There was quite a missive from Nancy Kapsner in this week’s guest editorial section of the Morrison County Record. Ms. Kapsner was bemoaning the poor etiquette displayed at a recent live performance of “The Secret Garden” in Little Falls. She went on to explain proper etiquette at live performances, including turning off cell phones, corralling young children, keeping talking to a minimum, remaining in your seats through the performance, and not booing or clapping inappropriately. She wrapped up her letter by saying, “And if, after reading this, you still refuse to behave appropriately, do the rest of us a favor: stay home.”

Bravo! [Picture this fish standing and clapping in agreement.]

Ms. Kapsner surmises in her letter that people may not be following proper etiquette at performances because “it is quite possible no one has ever told our community members about arts etiquette and what is expected of patrons at live performances.” I don’t think ignorance is the reason for poor behavior at live performances. Allow me to illustrate with an example from my life.

A couple of years ago, I attended a concert at the Target Center in Minneapolis. A very popular band was playing. While sitting . . . well, no, I was forced to stand the whole time in order to see . . . I watched people around me coming and going at will, calling each other in the arena on their cell phones, taking pictures with their cell phones, standing so that those behind could not see, and yelling inappropriately. As this was a rock concert, I fully expected screaming and yelling between the songs. What I did not expect was to have a young woman standing two rows behind screaming through every song. Literally. She screamed so that no one could hear the music – quite a feat in a stadium with massive speakers. A family consisting of Mom, Dad, and three young boys got up and left because of this behavior. The mother had asked the woman to stop and the woman retorted, “It’s a concert. What do you expect?” and kept screaming. She was asked to stop by Target Center security – to no avail. Her racket finally quit when she lost her voice.

The point of the story is that young people expect to be able to engage in the behaviors Ms. Kapsner advises against in her editorial. They don’t think a live performance is successful unless they are actively taking part and disrupting things. Bands in giant arenas encourage this sort of behavior because they feed off the energy.

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve spent $60+ on a ticket, I actually want to hear the band I came to hear, not some screaming idiot. Multiply that $60 by all the other ticket holders who had the concert ruined, and you can see that poor etiquette is not only an issue of respect, it is one that has financial implications.

Frankly, if I were in a band, I would be hoping for rapt silence at my performances – people so entranced by what I was doing that they would be afraid to sneeze or cough for fear of missing something. I’ve had the pleasure of attending concerts like this, so I know it can happen.

Until we can convince people that concerts are not supposed to be as wildly interactive as the internet, I’m afraid we’re in for quite a few disrupted performances. I just wish the screamers would take Ms. Kapsner’s advice and stay home. They can scream at their television sets all they want and I’ll be none the wiser.

Still a steamed fish after all this time,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

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