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5 Easy Things You Can Do To Be A Better Audience Member

by Blazer Sparrow

While no one factor is particularly to blame for the insufferable nature of the live music scene in Portland, you, the audience—yes, you—could make these passive-aggressive, beanie-and-scarf fashion shows much more enjoyable for everyone involved (including the venue owner, band, bartender and the poor bastards in the audience) with these five easy steps.


For Christ’s sake, it’s three fucking dollars. You could scrounge that change up from your couch and, in doing so, find the remote and some unopened Taco Bell sauces—incentive bonus! It doesn’t matter if you know someone in the band or are a "photographer." The less people pay, the grumpier the venue becomes and the less likely they are to book your friend’s band again. More importantly, your buddy’s band makes less money than they would have if folks payed the cover charge. Maybe, if these first couple of local shows go well, you can bug your friend about getting in through the back stage at Doug Fir or Crystal Ballroom. But, at the bottom level, nobody has any favors to give out. You’re gonna spend $20 on booze and, if you can get a hold of your guy, another $80 on blow. Seriously, why is your heart breaking over three sweaty pocket dollars? It’s cool that some places in Portland (like the Firkin) don’t even bother charging a cover. But, for the smaller venues that do, it really shouldn’t be a deterrent—especially if it’s anything under $5. The more people pay to go to these shows, the more likely venue owners are going to put them on and then we can all have more awesome live music shows in Portland (assuming the bands are good).


Now, I know I just broke your wallet by asking you to shell out three whole dollars to get into Twilight and your drinking budget has been drastically reduced. However, I need to ask you one more small favor. Buy a T-shirt or a CD...or, even a sticker. Unless the band really sucks (in which case, why are you at the show?)—it really does make a difference to buy something directly from the band (even if it’s a dumb $1 sticker). The main reason is all those three-dollar covers at the door are more than likely going straight into the venue owner’s pocket. Best case scenario, they use the door take to pay the door guy himself (ironic) or the sound person. I guarantee almost none of that money goes to the band. One way to subvert this capitalist tomfoolery, is to give money directly to the band. Plus, putting that sticker on your bumper, your binder or even a telephone pole, does make a difference. Wearing their T-shirts in public makes a huge difference. It really does help get the band’s name out there. It helps even more if you happen to be attractive or popular (ideally, both).


By far, the most obnoxious thing about Portland’s live music scene (especially in the rock genre) is the audience’s utter refusal to move a muscle. People say Seattle is even worse, but I’ve attended and performed shows in Seattle, and it isn’t nearly as bad as the standing- still contest at every rock show I’ve been to in Portland. Granted, it is up to the band to be into the music they’re performing, which the audience then feeds off of, which the band then, in turn, feeds back off of and so on. Still, the audience could take initiative. Whether it’s dancing, moshing, headbanging or simply shuing from side to side, just do something. Anything. Unless the band sucks, in which case, leave or go find your blow guy. But, if you’re enjoying it, show it. It makes a world of difference. If you can get that positive feedback loop going, then everyone has a good time. People talk about how awesome that show was, the venue notices, the band notices, etc. Everyone wins.


This, of course, ties into a much larger problem that expands beyond Portland and the music scene in general. But, it still applies in our quest to make Portland shows not suck! Also, yes, number four is pretty much exclusively aimed at guys. Luckily, with most venues, if you get too creepy or too handsy, you’re gonna get kicked out (as you should be, asshole). But, still, stop! Yes, seeing bands is a great way to meet people if you’re single. You already have something to talk about— you know, the band you both like (or, were at least dragged to at the behest of friends.) Still, there’s a million wrong ways to go about talking to people at shows. And, the more you do it, the less fun everyone is having at the show. It discourages people from seeing the band again or attending the venue again, because they become associated with jerks like you, so don’t be that jerk. We’re all here to enjoy the music and you’re making it dicult with your "accidental" grazes. Also, don’t stand in the corner with your eyes glued to the three girls on the dance floor and not the band. We all know what you’re doing and you’re ruining it for everyone else.


I get it if you just came from work or have a café or hospital shift at 4AM the next morning, but unless you have a good reason to not see all three or four (hopefully not five) bands, just stick around. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite local band. Maybe you’ll make some new friends. Either way, you’ll never find out, if you show up exactly when your friends’ band plays and leave as soon as their set is over. There is nothing more aggravating than getting that text from friends asking when "my band" starts. I don’t know, but I can tell you when the "show" starts and that’s when you should arrive. Also, stick around ‘til the end. Unless you’re double booking tonight, you might as well get another drink, rather than close your tab out and seek out a disappointing night elsewhere. The point of having more than one band on the bill isn’t just to get more people to come out, but to also cross-pollinate fan bases. And, yes, by fan base, I mean the five people obligated to come, because their friend’s in the band. Still, it’s a start, and if you’re going to build something out of nothing, you have to start somewhere.

You’d be surprised how much the Portland music scene would improve, if you just did these five little things. Be the change you wish to see in the scene! Unless you enjoy being part of the Who-Can-Look-Like-They- Care-The-Least Contest.