Live Music + Bar Etiquette

When it comes to behavior at a bar, most of it goes without saying. Bars that host live music have the same expectations, and then some. It’s all about reading the situation and behaving accordingly.

Speaking from personal experience as both an attendee and a musician, I’ve found there are a few things to keep in mind when enjoying live music at a bar or festival.

Yelling “Free Bird” Isn’t Actually Funny

This signature Lynyrd Skynyrd song never fails to be requested of any cover band, ever. There’s always a jokester in the crowd who thinks it’s the first time anyone’s ever heard it. I don’t think anyone has ever been granted this request, so I will provide enthusiastic applause to whoever can pull it off.

Whose Birthday Is It?

I might sound like an old grump when I say this (even though I’m a nicely seasoned 23), but it’s a little irritating when some drunk woman comes up to the band in between songs and asks the group to sing “Happy Birthday” to her even more intoxicated friend. Chances are that people in the crowd would rather just move on with the show. If you must make this request, I recommend asking the band ahead of time so they have a moment to prepare.

Wait Until the Song Is Finished

Don’t approach the band until the song is completely over, even if you’re approaching to give praise. Sure, musicians tend to be great at multitasking, but what they’re doing requires focus. Even the slightest interruption is bound to mess up the flow of a song.

There’s a Stage for a Reason

On a similar note, do not enter the band’s personal space. Whether it’s a literal stage or a figurative stage, it’s there to separate the performer from the listener. I once had a stranger try to share the mic with me in the middle of a song. As if that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, the person began dancing dangerously close for the remainder of the song. I wouldn’t want to be in that situation whether I was holding an instrument or not. It might be funny to your friends, but it’s probably just embarrassing for the rest of us.

Do Tip the Band

You never know if the musicians are playing solely for tips or if music is their full-time job. Regardless, tipping the band is always a nice thing to do. These talented people have put in many hours of practice and hauled all of their equipment to the venue, and they work hard to put on a good performance.

Do Tip the Bartenders

Like any other night at the bar, tip your bartenders. Live music shows can bring in large crowds, so they’re working extra hard to make it a good night for everyone.

Do Sing Along, Clap and Dance

If you’re having a good time, don’t be afraid to show it! Most bands work off the crowd’s energy and love to see feedback. If you’re too afraid to dance because you’re the first one, throw back the rest of that beer, grab a friend and hit the dance floor. Chances are you’ll encourage others to follow suit. These are the shows that are the most memorable for you and the band, so make it one to remember!