Don't Go There: Rules of the Road

Shut up and sing!

The first in a series of posts in which we provide bands with a laundry list of things they should never, ever do at a concert.

1. Do not talk to the audience before the first song.
The lights go down, a cheer goes up, we are ready to rock. Don't ruin the moment by blabbering before rocking. There will be plenty of time for small talk during the show.

Exception: A simple "Good evening" is fine. That's just being polite. And, of course: "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash." (Only, you can't do that unless you're actually Johnny Cash. And you're not. So just ... don't.)

2. Do not open with the first song from your most recent album.
We know you like that song as an opener - otherwise you wouldn't have put it at the beginning of the album. But this isn't the album. We're paying money for a different experience. (Well, some people are, anyway. We're actually on the list +1.) Still: Don't be so predictable. Also, some of us with unhealthy gambling habits like to bet on what the first song of the set will be and "first song off most recent" album is such a cop-out pick that even if we win, it feels like dirty money.

Exception: If you're an opening act, this is more acceptable. There's more of a need to put your best foot forward to win over a crowd that's not there to see you, so go with what works.

By David Malitz |  May 16, 2008; 10:55 AM ET Lists , Randomness , Rules Of The Road
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Worst violator of rule #1 I ever saw was Lavender Diamond, opening for the Decemberists. I think the lead singer babbled incessantly for about 15 minutes before playing the first song, and another 5 minutes between each song.

Posted by: Adam | May 16, 2008 12:42 PM

Seeing that the audience will be talking thoughout the performer's set, even the Beatles at Nissan, small talk before the first song may be the artist's only chance to interject before audience chit chat begins. God knows, Emily's upcoming enema is more important than listening to the ghost of John Lennon. Also, if as Lefsetz and all the kids on the internet say the album is done, a thing of the past, then playing the first song shouldn't matter to people who listed to music on shuffle.

Posted by: Self Congratulatory Hipster | May 16, 2008 12:44 PM

Agreed, Adam. I ended up going to both Decemberists shows at 9:30, and the worst part was that Lavender Diamond singer (although a cutie) had the exact same incessant babble at both shows! At least mix it up a bit!

Also, I think the Decemberists opened with Crane Wife 3. Hrmmm....

Posted by: shf | May 16, 2008 1:27 PM

Easy there, shf ... don't want to give away any more of our forthcoming rules!

Posted by: David | May 16, 2008 1:42 PM

My favorite opening was years ago at Chastain Park, an outdoor venue in Atlanta where the audience chit-chats more than it should. At the appointed hour, without lights down or announcement, Willie Nelson welked up to the microphone and started playing. We knew who we'd come to see, so we didn't need any over-the-top intro or light show. Willie and band owned the stage from that point and orchestrated a fine concert.

Posted by: bowman | May 16, 2008 1:58 PM

I have always believed an opening act should follow these rules:

1) don't talk to the audience, exception being an occasional thank you if audience applauds
2) play the fastest/hardest songs in your catalog
3) keep breaks between songs to absolute minimum

For the most parts, opening acts are not there to be heard, but to be endured. Don't give the audience a chance to tune you out. Get them by the throat and don't let go.

Posted by: handsome_john_pruitt | May 16, 2008 3:07 PM

A few little thing: discuss sound and lighting with the guys at the boards more than 30 seconds before you go on.

If a band doesn't give some warning that they want the stage very dark so they can use their own lighting then they shouldn't get huffy when it takes a moment for it to happen.

Also, don't say "I need more X in my monitor" after every song. If the sound guy didn't hear you the first two times, you're just not going to get more guitar in your monitor that night.

Posted by: MN | May 20, 2008 10:00 AM

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