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I have some experience with concerts (mostly heavy-metal ones, but pretty sure it's the same for any genre).

And every time some people try get to the front rows either by just walking as they have a spot booked for them, or standing next to me and getting closer and closer to me and kind of crowding me out.

I consider myself a polite person, so I don't like to push shoulders with others. And I don't try to sneak past somebody who's in front of me as I understand it's their right, they came here first.

So sometimes I end up few steps back after few hours of the concert.

Two questions:

  1. Is this considered acceptable concert etiquette, to sneak past people and crowd others out?

  2. How can I communicate to people to stop pushing past me and crowding me out?

I assume it's always possible to be rude and behave like those "sneakers", but that would bring me discomfort.

  • 3
    So you do not talk about the dangerous pressure the mass behind built on the first rows? You think about people who push in or jump the queue? – Allerleirauh Nov 22 '19 at 8:09
  • i'm not saying about the queue to enter the concert. I'm talking about people who are already in the fan zone (closest to the stage). In my experience front rows never get that big pressure, so it never actually gets dangerous – randomGuy Nov 22 '19 at 13:49
  • Have you tried to ask those people to not do that? If no, why not? If yes, how did you do it and how did it turned out? – Ælis Nov 22 '19 at 19:12
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I feel I've had quite extensive experience of going to concerts and festivals. My first was 1992, my most recent was 2018, and that includes large festivals, medium-sized venues that hold a few thousand, and smaller, more intimate venues of perhaps 200 capacity.

In my experience, I've observed that people go to concerts with different goals and expectations. The front row is usually people who want to intensely listen, watch, and hang on every bit of stage banter. The back row just want to be near the bar, drink, and enjoy the show vicariously. The middle section is a mix of people, but among them are those 'sneakers' you mentioned - those who want to be at the front row, but arrived late, so try to push in - and also a few who want what both the front and back row have, so constantly flit between the two. After a few drinks at the back, this latter group suddenly decide that the front row look like they are having all the fun, and now they want to be part of it. The problem is that those on the front row believe they have the right to be there because they planned to be there - they arrived at the venue crazy early, waited in line for hours, and then made a dash to claim their position at the front. So when those annoying middle people suddenly come bouncing in with their half-full plastic beer glass sloshing around, it all seems very unfair.

This may sound like I don't sympathise - this isn't true at all, in fact, I'm very much a front-rower myself and find it just as annoying. The trouble is, there is no such thing as "concert etiquette". There are just too many different kinds of people at a concert with different aims to be governed by a single set of unspoken rules. You can't expect someone whose purpose is to drink and dance to respect the space of someone who wants to stand statically and listen. And as for the 'sneakers' - well, they paid the same ticket price as you, might be just as big of a fan as you, but perhaps their personal circumstances and family/work commitments didn't allow them to queue up for hours like you. In their mind, they are just as entitled to the front row as anybody else.

I'm glad you asked how to communicate with such people rather than ask what you can say - in a noisy concert you are not going to be able to verbally communicate much. In fact, you will be lucky to make eye contact with anybody. You will have to send the message that you are not prepared to move by other means.

In my experience, the drunken dancers will quickly move on if you just hang onto the crowd-control barrier and don't budge. Their attempts to get to the front are opportunistic, and if they aren't given the opportunity, they won't persist. Once they realise their drink has been sloshed everywhere they will return to the bar.

The 'sneakers' (I do like that expression, I'm going to use it from now on) are like a shadow though - they'll hang behind you waiting for you to give them an inch, then they'll take a yard. Again, just don't budge. This sends the message that you are keeping your place and are not prepared to give it up. Sooner or later, they will find a way to the front, as someone will either let them in accidentally or on purpose, but that shouldn't affect you if you keep your position. Also, keep your eyes on the band - don't show your annoyance, as that will make it personal. If you make an enemy of someone trying to push in, they might make it their goal to get your position. If they can't phase you, can't get your attention, and can't move you, then they will find someone else to push in front of.

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I have some experience with concerts (mostly heavy-metal ones, but pretty sure it's the same for any genre).

