Best (and Worst) Concert Fans of 2009


Besides escaping in to the rush and pleasure of the music, there’s something else that makes concerts an adventure to remember.

My fellow concert fans always make me laugh, cringe and cry because of the silly and profound things you do when you’re caught up in the moment. And in 2009 I discovered live music fans doing, making and screaming things that I will never forget.

Best (and Worst) Fans of 2009

Whether the music is mediocre or mesmorizing I can always count on the behavior and personal expressions of concert culture characters to step in and make the show more entertaining.  As I told you in the Best (and Worst) Concert Moments of 2009, last year left me pondering some pretty amazing and terrible shows, too. Good or bad shows, it was the brave, gutsy and courageously crazy fans who stepped in and filled the void and transformed great shows and awesome ones.

And what I saw challenged me.

I didn’t just watch and forget about what I saw fans do. Nope.  All these fans and collective moments you’re about to encounter, in their own unique way, made me rethink what it means to be a fan — even when I laughed at their silly behavior realizing that we all show our admiration differently during a concert.

There were fans that caught me completely off guard and forced me to act right then and there during the concert and tweet to the world just how wrong their obnoxious behavior was.

And strange as it may seem, I found myself wishing I was somewhere and someone else. During one concert I wished that I could swap places with another fan. I never thought that I would covet another fan’s concert experience. But I did. I got very very jealous when another fan became a part of hip hop history instead of me.

But during that same covetous concert moment I witnessed the power of group mourning as we lost one of music’s greatest stars. So I guess it all evened out, right?

What Do Concerts Really Mean To You?

When you read this list think of your own concert experiences, too.  Take this chance to see what your individual live music moments meant to you in 2009. Did you have more great moments or bad ones?  Did you have great discoveries or connections with fellow fans?  Did live music console you or challenge you?

By sharing mine favorite fan moments I hope you can discover what moments spoke to you the most and why.  I’m sure we all have some great experiences ahead of us but before we start racking up experiences in 2010, let see which fans shared (or stole) the stage and became the most memorable moments in 2009.

Inside the Rhymes of KRS-ONE at Rock the Bells

It was a moment of proud jealously at Rock the Bells.  My wife Colleen was in the pit taking photos of emcee legend KRS-ONE and just when he was finishing up a freestyle rhyme, she became the final verse when he looked down at her to wrap up the verse.  Man, I wish I could’ve swapped places with Colleen. But I didn’t. And she always reminds me. “One camera, two camera, there camera FOUR…” KRS- ONE rapped and pointed to Colleen on the “Four.”  When I got beyond my jealousy it turned out to be a moment that spurred me to think about the art of free-styling and see what we could learn from live MRI mapping.

Dancing Guy at Sasquatch Festival

This moment stands alone as the single best moment of concert fan sociology of 2009 (maybe even the decade). When I first saw the video I was inspired but I had my doubts.  Could one guy really start a dancing party?  Are concert fans that opening to following the free grooving pleasure of one brave fan?  The Dancing Guy at Sasquatch Festival proved me wrong. Who will lead us in 2010?  And will you follow?

Michael Jackson Fans Mourn Together

Only one artist can completely change the emotional tenor of a concert without even being on stage.

Something huge happened two days before the first Rock the Bells  tour stop in Chicago transforming the festival in to a day-long mourning experience that I haven’t experienced before at a music festival.

From the stage to the lawn seats, the death of Michael Jackson completely altered the entire emotional experience for both the fans and the artists. Even though we were all gathered to enjoy the beats and rhymes of hip hop’s finest, Jackson’s death hung like a shadow over the event as the distant look of nostalgic sadness and heartfelt loss was painted on fans’ faces.

The death of Michael Jackson made Rock the Bells festival and the rest of the summer’s concerts a classic case study in group psychology as fans mourned and celebrated together.  For the rest of the summer (and year) his music was played on PA and paid tribute to by artists with emotional covers and shout-out to the King of Pop.

 Naked Fan Dancing at Rothbury 2009
Naked Fan Dancing at Rothbury 2009

Naked Fans Dance In All Their Glory at Rothbury

Everyone in the crowd seemed to be lifted up off the ground in some way — even the naked couple who danced freely in the afternoon sun and wore only large grins and fuzz patches. As Matisyahu continued to play tracks from his forthcoming album Light, those festivalgoers who saw the couple watched with a sense of awkward pleasure and a sense of deviant and peculiar enjoyment. The couple seemed like a stark contrast to Matisyahu’s worshipful performance. But when I thought about it, I wondered if we were actually getting an unexpected insight into what it might have looked like to see the Bible’s King David dance around in just a skimpy loincloth entranced and praising the Lord.  I still see images of those two dancing.  And thanks to Colleen for creating a picture that’s both appropriate and telling.

The Sensual Screaming Lady at John Legend

John Legend’s show at Ravinia was a overflowing petri dish ripe and plentiful for study fan behavior.  I was surrounded by a sea of screaming and adoring female fans.  So I sat back, turned on my video camera and recorded the best snippet of one screaming fan who’s primal call was aimed right at Legend.

And ever since, I’ve wondered…

Do women scream more than men at concerts?  Is female screaming at concerts a primal sexual likeness showing through? If so, why do those screams  of such genuine expression and adoration cause such pain and irritation for other fans? By screaming, are female fans trying to send sexual messages to their male targets on stage?

