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The Packed Bowl

Paul Wellman

The Packed Bowl


Middle-Aged Concert-Goers Behaving Badly

You’re Old Enough to Know Better


Last Saturday, I had the privilege of enjoying yet another show at the beautiful Santa Barbara Bowl. What an incredible venue, and how lucky we are to have it right here in our community.

That being said, having recently attended a number of concerts at the Bowl, I feel compelled to make some comment on Bowl concert-goers behaving badly.

Let’s start with showing up late. Generally speaking, when the opening act starts, fewer than half the seats in the Bowl are filled. This seems to apply to any opening act, regardless of its stature (e.g. Joe Cocker or Taj Mahal). That means that about half the people who come to concerts arrive during the opening act-walking across, over, or in front of those who showed up on time. You know: stepping on their feet, kicking over their beer, spilling their little tray of food from the concession counter. Late arrivers, does someone really have to point out to you that this is rude behavior? Okay, I will: It is inconsiderate of those who came on time, wanting to see the show; and it is disrespectful of the performers. I am sorry to be the first to inform you that you are not more important than anyone else. You are merely rude.

Next, let’s discuss when to sit and when to stand. When the rest of the audience is seated and the performer is playing, let’s say, a soft ballad, that is time to sit. When the performers play a rowdy number and ask the crowd to get up on their feet, that is time to stand. When everyone else is sitting, that is not time to stand. Neither is it time to dance in the bleachers, dance and neck, wave your arms in the air, dance in the aisle, or in any other way block the view of other people. By the way, when other people point out to you that you are blocking their view and politely ask you to resume your seat, “F**k off” is not an appropriate response.

A couple of other bad behaviors deserve mention. One is partying. The Bowl sells beer and wine, and even lets you drink it in your seat. That is a nice convenience and very pleasant. Party on! The Bowl does not, however, allow you to bring pot, cigarettes, or other combustibles to your seat to smoke as though you were in your own living room. Smoking is not your inalienable right. It can be offensive to those around you-correction, it is offensive.

Another bad behavior: Sex. Go get a room! Enough said.

Lastly, if you are not feeling well at a concert, please go home. Don’t wait until you vomit, then sit there for another hour keeping us all in suspense about whether and when the next eruption will occur.

Let me qualify all of the above by saying that if I were at, say, a Scorpions concert, and you were, say, 17 years old, okay, I guess these bad behaviors come with the territory. It is to be expected that you are immature, and your selfish arrogance is something we all hope you will survive and outgrow. You can’t party or have sex or even vomit with impunity in your parents’ house, so the Bowl becomes your own public living room, and you and your peers come to have a good time. I guess this is a necessary evil of our society as it is currently structured.

But to the middle-aged men and women at the Bonnie Raitt concert who repeatedly stood up and waved your flabby arms in the air in front of other people, even after the ushers and security staff had repeatedly asked you to sit down; and who fired up that doobie not once, or twice, or even six times, but repeatedly every few minutes during the entire show; and made out while “dancing” all night long; and who got belligerent with the people sitting around you-let me say for the other several thousand of us who came to the Bowl to see Tal Mahal and Bonnie Raitt, and not to witness your festival of self-absorption: Next time, please stay at home.

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