Well, you are quite wrong in your statement. Please consider the following types of concerts, and their (basic) characteristics:

  • heavy-metal concerts
    • rules of etiquette kept at a minimum;
    • people unleash their (full?) internal potential and energies;
    • usually there are no seats, or they remain mostly unused; the seats which are actually used are usually far from the stage, so not a matter of concern, I understand;
  • philharmonic concerts, operas, (some) folk music concerts
    • rules of etiquette are quite clear and quite closely followed;
    • people tend to maintain their best social behaviors;
    • people sit on chairs; for some concerts, standing is strictly forbidden (at least by etiquette);

Is this considered acceptable concert etiquette, to sneak past people and crowd others out?

As explained above, it depends on the concert. If you are assigned a numbered seat, you must actually use that seat. No sneaking, no using another seat.

If there are no seats and everybody is pushing everybody (as it might happen during rock concerts), there is no sneaking in the literal sense of the word. It is using "brute force" to get to a better place.

Note: I do not imply violence (which is not excluded). I merely refer to the specific "style of dance" performed by the attendees to such concerts.


How can I communicate to people to stop pushing past me and crowding me out?

When I attended rock concerts, I was not able to communicate anything with anybody. Even though I screamed from the bottom of my lungs, I was not even able to hear myself.

In this case, communication is pretty much impossible, especially if you refer to polite (verbal) communication.


When I go to "etiquette" concerts, I just use the seat assigned. If I am lucky, I can choose the seat that I prefer while buying the tickets. If someone refuses to make my seat available, I ask a supervisor of the area so support me in the "conflict" (Even though I do not remember any specific case).

When I go to hard rock concerts (the small ones, 100-200 people tops) I prefer to sit further away from the stage. Merely watching makes it very obvious that any kind of "scientific, polite, etiquette-backed" communication is out of question.


The bottom line is: when in Rome, do as the Romans do.


Besides this (mostly) theoretical answer, @Astralbee's answer has some very good points: mind your own business watching the concert, do not become aggressive, do not show negative emotions to the other people.

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  • I agree, that "any genre" was a bit ambiguous. Of course if you buy a ticket with assigned seat, you sit there, even in rock and heavy-metal concerts people are usually polite in these terms. I meant concerts that have "fan-zone": an area usually closest to the stage without any seats – randomGuy Nov 28 '19 at 9:50
  • @randomGuy: I understood your intention, it is OK. However, considering that the rock concerts tend to be noisy by definition, simple talking will most likely not help - as I already gave an example in the answer. The answer is the same: mind your own business, enjoy the concert, do not create the conditions for any arguments, fights... As you said, people tend to be polite and civilized, but they might get offended easily also. Better safe than sorry. Even if you end up a few steps back at the end of the concert, is that a really big loss? Is the concert less attractive? For me, it wouldn't. – virolino Nov 28 '19 at 9:59
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OP, please clarify your location.

However, if you are talking about the USA or Germany, unfortunately it is. I would say it is common behavior when seating is not assigned. I’ve experienced this at various events, and so have my friends. This has happened at concerts and New Years festivities, both indoor and outdoor. It is also generally frowned upon, but most people won’t say anything unless they are deliberately or aggressively shoved to the side.

I’ve struggled with this myself, and it appears like asking people not to push is rather uncommon. To ensure that you “keep” your spot, you can aim for nonverbal cues. When people try to “cut” me, I move my elbow/leg out such that someone would have to apply additional force to move past. For example, if we are next to each other and our arms overlap, I would move my arm so it is in front of them. If their foot extends past mine, I would angle my body so my foot extends past theirs. (This is NOT clotheslining, which would be considered not only rude behavior but even dangerous; do not clothesline people.)

I would also recommend not budging when people try to move past you. It is difficult if you aren’t used to it. If you are a smaller person, maybe having a “sturdier” (taller and/or bulkier) friend would help. But if I don’t have a friend next to me, I try to lock my arms/legs and gently push back if I feel someone pushing against me. I apply just enough force so they can’t push me out of the way, and no more. It won’t keep everyone from pushing past me, but sometimes it’s enough for the “sneaker” to realize that it’s not worth the effort to nudge me and to pick another person.

Additional aggression ruins the mood of the concert. Sometimes you have to just cut your losses and either buy assigned seats or take your chances in the pit. I dislike physical confrontation myself, so I tend to favor assigned seating precisely because of this issue. Good luck and enjoy your concerts, OP!

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  • 1
    i've been at the concerts in Russia, Germany and Finland, and it's same everywhere. Only once in Finland there was a guy who politely asked "may i come forward" and he accepted my answer that "i also prefer to be in front" and stayed behind me. What a great guy it was :) – randomGuy Nov 28 '19 at 9:45

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