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(Photo illustration by Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Some concert-goers are just too much and distract from the music listening experience.
Shutting up: What to do about people who talk during concerts

Audience » Musicians, fans and an etiquette coach talk about dealing with annoying concertgoers.

By david burger

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Apr 17 2013 07:57 pm • Last Updated Jul 07 2013 11:33 pm

It has happened to all of us.

You are at a concert, and some jerk behind you starts talking.

At a glance

More concert etiquette

Daniel Post Senning, an author and spokesman at the Emily Post Institute — and great-great-grandson of the famous etiquette writer — offers these etiquette tips for attending concerts:

Candy with loud packaging is a no-no, except when it is a cough drop — but if you do have a consistent cough, you might want to stay home.

Tall people shouldn’t have to move to the back of every venue they attend, but if you are tall and notice that someone is shorter behind you, offer to move.

Don’t assume that simply turning your phone to “vibrate” will be OK. It can cause problems when the vibrating cellphone is next to your rattling keys.

If you are walking to the middle of a crowded aisle, always face the stage.

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And talking.

And talking.

Loud rock shows usually drown out these annoying folks.

But plenty of other concert venues try to create an intimate vibe where you can hear Leonard Cohen sing about a secret chord that pleased the Lord, rather than hearing some stranger talk about what he had for lunch — or worse, how it’s affecting his stomach.

Those of us who sit in front of these twits get fed up — but not fed up enough to speak to the offending person. Because who wants to be a killjoy who stifles everyone’s fun?

With the summer concert season about to begin, we asked musicians, fans, concert promoters and even the great-great-grandson of Emily Post the best way to deal with that annoying loudmouth who sits behind you at every show.

Musicians » Many musicians say there is nothing worse than people yapping in the background.

"If you’re paying $15 to get in, it’s ridiculous to waste it," singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle said. "Don’t make your boredom everyone else’s problem."


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Damien Jurado, a Seattle-based singer-songwriter who often performs in Utah, finds Salt Lake City crowds especially noisy.

"I’d rather play Velour in Provo," Jurado said. "Most club-owners don’t give a s---. But Corey [Fox, owner of Velour] does. They appreciate people coming there. They have a great crowd."

Adds Kyle Henderson, with the Utah County alt-country band Desert Noises, "It’s a really great place to play. Everyone really listens. Everyone pays attention. A lot of national acts will come to Velour for that reason."

Other musicians believe talking is just part of the job.

"I think people lose their attention span pretty quickly," country singer Kip Moore said. "I try to not get too bent out of shape."

"I try to focus on the ones who are listening," said Neal Middleton, frontman for the local hard-rock band Royal Bliss. He sees a noisy audience member as a sign that he needs to be better. "For the most part, when we’re doing a softer song, I need to step it up." But he acknowledged that "there’s always a drunk guy [who is] ruining the experience for everyone."

Todd Snider, a singer-songwriter who frequently plays Utah, is in the minority when it comes to tolerating noisy audience members."Once they come in the door, they should be able to do what they want," said Snider. "I’ll be groovy. It’s the rare 1 percent when I come offstage and tell them that it wasn’t cool. But pizza, sex, surfing, playing music — it’s all good."

Fans » Concertgoers have differing thoughts about how to deal with excessive talkers. "Personally, if it’s a loud show or in a big arena where you could step away from the stage, I don’t see the big deal with talking to whoever you came with," said Anna Hatton, a University of Utah student. "If it’s an intimate show and there are people close by who could hear your conversation, that’s rude. It’s also disrespectful to the artist, especially if it’s a small enough place that they could see you."

Nick Dutson of Utah Valley University said, "I’m usually the guy that’s making the noise, so if someone else is [being loud] it’s quite surprising. I hate it, though, when people are rude about it. If they just ask nicely, I’ll usually shut up pretty quick, so I think that’s what I would do to them, too. If they didn’t stop, I would just move to another spot. No reason to fight it."

Chris Kilbourn, who runs the local Internet marketing company Tofu Marketing, has been a band member, manager and concert organizer. He views audience noise as useful.

"A disrespectful audience reveals a lot about their opinion of the band’s music," he said. "It’s just like in marketing. You want to be able to track what works and what doesn’t work. A silent audience doesn’t tell me anything. Bands tend to become overconfident of their musical skills.

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