Ryan Kattner (aka Honus Honus), is a musician-songwriter, film/theater score composer, screenwriter, mustachioed multi-hyphenate living in Los Angeles. Texas-born, he grew up in the Philippines, South Carolina, Germany, Illinois, Alabama and Missouri before finally settling in Philadelphia and pouring his scattered upbringing into his bands Man Man and Mister Heavenly. He’s releasing his first solo album in 2016. Michael J. Fox as Teen Wolf is his spirit animal. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. (photo credit: Mike Gerry)
Greetings and salutations. Uncle Honus here to teach you the concert etiquette you never knew you never wanted — and will probably end up disregarding entirely. Today’s delightful topic: respecting your performer.
As we all know — or should know — the blood that trickles through the choked arteries of the dying heart of rock & roll has always been driven by some very basic, very primal principles: fuck the rules, break the rules, no rules, no parents, Spring Break!!!, dog save the queen, etc. I subscribe to this bloated creed, and although this column can be interpreted as a lecture, criticism or swift switch across the backside, it mustn’t at all be ingested as such.
I will, however, happily point out that it’s always pleasant when even the slightest modicum of respect for the musician/artist/fraudulent poser is extended. When it isn’t…well, to the victor goes the spoiled milk.
Rambling aside, here’s a list — in no particular order other than how everything tumbled out of my brain — of some of the show etiquette no-no’s that I’ve catalogued during my more than fifty-seven years in the indie-rock “biz”:
DON’T throw full cups/cans/bottles of water/beer at the band
I totally understand being in the moment, losing yourself and succumbing to reckless abandon. Mosh around, dance like a maniac, scream at the top of your lungs, pound on your chest like a gorilla — these are all wonderful expressions of joy. Plus, throwing shit is very punk rock.
That being said, it’s the “we don’t have to hold onto these damn drinks and nobody is gonna make us” laissez-faire part of the equation that I’m not so wild about. As a performer, when a random drink strikes you/drenches you as you’re trying to play a song, it kinda takes you out of the moment. Sometimes, it even fucks up the song. I’ve seen bands walk off the stage the minute something was thrown at them, effectively ruining the experience for everyone but the thrower.
It’d be different, obviously, if the band had been asking for it to happen — if they were egging on the audience, begging for the bottled-water-tossing chaos to ensue. But lobbing a PBR out of the blue? During a slow jam? During a show for a band that doesn’t necessarily dictate that kind of energy? I will never understand that. It’s not my thing — and it’s usually not appreciated by the other show-goers, who often end up covered in beer as well. But, then again, I’m not playing in a roadhouse behind chicken wire. No rules, baby.
Also, on a technical note, when you throw liquids at musicians who are playing instruments, there is a high risk that said instruments will be destroyed. Liquids and electronics typically don’t mesh. Just saying. The only instance — that I know of personally — in which a foreign liquid didn’t do serious damage to an instrument was backstage at a show I played in Vancouver. A drunken girl sneaked backstage and puked on one of our keyboards, which was, at the time, broken. Process that. Well, after we cleaned the vomit off the Nord as best we could and plugged it in the next day, it started working again. Miracle. Come to think of it, we should track down that lady. We could make a killing bottling that stuff for repair shops!
DON’T spit into a performer’s mouth
Again, this is pretty punk rock — but it’s also pretty gross. So don’t spit into my mouth unless you’re my girlfriend. Or if you’re the casual encounter I met behind the Taco Bell last Saturday night.
DON’T steal a band’s stuff
This is the worst. I can sort of understand the mentality behind this kind of thievery — you really love a band and you want a memento of that shared musical experience. But it’s a real bummer when you go onstage to pack up your gear after a show and something cool and unique has been lifted. A set list, I understand. A broken drum stick? OK. Fair game. Not so fair game? The bells that I found on a trip to the tiny foothills of the Philippines. Horns and noisemakers that I bought on tour in some tiny music shop. A bandmate’s sweaty show clothes, underwear and all. That last one was pretty daring — and also epically disgusting.
Little anecdote. For years, we had a lively group percussive moment in our set during which I threw several dozen spoons into a bowl of water (trust me, it looked and sounded pretty cool). I rationalized that if a couple of spoons were taken every show it would be OK, they were just spoons. I could always go find more. It was a bit of a magician’s misdirection. Take these worthless things but not those harder-to-find jawns.
However, when I’d go pack up at the end of the night, every single spoon would be gone. More than twenty spoons — gone. I started turning into this weird (OK, admittedly weirder) dude who scoured thrift and bargain stores for spoons. It got expensive and difficult to maintain on a busy tour. Once I started feeling like a shameless klepto, pocketing spoons every time I’d eat in a restaurant, momentum shifted. I stopped throwing spoons.
DON’T put your beverage on the merch table
All it takes is a tiny little bump and that sucker goes all over a band’s merchandise. It really stinks. Everything is ruined and smells like beer. Set your drink on the floor if you need to. Also, this plays into that previous “don’t,” but don’t steal merch. That’s how almost all bands (not talking major-label or massive pop stars) put gas in their van, feed themselves and pay for motel rooms if they’re not sleeping on floors. Even if you’re on a label (indie or otherwise), it doesn’t mean that it pays for anything that goes into the on-the-ground nuts and bolts of a touring rock band. During a gig in London once upon a time, we had to chase a fella down the street outside the club who had nicked our entire duffel bag of T-shirts. Fun memories. At least I got to use the work “nick” in a sentence.