Author: McNeal, Brian

Festival Behavior

Just recently I entered into a debate about a certain behavior, by only a few currently, but growing rapidly, and occurring at festivals all over. That is the dancers who appear at festivals all over the country. These dancers like to get as close as possible to the stage and the musicians as if it allows them to dance better or somehow enjoy the experience more than those who don't dance.

The problem for many is that the dancers then block the view of many of the seated fans and the issue of whose rights out-weigh the others becomes the debate.

Problems develop too for the dancers. The environment is aggressive at it's mildest and injurious to the point of death in some well documented cases. The correct term for this behavior is called “Moshing” or entering into the “Mosh Pit”. Moshing is a style of dance defined as when participants push or slam into each other by design.

We asked the Bluegrass Police about this and they said it was a matter for the solemn 'ol Judge. The High Court of Hillbilly and Mountain Music is currently debating the basic questions before them, which are:

Do dancers have the right to dance?
Do non-dancers have the right to sit in their seat and enjoy the show?
Does the price of admission grant more rights to some than to others?

No word yet as to when we might expect a ruling on the matter.

We've been to some festivals where clear rules about public behavior are posted in the program guide and occasionally announced from the stage. And we've been to other festivals where it appears as if just about anything goes and if there is a rule against something, the offender doesn't know it until the rule has already been broken and the Bluegrass Police show up.

It would appear that the things we should have learned in Bluegrass Kindergarten are still necessary to be refreshed from time to time.

If you've never been to a festival, how would you know what will be expected of you? And if you've been to several already, maybe a refresher is still a good idea.

Here's the list of “Festival Kindergarten Rules”:

Hold hands

Wait your turn

Don't crowd

Keep quiet

Talk in whispers

Stay in your seat

Use the aisles when you move about

Clap after every song, don't boo or hiss, whistle or shout

Don't holler at the band from your seat unless they specifically asked for requests

Drink or smoke only in the proper places

Don't unpack your instrument in the audience area and begin to “jam with the band”

We paid to hear the band – don't sing even if you think you know ALL the words

Be polite to your neighbors and don't block their view

If you must have a shade over your chair, sit at the back of the audience

Big hats – sit at the back or remove your hat

Even with a camera, you're not any more privileged than others – take your picture and then move on

Set your phone to vibrate. Don't answer or place calls on your cell phone from your seat. Move away from the audience area

Pick up your trash and anything left behind by your neighbors

Don't haggle with vendors, it's not a swap-meet

Don't let your kids or dogs run loose. Bluegrass Festivals are great family events but they aren't McDonald's and the audience area is not a playground for kick-ball, Frisbees, Hoola-Hoops or any other disturbance. (Note: Retractable dog leashes are worthless in a crowd – reel 'em in)

If you don't like a band, don't tell everyone – do something else for a while

Don't stake out front row real estate early in the morning if you don't plan on being there until the afternoon. Having a class AAA motorhome and the luxury of arriving on Wednesday for a weekend festival doesn't give you more rights than the guy who works all day Friday and drives all night to get there for Saturday only to find the first 25 rows filled with empty chairs. Empty chairs in the front rows are an insult to every band that must play for them

If someone is sitting in your chair after you've left it empty, let them finish the current act before you request your seat back. In other words, don't make a scene while the band is on stage

If you're leaving before the show is finished, move your chairs to the outside of the audience area and then pack them away. Don't stand in front of the crowd while you get your stuff together. If you have more to carry than one load, take several trips with less important items during breaks between bands

If your toes start tapping and you've just gotta dance, move to the side of the stage area – or to the area designated for dancing

Here's hoping that whatever side of the dance-line you want to be on, all your festival experiences will be safe and memorable.

Have a great bluegrass day!
Posted:  7/29/2012

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