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“Take Off Your Shirt!”: Rethinking Boundaries of Concert Attendees

When I go to concerts, I always end up next to really annoying people. At first, I thought it was just me having bad luck or that I like artists that tend to have younger fanbases. While both of these things might have a role in it, I think a lot of it is a lot of people having absolutely no respect for musicians/ artists/ celebrities as people. When I attended the Mitski show at the Ritz Raleigh, the people standing next to me were hellbent on being comedians, although it just came off as extremely disrespectful. 

Mitski, a carefully private and composed person, who has expressed many times that her fans don’t know her, has tried to draw clear boundaries between her as a person and as a performer (in both her art and in interviews). And yet, as she gracefully performed every choreographed movement in animated and exaggerated forms, the people next to me laughed, yelled and willfully misinterpreted the artistic moves she was making.  During certain songs, Mitski would collapse to her knees, lie on the ground, or otherwise make herself completely vulnerable; in response my concert neighbors would yell things like “Get up Mitski!” or “What is she doing right now?!” These two people were blatantly ignoring all of the vulnerability she was offering and cringing at it, mentally closing themselves off from what she had to offer them. 

When going to shows, I feel it’s important to recognize the artist’s comfortability with the audience, and truly contemplate whether your actions draw some sort of false familiarity between you and the performer(s). Last September when I attended the Phoebe Bridgers show, again there were people completely unaware of how disrespectful they were being, and Bridgers is a lot more comfortable with that kind of stuff. From signs that read “Hey mommy!” to hooting and hollering during “Punisher,” a song notably about deceased Elliott Smith, most people there seemed to think that somehow they were entitled to friendship with her. Think about how utterly dehumanizing it must be to want to share art about some of the most intimate parts of yourself, and to be made a laughing stock. 

I understand why and how it happens; people relate to the music that an artist makes and feel like the artist knows and understands them. In turn, this leads to people thinking that because they feel understood, they must also understand the artist. While in some cases this could true, for Mitski it ultimately isn’t. It’s embarrassing to witness. 

Phoebe Bridgers is not your “bestie,” she doesn’t know you. Just enjoy the music, dance with your friends, take pictures and let loose.

– Caitlin

By Caitlin

Howdy, I'm Caitlin and I'm currently a junior in Communication Media. My favorite genres of music are pop and indie-rock, though I dabble in most genres. Hope you enjoy my content!