Rule One: Q&A for people attending my concerts

This blog originally posted at

I found I needed this, so I made it.  Just to refer back to when people have questions and I’m running too fast to answer.

Do you have questions about attending one of my shows? Here’s my notions, and why I notion them. There’s an important rule that I call Rule One of Concertgoing, and that will pretty much have you covered.

  • Should I leave my cell phone on?  I bet you can guess the answer to this one.
  • Can I take photos and video? Yes please, take all you want! Bear in mind these two important rules:
    • RULE ONE OF CONCERTGOING: CONSIDER THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU.  In this situation that means no flash photos, no blocking the view or interfering with your neighbor’s concert experience, no constant roving. Click away, but if your camera is big or loud, or if you move a lot, don’t shoot all the way through the show. Pick a song or two. I promise you don’t need a thousand pictures of me singing, I look the same all night (verified by having seen thousands of photos of self singing). If you are taking video, stand in the back or on the edge so the people around you are not forced to watch the show through your device. Just generally be aware of how people around you are feeling — your neighbors will thank me.
    • As for video (Marian Call concert-specific, but generally good advice): please don’t post videos of cover songs or my new unreleased songs. Did I write it? No? Don’t post it. Did I write it? Yes? Is it available on my Bandcamp? No? Don’t post it.


  • Should I send you my video and photos of the show? I would love to see them! But I already own thousands of megabytes of photos and audio of my shows, so I probably do not want it on my hard drive. Send me an email linking to the videos or gallery, that would be wonderful. Please do not attach them to an email unless I ask for them that way. And if you post on Youtube, Facebook, Flickr, or Pinterest, tag me or let me know so I can connect there! I have a great Youtube channel and Flickr pool that would love to share your concert photos.
  • May I tweet and Facebook stuff on my phone during the show? Yes. I am accustomed to playing concerts to people who are looking down at their phones telling everyone else how cool the show is, because that is how my people roll. But keep all the noises off, and consider your neighbor (RULE ONE!). Posting about the show is one thing, browsing BoingBoing or playing Ninja Ropes is another.  Constant phone-staring will probably distract or upset someone else who wants to focus on the concert. Sit or stand in the back if you want to do that.
  • Should I talk during the show?  Not during my shows, no.  It makes your neighbors sad, and also me.  RULE ONE
  • Can I come early to the show to hang out with you? If you come to a concert super early, it’s hard for me to connect with you, as I am in pre-concert prep mode and a little busy.  And sometimes I need some privacy to prepare myself. So it’s awkward for me if you arrive at a venue show more than about 30 minutes early, especially if you expect to have me all to yourself.  That’s my nutso time.  I might say no to a talk or a photo before we begin — I don’t want to brush you off, but it’s poor timing, and it puts me in an awkward spot.  Afterwards is the time for those things, in the triumph of the afterglow!  You can stay almost as late as you want at the end!  If you come to a house concert super early, you can put the host in an embarrassing situation where they’re not ready for company.  Once someone came early enough that the hostess still needed to shower, and that was hella awkward.  So if you drove far and arrived in town two hours early, please, just chill at the library or coffeehouse for a bit before coming over.
  • When should I come to a show, then?  I recommend coming on time for the host’s set pre-show mingle at a house concert, no earlier.  At a venue, a half-hour is good, or however early you want to claim a seat.  Plan on time to talk during the break and after the show, that is when I am free to hang out and talk and sign things.
  • What if I’m gonna be late?  If you are going to be late or only catch the second half of the show — for heaven’s sake, come anyway! Half a show is better than none. You are welcome to come late.
  • May I hug you and shake your hand and do that side hug thing for photos? Yes! As long as you have washed sometime this week.
  • May I touch any other part of you? Absolutely $#&%ing not.
  • Don’t you remember me from that one time when we spoke for five minutes two years ago?  I might remember it after a refresher, but I apologize, even if we have met a few times, I will need a reminder as to when I’ve seen you before and what your name is.  And I might talk with you daily online, but unless your avatar is your actual photo, I might have no idea that it’s you when you’re standing in front of me in person.  So please do re-introduce yourself, give me some context, and your Twitter handle, and then I will very likely remember everything!
  • Will you take a photo with me and sign/autograph this thing I brought? Absolutely! Probably after the show, not before. Though I reserve the right to leave unsigned certain body parts as well as things I have no involvement in making, like Firefly DVD’s. Taking a photo with you would be fun, but keep in mind your hygiene if you’re going to ask me to go for the side hug photo.
