David Garrick

Opinion: Houston Sucks At Show Etiquette

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Photo: Marshall Forse Walker


I believe I can say that I see more concerts than pretty much anyone in Houston who doesn’t work at a live music venue. And while I might see even more than those people, sometimes up to five or six shows in one night, the one thing I see continuously is how attendees interact with one another, as well as how they interact with those who are performing. I occasionally venture out to other cities where they may also suck at knowing how to behave at a live music venue, but what I see here turns my stomach more than what I see elsewhere. Houston, you suck at show etiquette. Period.


For starters, I should point out that this doesn’t apply to how people act in spots that shouldn’t attempt to have live music, yet still do. While the idea of having shows at breweries and restaurants isn’t a new one, it’s also not the best spot for them either. Also spots like hotels, grocery stores, and places like Axelrad are completely taken out of this. It’s a stupid idea to attempt to have a show at spaces where the band has to fight the audience for volume or where those in attendance didn’t come for the live music. Those are separate articles to be written at a later date. No, this is how Houstonians act at spaces that were set up for live music. This isn’t a new sentiment, as I’ve gone so far as to call out people to their face when it happens. It’s not a youthful thing or a transient dweller thing; it’s a Houston thing. And it’s getting old.


The first type is the “the rules don’t apply to me” group. While waiting in line to get my ticket scanned at larger venues like NRG or my occasional trip to the Woodlands Pavilion, I’ve had people who were always old enough to know better, break the rules. At U2, I had no less than twenty adults in an age ranges between late thirties to upper fifties cut in front of myself and others in line. If you think I’m an ageist or elitist, I’m not. You can tell people’s ages by how out of touch they are in they means of dress, or the amount of grey hairs they have on their heads. Line cutting isn’t the only group, as there are the types who think the long arm of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission based laws that every space that sells alcohol, don’t apply to them. Everything from attempting to leave a venue with a drink in hand to attempting to bring one in, this rule isn’t limited to age. I’ve seen everyone from underage kids to at least adults in their late forties attempt to skirt around such laws, like they’re the king or queen of some country. It gets even hairier when there’s a “no video, no photo” policy in place. I’ll admit, with the exception of comics, I think the “no photo, no video” rule is a little dated, but rules are rules. I see this one broken all the time, even at comedy shows where comics are typically working on new material that they don’t want lifted from a twenty second web clip. If you ever wondered why the Yondr pouch was invented, Houston was probably one of the places the idea originated.


Another group is the “I’ll talk really loud no matter how close I am to the stage” people. Some performances and some types of music aren’t loud, yet no one in this town can seem to shut up when there’s music playing. This is especially bad in spaces like Rudyard’s where the band is very close to the audience. Not to single out a venue, as I’ve witnessed this at Big Top, White Oak Music Hall upstairs, the studio and the green room at Warehouse Live, and the Bronze Peacock at House of Blues. However, there are also those who are just loud period, and maybe you’re in the middle of the crowd or the back and they’re literally yelling to their buds in the crowd, yet you have to hear them. Here’s a rule of thumb: if you’re louder than the insanely expensive sound rigs that many of these venues utilize, then you’re more than likely too loud.


Of course, that brings us to the “I’m just gonna be on the phone no matter what” people. I’ve seen it when bands take people’s phones, when people insist on texting or even talking on their phone during a performance. I’ve seen it when a band asks for the room to be dark, and then some idiot pulls out their giant bright phone to respond to a Facebook message or a text, right in front of the stage. Of course, we all have to deal with people using their phones to take a video or a picture, and I myself do it as well. However, I usually do so from the back of the room in small venues, or off to the side in larger ones. I have, of course, had people hold their phone up high, right in front of me or in my line of sight, while they attempt to video the whole concert it seems. That’s dumb. I seriously doubt you’re going to ever watch the whole concert ever again, even after you upload it to wherever you upload it to. This also leads to the Facebook Live idiots. Why, why, why would anyone care about your garbled and crappy phone video of a concert? Your phone has a crappy ISO and a terrible speaker. There’s also a great chance that the live sound is set up for the venue size, sometimes quite large, and your phone makes it sound terrible. Please, please, please stop this stupid exercise. No one cares, no matter how many likes or loves you get, it’s vulgar and dumb.


Then, we get to talk about the “I can’t handle my alcohol” people, which I see way too often. Look, I get it. You dropped $10 on a beer, and you want to have a good time. However, after you’ve had three or four of them, you’re infringing on my good time by acting like a drunken idiot. At PJ Harvey, where pretty much everyone there was older than I am, this was the worst I’ve ever seen. Okay, okay, you got a babysitter and you and the spouse are going to have crazy hotel sex after the concert. But does that mean you have the right to spill draft beer all over the place while dancing all over me like we’re on a date? No. Drink like an adult, please.


Finally, there’s the “I’m going to invade your personal space” people. While all of these annoyances are essentially about personal space, there are people in this town who literally believe it is their inalienable right to stand directly in front of you. I get it if you’re behind me and you’re five foot four and under, as I’m pushing six foot five. Of course this is how I feel, if you’re as big of a fan as you think that you are, you would’ve started the show off in front of me. And so you know, I never get to the venue early. At the last TV On The Radio show at House of Blues, I had a real moron stand directly in front of me, then continuously bump me until I told him to dance somewhere else. This also happened with a women no younger than her fifties as she danced atop of me at PJ Harvey at Revention Center, until I asked her to take advantage of the eight or so feet ahead of her to dance all she wanted to. This also happened at Madness On Main this year upstairs at White Oak Music Hall for the LIMB set. However, this was more of a mix of morons with professional cameras both video and photo, standing in front of me as I stood off in the corner away from everyone else. There were also two latecomers with bulging backpacks who hulked their way through to stand on top of me like I wasn’t there well before them. If you really think you need to be as close as possible, just get up there early and stop grinding through a crowd like you’re “with the band,” please.


