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Shutting up: What to do about people who talk during concerts

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



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Kilbourn said if bands would listen to their audience "they could learn a lot about themselves. Performers are communicating with their audience, and it must be a two-way street."

Etiquette coach » When Daniel Post Senning, an author and spokesman at the Emily Post Institute — and great-great-grandson of the famous etiquette writer — talks about etiquette in entertainment situations, he likes to bring up the now-infamous meat thermometer incident.

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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In 2010, in Lancaster, Calif., a man named Landry Boullard was at a screening of "Shutter Island" when his female companion received a cellphone call and began a conversation.

A fellow moviegoer reportedly asked the woman to stop using the cellphone, and words were exchanged. Boullard walked out of the theater and returned with a 5-inch thermometer. He attacked the complainer, who suffered from a punctured neck and bleeding in the brain, leading to a coma. The man was hospitalized for five weeks and almost died, Senning said.

There are right ways to address a situation, and wrong responses, Senning said. "No one likes to be confronted."

While "you can’t sit at the whole concert glaring" at an annoying, talking concertgoer, Senning said calling the attention of an usher to correct the situation is usually the best avenue.

"Sometimes it’s a broccoli-in-the-teeth thing, when they don’t even realize it," he said.

When you’re at a concert, assess the behavior of the crowd around you, and then adapt, he said. If you are at a rock show where everyone around is screaming, it’s probably unwise to tell someone to shut up.

But if you want to scream at an Air Supply concert, you should look around to see what other audience members are doing. Chances are they are not yelping at Graham Russell to doff his pants.

Venue representatives » Teri Orr, executive director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation, books shows at two Park City venues: the indoor Eccles Center and the outdoor Deer Valley Snow Park Amphitheater. Audiences usually self-police, especially at the Eccles Center. But at Deer Valley concerts, where performers are more likely to invite audience participation, it’s not uncommon to see dancing fans congregate around the stage when the sun goes down.


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If you are seated next to someone having what she called "a robust picnic," ushers at Deer Valley will do their best to find a different, more reserved place for you to sit, Orr said.

Corey Fox, owner of Velour, the all-ages venue in Provo, has tried to cultivate an atmosphere where the audience respects performers and fellow fans.

"Trust me, we have some shows filled with college freshmen that haven’t figured that out yet but yes, that is one of our goals," he said about quiet crowds. "I think the big reason is the absence of alcohol and that the performance is the only focus of the crowd. We also consider Velour a ‘listening room’ and we want the crowds to respect the performers and to respect their neighbors who are trying to listen. I also think the crowd reaction in between songs can be greater because the crowd is actually a fan of the band, rather than random people socializing in a bar."

Veteran concert promoter Chris Mautz runs The State Room in Salt Lake City and books the acts for Red Butte Garden. "I wish there was some magic potion," he said about correcting bad audience behavior.

When he is at The State Room and encounters especially disruptive audience members, he politely asks them to move the conversation to the lobby. "But it’s not easy," he said. "I value every patron."

Mautz believes self-policing can be a good thing, unless it intensifies. "It’s not helpful if someone is polite to you [and you] turn it into an adversarial situation," he said.

Audiences at the intimate, 300-seat State Room tend to be more respectful than at outdoor venues. Outdoor concerts attract more listeners who come for social reasons. The toughest situation comes when an audience on one blanket has different expectations than the audience on the next blanket.

Mautz said when he goes to see a show, he likes to be "proactive" by getting to his seat early, getting to know the people around him. If he gets the sense that people wouldn’t tolerate someone who would talk or dance at a show, he will tailor his behavior accordingly.

Or, he might just move.

There are plenty of spaces inside most venues where you have the freedom to be an obnoxious chump all by yourself.

dburger@sltrib.com

Twitter: @davidburger



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