It’s not the crowd that’s the problem, it’s you

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      Mitski leaps to and fro across the stage of Deer Lake Park. The sun is setting on a cool summer night, and her infamous door looms as a backdrop to the acrobatic performance she somehow manages, even while belting out hauntingly cryptic lyrics. As the colours shift on stage, so too do they in the tiny rectangles of the hundreds of phones held aloft to record the artist’s every move. It looks as though about one in three zoomers have been holding their phone skyward for the past hour. You see all this, the endless sea of screens, and you think: what is wrong with this crowd?

      The National is finishing up its set. It’s a cold, rainy night at the PNE Amphitheatre, and the audience is a perfect reflection of the dreary clouds overhead. Black and grey coats sway together listlessly as the steady thrum of the band launches into the final song. A rogue teen tries to sing along off-tune, but is quickly silenced by the glares of those who surround him. You see all this, feeling as though any sudden movement would be cause for arrest, and you think: what is wrong with this crowd?

      The Airborne Toxic Event is midway through its set at the Commodore Ballroom. There’s an electricity in the air, and as the band launches into a high-energy rendition of “All I Ever Wanted,” a few bold folks at the front of the crowd put up their arms, bend their knees, and bounce enthusiastically to the beat of the lovelorn ballad. The vast majority of the room, however, merely nods along, a slight tilt of the head the only acknowledgement of the emotion blasting out before them. You see all this, amazed that cool stoicism has outweighed the joys of dancing, and you think: what is wrong with this crowd?

      Taylor Swift just took to the stage. You’re high up in the nosebleeds of a sold-out American stadium, so high up that you can barely make out the pinprick of colour that is the artist herself. Thankfully, there’s a huge screen capturing her every move, and that’s where all eyes at this level of stratosphere are staring. The roar from below is enough to rupture an eardrum, and as the biggest artist of a generation launches into the first song, her amplified voice is drowned out by the enthusiastic karaoke of 50,000+ voices all singing, screaming, screeching in unison. You see all this, shocked that you paid thousands of dollars just to hear the teens beside you scream their lungs out, and you think: what is wrong with this crowd?

      Leith Ross is playing at the Hollywood Theatre as part of their first-ever tour. It’s actually the very day that their new album, To Learn, has come out, and the mood is joyous—so much so that members of the crowd have been shouting, in the interim between songs, statements like “We love you Leith!” to which the performer bashfully thanks them. You see all this, the uninhibited yells from the audience, and you think: what is wrong with this crowd?

      PUP has been absolutely bringing down the house at the Vogue Theatre. There are mosh pits, crowd surfing, a frenetic cacophony of sweat and chaos. People are pushing and shoving their way into the pit, their way to the front, their way to the bar. Any sense of personal space is gone when you’re in proximity to the stage. You see all this, the reckless abandon and flying elbows, and you think: what is wrong with this crowd?

      …You get where we’re going with this. Great artists draw crowds of all ages and attitudes. What is suitable for one show might be wildly inappropriate at another (even if most are, we’ll admit, generally sad indie rock). Obviously don’t try to start a mosh pit at The National, and don’t expect respectful silence at a PUP show.

      Sure, the line gets a little blurry somewhere in between, and there are always going to be some people behaving “badly” at shows; but to pin the onus of that behaviour on an entire demographic, generation, or genre, especially if you’re actually the odd one out, is to miss the point entirely of why different musical stylings and performance experiences exist.

      And, lastly, Phoebe Bridgers is standing centre stage at the Orpheum. They’re seated tickets, but the entire audience is on its feet. As she speaks into her microphone between songs, Bridgers commands the undivided attention of every soul in the room. That is, every soul that is not somehow still waiting in the seemingly infinite merch lineup, which snakes its way up three levels of stairs on one end and nearly out the northward exit doors on the other. You see this as you step out to the washroom to get some air, and you think: oh shit. Guess I’d better get in line.