Dude, Be Cool: Here’s How NOT to Use Your Mouth at Shows

You don’t want to know what’ll happen if you ask Honus to play “Free Bird.”

Sup, sup. Uncle Honus here again to share some more concert etiquette you never knew you never wanted and will probably end up disregarding entirely. Today’s delightful topic: Talking!

Mouths. They are incredible, moist things. (Yes, “moist” is one of those words, like “panties” or “blog, that make collective skins crawl.) With them we are able to breath, eat, kiss, spin incredible oral traditions, have sleep apnea and, of course, be annoying at shows.

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of the show etiquette “no-no’s” that I’ve encountered during my more than two months in the indie rock “biz.” If I’ve left anything out, (fellow music players) let me know.

DON’T…blab during the quiet, pensive jams.

It happens. People communicate. It’s part of being a human — a truly glorious thing. At a concert, it’s not so good, Al. Especially when a band is trying to play a mellow, tugging-at-the-heartstrings ballad that relies on a delicate ballet of musicality, silence and all that is spoken but still unspoken. Things that will demolish that delicate ballet include: a conversation about the incredible Phở that you had last night in the weird twenty-four-hour popup in the broom closet of a creepy bodega in Little Tokyo; whether or not Aaron’s long ball problem is legitimately a medical issue or just inconvenient for the both of you; whether or not the cut of your jib is seafaring enough for the barista position you’re applying for, etc.


Most live venues are designed with a certain quality of sound in mind. Or they should be. Makes sense, right? You wanna be able to nuzzle in a back corner of a venue with your significant udder and still feel that “Look Good in Leather” sweetness washing over you from one hundred feet away. I feel you, son. I want you to experience that, too. Guess what? It works both ways. The room that was designed to guide those tunes into your ear also pushes your mouth volume forward. Mouth Volume. (Great band. Saw them play a drainage ditch behind a 7-11 in Reno during a thunderstorm. Lies. Go start that band.)

Solution? There is no solution. As long as audience members possess tongues and the need to move them about in their mouths, there is no hope. Have I ever been at a show and gotten bored and felt the need to talk to my friend who was also bored and attending the boring show? Sure as pepper I have! Guess what happened? We left the show. Or we went to the bar in the other room and talked there. Unless, I am ashamed to admit, I was a drunken twenty-something and trying to be a real jerk and vibe out the band. Jeepers! I’m human!

Don’t…for the love of DOG (the divine, all-mighty, all-seeing, all-loving Dog, not the bounty hunter), yell “Free Bird.”

Actually this one doesn’t bother me that much BECAUSE IT’S SO FUCKING STUPID, but I know it does draw the ire of many a musician out there. I mean, I really can’t believe that this is still a thing. Writer Jason Fry, years ago, tried to track down the origins of the battle cry for the Wall Street Journal. But who cares?


Here’s my take on it: I don’t get bummed at the request; instead, I get down on myself for not knowing how to rock the southern stomp effectively. It would be the absolute best to hijack your own show with a nine-minute Skynyrd cover. Not only would it throw all your fans for a loop and take EVERYBODY out of the moment, it would be the perfect punishment for whatever drunken meathead screamed the request into his poor neighbor’s ear. Wouldn’t that be something? “Free Bird”-rolled.

Wait a minute. What the fuck am I talking about? That’s the worst idea ever.

Don’t…try to dictate the band’s set list by screaming from the back of the room like a Fireball-infused banshee.

Trust me, the band heard you. Loud and clear. If the song you want is the band’s huge radio hit or single and it’s the reason you plopped down money for a ticket (and all the drinks), then, yes, they should play the fucking hit — and most likely will.

But if the song you desire so deeply is a super obscure cut that they’ve never played live, then please realize that no amount of shrieking on your end will summon the kraken. Additionally, if the band is on the smaller scale and supporting a NEW album, they probably have a pretty locked-in set list for that tour. Sure, bands do swap out songs here and there, but they’re probably still working out the kinks.

Or, inversely, they love the flow of what they’re playing, and even if it’s roughly the same set list every night, the energy and performance will always be different song to song, night to night. Like a staged theatrical performance. One bass player’s pre-show burrito, one drummer’s ingrown toenail, one newly dumped guitar player’s energy could set the tone for the entire evening’s performance. That’s what makes live concerts fun and unpredictable. You never know how they’ll go, what you’ll get, etc. Some bands also take into consideration the ebb and flow of set lists and how certain tunes juxtapose perfectly against each other. Throwing an obscure “suck the energy out of the room” ballad into the thick of cocaine-tempo party jams can really snuff the momentum, ya dig? Or vice versa.

That said, if a band is taking requests then, by all means, scream your lollipop off. I’ve never been to a Phish show (yes, I’d go if somebody asked me to), but they seem like the kind of nice dudes that are receptive to that kind of participation. My friend Jamie Buffalo Stance once worked as a runner (the guy who drives bands around, grabs rider stuff, does random legwork) and managed to get a look at the list of songs Phish could play on any given night. There were hundreds of songs listed in teeny-tiny font. BUT most bands don’t have that many songs and don’t play three-hour tantric sets.

Verdict: there are only so many songs your average non-Phish can squeeze in. If they don’t play the song you love even after you’ve drunkenly demanded it one hundred times — harshing out everyone around you in the meantime — maybe they’ll play it someday. It’s not that they don’t love you. They’re touring, and touring can be pretty rough on the soul (whatever that is). They love you. They appreciate your show of support. They want to play all their sad, emotionally draining ballads for you. Now, shut the fuck up.

(Mouth image credit: Marcus Quigmire, cat image credit: Anssi Koskinen, header art: Dan Schmatz)

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 FacebookInstagram and Twitter. (photo credit: Mike Gerry)