Whatever the case, or sociological roots, this female fan held nothing back. Like a Lioness on the hunt, she roared back to John Legend’s call to “get revved up” for “Green Light.”  She let it loosed and screamed him a  message of unmistakable love–while making everyone around her cringe and eventually leave in disgust. You should here it for yourself and see what he did to other fans that night.

Keith, can you sign my poster?!
Keith, can you sign my poster?!

The Flock of Female Fans at Keith Urban

This wasn’t an average concert since most of the fans won tickets to the show via Verizon’s Wireless promotion.  This group of fans didn’t need to be won over or convinced. The minute I walked in the venue I could feel the commitment and excitement of the fans.  It was obvious that they were ready to go deep with Urban.  But I wanted to figure out the why’s and how’s.  And I wanted to hear it straight from the hearts and minds of his fans. I did. And I wasn’t alone.

Tweetful Connections and Periscoping Fans at Matisyahu

I don’t know what it is about Matisyahu fans. But later in November I found myself at his concert at the House of Blue in Chicago. And yet again, I discovered the creativity of concert fans who made a periscope to conquer the height issues and blindspots of the venue. They say technology like cell phones and mobile devices are going to change our live concert experiences. Maybe for that’s true for the one fan I unexpectedly connected with via Twitter during this show. But these periscoping fans are putting their own twist on concert technology to enhance their concert experiences.

Nerdy Music Writers at Lollapalooza

Just one peek into the strange sociology of music journalists will show you that they’re a peculiar bunch.  I can say this because I am one. And it’s true. We are just as eccentric as the artists we write about (if not more!).  I wasn’t there, but I loved this review of Lollapalooza  2009 by a fellow music writer Drew Fortune. His description of a moment during The Airborne Toxic Event’s cover of Q. Lazarus’ “Goodbye Horses”  describes exactly what can happen when geeked-out and “nerdy” music journalists get the right song flowing into their ears during a live concert. I always wonder what I look like during a concert that I’m geeking out at.  Thanks to Drew and the rest of the nerdy crew!

Wilco Fans Sing A Magical Chorus

Fan might not be the ones onstage but that doesn’t mean they can’t find harmony and rock a show. A gorgeous moment blossomed during “Jesus Etc.” when Tweedy let fans handle most of the vocals. They filled the Pavilion like they had been with Wilco for the whole tour as a traveling choir. Tweedy loved the fans’ performance and created a bit of good-humored animosity saying, “This night’s crowd is far superior; [it’s] as if last night’s crowd didn’t even know the words.”  As an added bonus, later Tweedy also tossed a Wilco (the Album) LP into the crowd — that was instantly snatched up.

Oprah Flash Mob Dancers

Like the Dancing Guy, the Oprah Flash Mob  demonstrates what a whole crowd can do when they work together to achieve a common groove.  What happend turned out to be bigger than Chicago, bigger than the Black Eyed Peas and bigger than Oprah. I had the honor of hearing about the it from the inside via special interview with friend. She told me all the secrets of the ”Joy Ambassadors” dancing in downtown Chicago.
Kid Sister Bumps and Grinds with Fan

I always wonder what makes fans rush on stage.  But this time Kid Sister was the one who started it all. Midway through the set, she reached in to the front row and pulled a male fan onstage to dance with her, playfully asking him if he was 18. It was an entertaining move that made the show feel like a club version of Dancing with the Stars. The two bumped hips and grinded before Young took the excited fan backstage as the song winded down.

But a few moments later, without the fan, Young re-emerged clad in a new black dress and headed towards the show’s finale, capping the night off via the one-armed salutary club anthem “Right Hand Hi”.  Where the fan went I do not know.

Worst Fan Moments of 2009

Thousands of concerts took place in 2009 and millions of fans flocked to venues and arenas across the world. And unfortunately not all fans know how to behave. But I don’t have the time to list all the bad fans who went to concert. Nope. I’m going to put the spotlight on just two.

The Tapping-On-My-Notepad Lady

Photo By Jamie Sands

Luckily, the Tapping-On-My-Notepad-Ladydidn’t ruin the whole show.  It only caused a brief moment of fan-to-fan frustration that quickly passed once I moved away from the fan. And I was able to purge some of my frustration by tweeting this fan’s silly actions. I regret that I didn’t have the chance to tell her that she had sadly misjudge me and my note-taking.  I’d really like the chance to ask her a few questions. Why did she do this?  Does she normally do this at concerts to other fans?  Or was this a case of chemicals lowering her inhibitions to the point where she felt comfortable telling me how I should be enjoying Miike Snow?  I’ll never know but I hope she learned the errors of her ways. An didn’t disturb the joy of any other fans.

Rioting Necro Fans Gone Mad

Human behavior is often a mystery to me.  And I don’t necessarily like sharing this type of concert fan story.  But I must share this tale of fans gone mad and rioting when an artist doesn’t show up because it’s also a story of one courageous concert photographer who captured the madness during his first photo gig. Thanks to Jamie Sands for sharing his photos and his cautionary tale.

What crazy or courageous concert fans did you see in 2009?

Photos by Colleen Catania

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