Removed from this list is also people at punk and at metal shows, where I expect there to be people dancing on top of one another. Though I will say that the crowd surfing died twenty years ago, maybe it’s time we give that a rest. If not only because many of you are doing it wrong, and usually end up hurting someone because of your lack of skills at it. Also removed from this list is festivals if not for the only reason that they usually have a mix of people from many other places, so I can’t really place how people act at festivals on Houstonians alone.


The truth is this, pretty much every band that plays this city whether as a resident or as a touring act feels the same at any given time; this city’s crowds can suck. As a music journalist, many of us often look around for someone to blame in a time when it feels like Houston’s music community should be growing to a larger place. However, if you attend enough live performances, maybe you’ll start to see what I’m seeing. It’s time for we as patrons to start acting better while calling out those who ruin the experience for those of us who actually came to see the bands performing. Otherwise, this city will quickly return to a time when bands just skip us over in favor of other places, and we’ll be left back in the dark days of music again.

  • hun

    Do people think about how others might perceive their work before publishing it? Sheesh. As others have noted, this experience isn’t all that unique to concerts in Houston lol.

  • mechtheist

    Why give a shit about someone sneaking in or out some booze? Considering what they cost in a lot of places, who can blame someone for trying to drink for less, or not waste some when they leave? And do people actually not smoke weed nowadays? When I went to a lot of concerts in Houston, if you obeyed the unspoken rule of peeing in the urinals or toilets and not the sinks or trash cans, then you didn’t get to pee.

  • tom jenkins

    if u cry about someone dancing, u’re a bigger pussy than the idiots @ boston calling.

  • Tim Hickey

    This guy is just antisocial, even at a Tycho concert I cant hear people talking and that’s a chill band. But the line cutting is a big problem. I can agree with that one and it always ends up being white kids between the age of 16 and 25. No respect for others. It’s pretty funny hearing other people beside me in the line yelling out “Guys, my mom is here” (acting as the kids) knowing they are just running to the front of the line and not to their parents car. I guess you can say we were making the best out of the situation, haha.

  • DSMGal

    Been to concerts in NYC, Chicago, Tulsa, Nashville, Knoxville, Omaha, Kansas City, St Louis, NOLA, Des Moines, OKC, Las Vegas, Dallas, Austin and of course, Houston. I’ve attended in venues from holes in the wall to the United Center. Guess what?! You’ve describe a normal concert. (Well, maybe not when I went to see Tony Bennett, but believe it or not, there are 75 year old groupies for him.) The worst? The I’m young and hot and should be up front just based on my age and looks.

  • Wynn Boss

    I have been to concerts all over the world and all over the US. This happens at all of them. It might be news to you but people break rules everywhere, and people are going to get drunk at places that serve booze. This is universal. I have been to shows in Houston that have been nightmares and I have been to shows in Houston that have been incredibly fun and friendly. I have been to shows in London, NYC, Charleston, DC, LA, Santa Barbara, Las Vegas, Luxembourg, etc. all fell within a range of good and bad. You are also talking about GIANT shows, like at NRG the more people that attend a show the higher your chance of running into an asshole are. I guarantee, you go see Drake anywhere in the world and you will probably run into a situation you describe. You go see Night Drive, a local Houston band, where the only people there really want to see the band, it’s most likely going to be a great time. For someone who goes to”the most” shows you should get out more.

  • Pacee Bean

    What you have describe happens at every concert in the country. I have gone to shows in multiple places in the US to include large venues and smaller ones. You will always find the few rude, drunk, loud people. But I have also been to shows in Houston and other cities that have had amazing crowds that were engaging and respectful. I have even been to same artist shows between Houston and Austin a couple of times. The Houston crowds have been so much better than Austin. Not to bring Austin down, but I have felt a different energy in some Houston shows. This article is completely invalid from my experience. You may have had a couple of bad experiences, but it just sounds like you want to find something to complain about.

  • sid.

    I have learned that there are five reasons people go to a music show, and two apply to most…
    1. To see the band
    2. To get as effed-up as royally possible
    3. To hang out with their friends
    4. To pick up a one night stand or flirt with others
    5. To say they were there
    …. your observations can be mapped to most of these.

  • Karla House

    I’ve been saying this and more for years now. Although I was a drunken fool at the last show I went to. My main issue is that most shows I go to the crowd is not interactive with the band at all. I’ve been to so many where the crowd just stands their like mindless zombies. That and the constant lack of enthusiasm from the crowd. I will admit that at Festivals the crowds are much better, but like you said it’s a mixed crowd of individuals.

  • Andrew Lynch

    Name the cities that have good etiquette ?

  • Jay Vinekar

    All great points, that I’ve witnessed myself. I typically don’t get all bent out of shape about it unless it’s extremely uncool or ruining the entire experience. But, on a side note, for the love of God, please proofread your works before you publish them. I could barely get through this. I mean, if you’re going to bitch and whine about your concert pain, I’m equally going to bitch and whine about how much it pained me to read this piece, with all its spelling and grammatical errors. Frankly, I only read about half of it before you totally lost all credibility.

  • R3d Baron

    What you’re describing is every type of show in every type of city. People aren’t going to stop behaving in the litany of ways that they do at shows just because it annoys you. If you like going to shows then learn how to predict and avoid this behavior and have a good time instead of sulking about it on the internet.

  • Michael Marie Gomez

    Understandable; have a good day.

  • Marco Gomez

    Okay article, kinda whiny. I mean, come on. Who gets drunk on 3-4 beers? But some other stuff holds water. In contrast to the bad Houston crowd, what cities produce good music crowds?