guy who was groping every person in sight, was physically ejected from the club by a security guy who was maybe 5 feet tall. I saw them again in Baltimore, and the female equivalent of that guy got the shit kicked out of her by a rather large woman when she grabbed said woman’s boyfriend’s ass.

Recently, I was hanging out in the pit before a show started. The boy in front of me reached behind me, grabbed his friend’s hand, and pulled the kid around me. They almost knocked me over. This boy had just witnessed me letting three small girls in front of me when they asked politely, so there was no excuse for that shit. Needless to say, the boy got adequately rocked when the music started a few minutes later.

Would you do something like that on the street? Would you push someone out of the way in order to get to where you want? Odds are, probably not. I’m not saying you should behave the same at a show or in the pit as you would anywhere else, but think before you act.

4th Commandment: Tip the merch person.

I’m not sure if everyone realizes this but people who peddle merch are at the bottom of the music industry totem pole. Yes, they’re typically friends with the band, and the band does usually take care of them. However, it is far from a steady, well-paying job especially if the band isn’t mainstream. A lot of these people base their meals for the week off of what comes out of that tip jar at the end of the night.

Treat it like you would a restaurant: 15% is standard. If the merch person is an asshole, lower the percentage appropriately but still give them something. If he or she is fast, efficient, patient, and friendly by all means up that tip. My rule is the merch person keeps the change, no matter the amount. Unless the person is unnecessarily rude, I don’t break that rule.

There is one exception to the tipping rule: corporate venues. If you go to a show and the people selling merch are wearing uniforms, don’t tip them. These people aren’t part of the scene and they’re getting a pretty decent paycheck at the end of the night, anyway.

5th Commandment: If you weren’t in line at doors, you don’t deserve a spot in the front.

If it’s a band you’re really stoked on you obviously want to get a good spot. Don’t arrive after the first band and expect to weasel your way up front. I was here 45 minutes before doors, man—there’s no way I’m giving up my spot for you.

Nothing pisses me off more than people who think they’re entitled to a spot up front. In my experience, these are typically two types of people: those who skipped the first three bands to drink in the parking lot and little girls who didn’t want to brave the pit for the first three bands but are so sure that they’re sleeping with a band member that night and absolutely need to get up front. Just stop. You didn’t work for it, so go get your fruity drink from the bar and pout.

6th Commandment: If you can’t throw down with the boys, get the fuck out of the pit.

I’m a pretty big equal rights advocate, particularly when it comes to the hardcore scene. In my opinion, the whole “No clit in the pit!” mantra is complete bullshit. Lately, however, I’ve seen girls in the pit that make me want to hang my head in shame. You’ve seen them: the girls who complain because people are pushing and shoving. They usually squeal like they’ve just seen a baby deer frolicking through the forest, and they give you dirty looks when a tiny bit of your sweat touches their arm. Oh, and they insist on fixing their hair every time a crowd surfer is dropped on their head.

I’m going to say this as nicely as possible: some people just aren’t meant for the pit. If you can’t stand being dirty or messing up your hair, get out. If you don’t grasp the concept of hardcore dancing, leave. If you can’t take it when I’m accidentally pushed into you between bands, what are you going to do when the music starts and shit gets crazy? Go. Please. If you’re not going to man up, save the boys the trouble of trying to push you out of the pit and watch from somewhere else. Honestly, it’s for your own good; if you’re too concerned with your image and don’t take the time to stand up for yourself you could get seriously hurt. No one wants that.

7th Commandment: Crowd surfing is so two years ago.

Nothing irritates me more than people who stand in the back and try to crowd surf their way to the front. It’s pointless! Security is going to pull you off, put you in front of the barricade, and make you go right back where you started. Let’s not even get into how not awesome it is to get kicked in the head by a tiny, half drunk underage girl or the rather large, not at all considerate guy who “just wants to rage, man!” because it’s almost impossible to have a good time and lose yourself in screaming along while watching for people who are coming up behind you.

Crowd surfing as a result of a stage dive, however, is perfectly acceptable. If people can see you coming and prepare themselves, it’s always a plus. Crowd surfing as a result of diving off of a balcony or platform is not as welcome, and someone should really think twice before doing it. I saw a guy jump from a second floor balcony at a Rise Against show, and no one was there to catch him. I have never laughed so hard at someone’s complete and utter stupidity in my life.

8th Commandment: If you’re too cool to give back the energy the band’s giving you, please leave or die: Your choice.

Unless you’re the girlfriend or boyfriend of someone in the band and have been to so many shows that you have the on stage banter memorized, there is no reason for you not to get amped up when at a show. Sing along! Dance a little! You’re packed in a small space with hundreds of kids who love this band as much as you do. As long as you respect yourself and those around you, it’s almost impossible to make an ass out of yourself. If you wanted to fold your arms and look bored, you should’ve stayed home and saved yourself the ticket price. Get stoked!

9th Commandment: Learn the language.

At a recent hardcore show, the lead singer of the band who was playing put his right arm in the air, extended his pointer finger, and moved his hand in a circle. I saw smiles spread across the faces of everyone around me as we prepared our responses to what is pretty much the international symbol for circle pit.

A younger boy turns to me and utters three fateful words: “What’s that mean?” I almost felt sorry for him as the crowd physically answered his question.

Know the language. Immerse yourself in the lifestyle. It’s the only way you’ll get out alive.

10th Commandment: We are family. Take care of those around you and watch out for the band.

I saw Silverstein open for Rise Against in the beginning of July. I was one person from the barricade, and the lead singer was trying to get onto the barricade so they could do their last song. He kept looking around for someone to help him over the four-foot gap between the stage and the barricade, but none of the kids in the front would even extend him a hand. So I took the initiative and did it. He gave me the point and nod, grabbed my hand, and I pulled him safely onto the barricade. The kids in front of me started going crazy. Problem solved, right?

No. Craziness must’ve taken over these kids’ brain cells, because they suddenly decided that it was time to wave their hands frantically in the air and start grabbing at the guy. I don’t care how manorexic you are, balancing on a 6-inch barricade isn’t going to happen when there’s a crowd of 1,000 kids moving against it; someone needs to hold you up. In essence, that move defines the family spirit of the hardcore scene—you watch out for us, we’ll watch out for you.

So I put one of my hands on each of his knees and held him up by myself for the rest of the song. I was annoyed, considering that these kids were obviously bigger fans of the band than I was but couldn’t take the time to help the guy—I thought that would just be common decency. I was also pretty disgusted, considering that no one would help hold the guy up but the chick in the low-cut tank top (for real, who wears that shit in the pit?) standing beside me decided to try to push me over so she can cop a feel. I know he was wearing girls’ jeans and kind of putting himself out there in the most literal way possible, but had she pushed me over, he would have come down on top of us. I hope that girl understood how bad of a scene it would’ve been, and that I only elbowed her in the face to prevent our impending doom. And PS, I’m not sorry. Please re-read the 2nd Commandment and comply or turn in your vagina for good. Thanks.

The point is: there’s a line between having fun and hurting someone. The majority of people are at a show for the same reason—a mutual respect for the band, their music, and their message. We’re allies; moreover, we’re family. Why would you want to endanger like-minded people?

These commandments were originally something I started compiling in my head as a joke after a few experiences that were marred by people who refused to look out for anyone but themselves. In reality, though, they are full of truth. There is an overwhelming lack of respect within scenes, and it is never as prevalent as it is in the pit at a show. Bottom line: if you don’t support your scene by supporting those in it, it’s going to fall apart—then where would you be?

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