Or, a critique of pervasive and unacceptable crowd behavior

By Steven Franz
Fringe Media Editor

The following is the diagnosis of a problem I’ve been noticing for several years now. You are sick, Milwaukee. You’ve been showing the symptoms for quite some time. Maybe you’ve been ignoring them, maybe you’ve been unaware of them; that’s your business and I won’t judge you for the past. But you’ve made some really bad mistakes. You haven’t taken care of yourself, you’ve (for whatever reason, and again, I’m not judging here) let the problem become exacerbated to the point that it presents a real threat now to your health and stability. And I, for one, have decided that it’s high time for an intervention, to save you from yourself.

Milwaukee, you fucking suck at going to rock shows.

How could you not see it? Was it so invisible to you; were you raised no other way? Even in your youth, did you not rage at concerts, did you not thrash yourself around willingly when the opportunity presented itself in a mass of humans? Time after time, show after show, I’ve been noticing the same problems. You stand motionless, unmoved by music that supposedly moves you. You don’t clap, even for bands you really, really like, so steadfast are you in your disconnect. And, perhaps worst of all, you stand at minimum five fucking feet from the stage, like you’re scared that the band is going to give you cooties or there’s some serious fucking untreated social anxiety disorder happening that makes you petrified of human contact, and the band can barely see that you’re there what with the lights in their eyes and the darkness in which you lurk.

And it’s not even like this is a problem at every show. Sure, if it’s a national touring band that stops by the Pabst or Turner Hall or the Rave, you get way up and stick your noses right under their feet. At Beach House, the crowd was practically clamoring up onto the stage to sleep under Victoria LeGrand’s keyboards. But any band, any band at all, that stops by Cactus Club or Club Garibaldi or Linneman’s or Quarters or the Miramar, you linger back beyond the reach of the stage lights, as if you’re afraid of some sort of exposure, like you’re allergic to both human contact and the light itself, hissing and oozing.

Free Energy had to demand you move your timid asses up so they could fucking see you, Milwaukee.

If you don’t want to stand by the stage, stand in the back. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s easier to come and go, to disappear to the bathroom or the bar during a lull or a song you don’t like. But for Christ’s sake Milwaukee, you paid money to get into these shows. Smoking Popes cost $12 at the door, and only one person – me, Milwaukee – stood up by the stage like you’re fucking supposed to do. And that was for a punk rock show, guys. And the crowd was big!

Think of the message this sends to bands. Think of the image they’re left with: Some asshole, unappreciative crowd of stupid hipsters who don’t want to embarrass themselves or something by expressing genuine appreciation and outing themselves as living, breathing, genuinely nice human beings. That a band is playing these songs they’ve hopefully poured their souls into for you in the middle of some long, horrid tour where their van breaks down constantly and they can barely afford food because of the insane amounts of money they’re spending on gas and everyone hates each other because they’re always around each other – for you, Milwaukee, so that you can see them perform – and you can’t gussy up the balls to bear to be close to them like normal rock show crowds in other cities is ludicrous, and you need to stop that shit right now.

And it’s not like these are bands that don’t need your attention. These aren’t bands with lucrative contracts and national notoriety and touring buses and budgets and blue vinyl presses that you can pick up at your local record store; these are blue-collar, working-class bands with Bandcamp pages where they give away their shit for free. And most of the time they’re opening for a band you actually like and care about because either the venue or that band itself decided, out of the goodness of their hearts, to throw them a fucking bone. And you, Milwaukee, are ruining it for them by not showing them that their small-time music careers are worth it in the first place, which they are.

So I’m prescribing you 50 mg of empathy, Milwaukee, because apparently you really need it.

HERE’S how to go to a show:

1 year ago