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Audience Participation
Steve Cook
Columnist

As a card-carrying member of the order of Jesters, Dreamers, and Thieves, I have taken it upon myself to sail uncharted waters, journey through the roughest terrain (no- not Pine Bluff), and fly across this great land to entertain the masses. The masses may be music lovers, curious bystanders, or pickpockets looking to score, but all are in need of a diversion from life. My job is very simple. Play my ass of for a few hours, and hope a couple of people have smiled. Now, have you ever thought about your job in this scenario? Probably not. Do you know your role as an audience member? You may think you pay a few bucks to get in(or sweet-talk the bouncer), and that's where it ends. Well, have we got a job for you. If you didn't get your W-2, that's OK. I'll pay you under the table, but you have to follow a few rules.

You probably didn't even realize you had a job as a listener of music. You were hired as soon as you walked in to see your favorite (or not-so-favorite) band. You are backbone of the music industry (whether you like it or not), and aside from the creative satisfaction of performing their own music, you are the biggest reason that bands tour. How silly would the Backstreet Boys look if they performed for nobody? (How silly do they look now?) Granted, bands need your cover charge to put gas in the van and eat the next day, but even if a band plays for free in front of a great crowd, it's worth every minute. (Case in point-ask me how much we were paid to play at Woodstock '99-I'll give you a hint. It rhymes with zero). What makes those crowds so special is the behavior and actions of the listeners. I was the last person in class to follow directions, and always had trouble coloring within the lines, but I can offer some things to think about next time you see a show. There are exceptions to every rule, but I would like to go over a few 'guidelines' to make the shows the best they can be for all involved.

RESPECT- Yes, Aretha sang it, and I'm saying it again. You must respect yourself, the band, the venue, and especially people around you. Don't start a mosh pit at a Celene Dion show (what are you doing at a Celene Dion show anyways)? Don't throw beer cans at the band, and be cool. That's all I ask.

DON'T BE THAT GUY- you know the one. He's drunk before the band even goes on, and yelling "Freebird!" at the top of his lungs. Let me go ahead and say this once and for all. It's not funny, it's old and clichéd, and it's not going to make you look any cooler by yelling.

SITTING IN- If you are a musician checking out a local band. Enjoy the band, but don't walk up to them in the middle of a song and tell them how great you are, or that your cousin in the audience and wants to play. Wait until the set is over, and then approach the band, but they'll ask you if you want to play. If they don't ask, don't get mad- it's their show. If a band does let you sit in, be gracious, and return the favor if they come see you play.

AWARENESS OF MUSIC- One time (in band camp), we were doing a show in Tuscaloosa, AL, and walked down the street to see Col. Bruce Hampton perform. This young co-ed walked to the front and asked him to play "Centerfold" by the J.Giels Band. Give me a friggin break. Another time we were performing and a girl walked right on stage and started walking around the stage as if she were looking for something. Mid-song I asked her what she needed, and she told me she was looking for the karaoke book to pick out a song to sing. She had no idea what was going on….Let me tell everybody something - an original band probably won't play "Brown-Eyed Girl", "Brick House", or anything by Creed, so don't ask. (Unless you are really hot or throwing around a lot of cash, then we can always work something out).

BE NICE- Nothing ruins a show (on any level) faster than a fight. It's unsafe, uncool, and doesn't make it all better. Keep all your troubles outside, and if there's somebody that has spilled your beer or stepped on your toes, just walk away. We have bigger things in this world to worry about. If you really feel the need to let off steam, go sign up for the Army and get to Iraq on the next flight. It would suck to be thrown out of a club and not get your money back.

GET OUT THAT CHECKBOOK-Gas is expensive. Hotel rooms, guitar strings, tolls, and luxuries like food all cost a band plenty when they are on the road. Why not help them out and buy a CD or a shirt? For the price of two beers you can take home a momento of the great night you had out with your friends. That 10 bucks will go further for that band than for you, I assure you, so help them out.

TELL THEM HOW YOU FEEL- Bands love to talk to fans (at least ours does). If a band has moved you in any way, tell them. The band is a long way from home, and often needs reassurance to let them know that what they are doing is a good thing. We can play for 10,000 people, but if one person tells me they liked what we did, then my job is done. Then yours is, too. (Almost).

SPREAD THE WORD- It may sound silly, but if you like a band, tell your friends. Go to their website. Go see them again. Bands don't always become famous overnight. Wouldn't you like to be able to say you were there when? You might even make a friend or two in the process.

Those rules weren't so very painful were they? Again, there are exceptions to every rule, and you may adjust accordingly. Follow even one or two (but preferably all) of these simple steps, and you'll be rockin like Dokken at the next show you go see. Thanks for listening.

Are we right? What do you think? USE YOUR VOICE!




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