  • May I bring my kids to the show? This is up to the venue, but if the venue says yes, I most definitely say yes. I cater the show to the audience, and if there are kids I make sure it’s all ages material. I think children should go to live concerts as often as possible. That said, bear in mind RULE ONE and make sure your kids know it too. If they need an alternate activity, make sure they have it, and don’t assume every space you walk into is childproof. Please don’t let them mess with my sound equipment. If it’s a tiny baby baby, we welcome it gladly, but be prepared to remove it from the room if it gets to be a tiny noisemaking baby.
  • May I smoke? Only outside and very very far away from me.
  • May I wear strong perfume or smell strongly of incense?  Please no.  Please do not smell strongly of anything, I beg you.  We all beg you.  RULE ONE
  • May I drink? If the venue and the laws of your state say that you may, then you may. If you are at a house concert, ask the hosts whether they are all right with alcohol at their event. Never ever serve minors.  Minors, don’t drink at my shows.  I don’t want to get in trouble or get the venue/homeowner in trouble.
  • May I get drunk? On five conditions. 1) Only after the show; 2) Only after minors are gone or gone to bed; 3) Only with a designated driver, 4) If it’s a house concert, only if the host knows you and is cool with it, and 5) Only with continued strict attention to RULE ONE OF CONCERTGOING.  You may or may not pay attention to my answer, of course, but that is my Miss Manners answer.
  • What’s the etiquette with money and stuff? I take dollars and online tips and checks and credit cards and everything. Not picky. At most of my shows, payment is a freewill offering, totally optional, and the merch prices are flexible and subject to negotiation. $10-20 per person is usually a good amount; that’s the price where I know I can make a living. Usually I will ask folks to voluntarily visit a donation bowl or hat or coffee tin — you don’t need to walk up to me and hand me money (though you can), you can just drop it in the money receptacle and make your own change if you need to. If you want to pay by credit card, just snag me on the break or after the show. If you have a check, I will take that personally to protect your info so it’s not sitting out in the bowl in public.
  • What if I am broke but I want to hear you play? If you can’t pay, come anyway — I would always rather have you there than not. If it’s a ticketed event and you can’t afford one, ask me on Twitter or FB or email, sometimes I can help. Want a CD but don’t have a penny? I will get you one via the Pseudo-Scholarship Fund — just ask. When you don’t have a penny is, in my experience, the time when you most need some good music and art to get you through. It has gotten me through. Corollary: if you can pay extra to cover someone who can’t pay this time, do it. It’s good karma.
  • May I sing along? Even if you have an awesome voice, and even if you sing harmonies along with me in your car every single day, kindly keep your singing silent when it is not a Designated Singalong portion of the concert. RULE ONE. The people around you did not come to hear you, and you and I have not rehearsed together.  Your harmonies may not work with our live arrangements, and the people sitting near you may be driven to violent action.  I have had folks sing along through entire shows before, and I cannot be responsible for their well-being.  Mouthing along is acceptable, though it may also be distracting, and I would recommend the front or back row if you like to do that. And brush your teeth.
  • May I dance or draw or write or paint during the show? If you follow RULE ONE and add to, rather than detracting from, others’ experience of the show — then go for it.  Dance is lovely!  Making art is lovely!  Consider where you position yourself and how that will affect your neighbors, and whether they can ignore you if they want to.
  • May I bring you food to take on the road? I make great cookies and I bought you some beer – You should bring your amazing cookies to share with EVERYONE! But please don’t make us a “to go” basket. We love you but we really can’t bring food with us. Not even avocados and cheese and beer. Remember that most of our lunches and dinners in the future are already scheduled with other people, and food will get lost and gross in the car. Besides, we will be offered cookies again tomorrow night, and if we eat them every night and take them in the car too, we will wind up Fat or Dead or Both, and nobody wants that. (A recipe is a great alternative take-away option!)
  • May I bring you a present? Look, I made you a custom tube out of chicken wire, googly eyes, and tin foil for your rainstick. And here’s a book I wrote and a framed photo of you! The best gifts, the ones I truly want, are good conversation and good hugs! I am not into Stuff, and generally the thing I desire is your company and your perspective, and maybe time to play a game. If you really want to give something physical, then keep in mind that very small and flat things, i.e. art on paper, a photo (not framed), handmade jewelry, or a CD or DVD, are most likely to stay in my possession. If you want to give a fragile or large bulky gift, or a poster, or an instrument, or clothing — please reconsider. Same with books; I can’t really read on the road, I’ll have to carry it for months, and it will probably get damaged in the car. Plus, gas mileage and carspace. If you do give me such a thing, I will happily accept and hug you lots, but I reserve the right not to tell you the final fate of the item. It breaks my heart to get rid of things from fans, but I cannot keep everything I am given. (Also, I don’t put framed photos of myself up in my house or office, because that would be weird, so please don’t give me pictures of me. I think maybe you want a framed photo of me, which it is perfectly fine for you to have.)