Smile Politely

Etiquette lessons at a punk show

I showed up around 8:30, when the doors first opened. There was a small crowd then, but a good-sized crowd by 9:30, when Roberta Sparrow began getting instruments tuned onstage.

Lesson #1: Come for the opening group, especially if they’re local.

They’re fans of the same music you are, obviously, because they chose to open for these guys. They’re local, and it’s good to support local music and it’s great to discover someone awesome before they’re huge. Make it out a half hour early and give them a listen; you’ll (often) be glad you did.

Lesson #2: Be careful how you phrase questions to the band.

Justin Scofield, on lead guitar, was kind enough to share the set list with me ahead of time, where I promptly blurted out, “Not too much from your old CD, right?” He laughed graciously, nodding and saying that all but one were from the new CD (out in early summer at a local record store near you … if you’re in Urbana Champaign). However, I realized after what a tool I was. If you like the band, trust them. They might not play exactly what you want in exactly the order you want it, but you like the band, you’re getting to see them live, and they’re choosing their playlist. Don’t be a tool.

Scofield left to join his bandmates on stage, and they were soon enthusiastically rocking out. They started with my personal favorite, which is played often on 88.7, “In for a Penny,” and followed up with a track from their previous EP, called “Dinosaurs Are Real.” Check out their songs on their MySpace page. Throughout their set list, they played to a pretty quiet crowd, who nonetheless seemed appreciative after each song, clapping and sometimes (as in my case) singing along. Listening to Greg Jaeger belt out the lyrics to each song made me realize that their new CD title came from my favorite song, and by the fifth song in their set, “Sacrifice Your Life,” the crowd was definitely moving along with them. One of their final songs, “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong,” was an Against Me! cover, fitting for The Tossers concert. Lyrics such as, “And just like James, I’ll be drinking Irish tonight,” were a fitting introduction to The Tossers, as well as a fantastic performance, getting a fairly quiet and quickly growing crowd ready for The Tossers to come onstage.

By the time The Tossers came on, the crowd had swelled yet again.

Starting the show off with “Good Mornin,’ Da,” you could tell the show was full of Tossers fans, as everyone began yelling along, with the crowd beginning to move, as the energy grew exponentially within the crowd.

Lesson #3: If you’re in the front of a punk show, keep an eye behind you, and don’t get mad when you get pushed around.

That’s how it goes. People shove, people push, people jump around. There wasn’t a huge crowd movement at The Tossers show, all told, but there was a decent movement going on. When people fell, they were immediately pulled back up. When others got knocked down, people made sure they were okay. Don’t get pissed because people are shoving around; if you don’t want that, go further back. That’s just how it goes at these shows. Keep an eye out — no one wants you to get hurt.

The Tossers played a good amount of songs, moving on to “Siobhan,” a good foot stomping bar tune, as well as “The Rocky Road to Dublin,” which is a good showcase for Rebecca Manthe on the violin, who throughout the night, consistently kept the music flowing with the fantastic violin instrumentals. She and Aaron Duggins were a lot of fun to watch, as her violin and his tin whistle paired well, throughout the selections, and A. Duggins’ dancing and enthusiasm was a lot of fun. They played “Irish Rover,” which led well into “Dirty Old Town,” a Pogue’s song, which is excellent with Tony Duggins’ gravelly vocals, which leads me into…

Lesson #4: Be careful requesting songs/giving orders.

This goes well with Lesson #2, in that it’s important to not come across as a jerk. Guy next to me in the front of the concert began very smooth, telling Duggins that The Tossers have so many good songs, they don’t need to do covers. Duggins was appreciative, clinking a glass. The second and third time the guy said it though, made it become more of an order (no more covers, man!).

Don’t be this guy. One of my best memories of Elsinore is their cover of “The District Sleeps Alone.” Yes, they have good songs, but when a group does a cover, they do it on purpose. Roberta Sparrow did Against Me! because they’re a great punk band, they covered them for the Great Coverup, and it was a good lead-in song for The Tossers. The Tossers played “Dirty Old Town” because it’s a great song, classic Irish, and a good showcase for some of the members of the band (particularly with vocals.) It also fit the spot perfectly. No group is going to put their set in the exact order you want it to be. If you want that, sit at home and listen to a mix tape.

They played a number of fantastic songs, including “Katie at the Races,” “Madrin Rua/Tell Me Ma,” and “Aye Sir” (which everyone was again shouting and jumping along to), and finished off with the commendable choice of “The Parting Glass.” Listening to Manthe’s beautiful violin accompany the bittersweet lyrics ably delivered by Duggins was a moving experience that perfectly ended the good evening.

Lesson #5: Don’t steal things from the stage without asking.

Duggins had to grab a sheet back from an onlooker who took his playlist during the set. On the other hand, after it was all done, I asked if I could have the guitarist’s sheet, and was given permission, which is good, as it would’ve been hard to remember all the titles in order without it. Altogether, their set was about 20 songs, with dancing and drinking throughout.

Lesson #6: Buy beer for a band before they play, and hard liquor after.

I mean, c’mon, it’s only polite, especially for such a great night. If you get the chance to see either Roberta Sparrow or The Tossers, bear this in mind. I don’t think either of them would mind more people buying them a shot, and trust me, they’re worth it.

All photos by Scott Weber

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