Being The Tall Guy At Concerts

By Will Oliver, September 9th 2016 — with 16 comments Editorial

tall-guy

Hey guys, it’s me. The tall guy in front of you at shows (it’s even in my twitter bio). If you’ve seen a show in the city anytime in the past ten years, there’s a decent chance I am somewhere in the bottom frame of your instagram post. Sorry about that. Lots of people express their frustration to me at shows and I can understand why one would be annoyed when they paid good money to see their favorite artist, and then a tree shows up and destroys the entire evening for you. But trust me when I say that I take no pleasure in this, and often wish I could shrink just so I could enjoy a show without waiting to receive that all too familiar shoulder tap.

As I’m sure you’re aware if you read this blog, I go to a lot of shows, and usually have to stand somewhere near the front in order to take photos as a part of my coverage. And there are some people who understand this once they see the camera, and even without it many people are fine with it, as long as I arrived early, am polite and aware of my surroundings. I do feel bad about it, trust me. Half of my time waiting before the act is spent trying not to look anywhere behind me, as I’m sure there is a thousand eyes trying to stare a hole straight through my head. I’ve been told plenty of times about me being too tall to stand there, been asked passive aggressively what I’m doing standing near the front, all that good stuff. Hell, just last year I was shoved by a woman as I was leaving a venue after the show ended. I was quite shocked and confused at what I did to possible piss someone else to warrant it, until I realized that they were the couple who won the lucky lotto of standing behind me. And what could I possibly do about it? In what universe would anyone believe that a 6’6 man was actually the innocent person in this unwarranted physical encounter with a grown woman?

Thankfully this was an isolated incident, but lately, I’ve been dealing with a lot of aggressive, borderline hostile encounters at shows. I’ll usually just brush it off, but last night I think I finally had a breaking point. I arrived to my show early in order to get a good spot at doors, so at least I can say I earned the spot by arriving early. No one likes a tall guy, but everyone hates the tall guy who sneaks through during the middle of a show and places their tall body right in front of you. Believe it or not, it’s even happened to yours truly. But last night, a bunch of fellow concertgoers claimed I snuck in during the opening act, cut in, and placed myself smack in the middle of the venue. Well thing is, they were lying through their teeth. I did my part and got there early, and thought all was well. So, I stood my ground as long as I could, but when the individual I’m arguing with soon grows into a gang of three people, which soon grew into something of a mob rallying against me. It shouldn’t have felt personal, but it sure did feel that way. However it got to the point that it was time to swallow my pride and try and deescalate the situation. The best part is, after I scooted over to the side, a couple slid in front of myself and the entire party I dealt with minutes before the headliner went on. And no one said anything at all. Wonderful.

My presence at shows is considered to be a “nuisance,” to most, as NPR said in their widely discussed “Do Tall People Have To Stand In The Back Of Concerts” piece just a year ago. But here’s the thing, I don’t purposely set out to ruin your evening. I can’t help that I’m tall. But how about the other, real, nuisances out there? You know, the guys who push through you to “find their friend’ one minute before the band goes on. Or the person who holds his phone up in front of your nose to film a vertical video he probably will never watch again. Or the drunk obnoxious group of friend who rather use the time to speak loudly about whatever it is that is more important than the great concert going on right in front of them as they engage in their shouting match. But no, someone who can’t help their height and just wants to be as close to their favorite artist is the real enemy. Not the sea of cellphones that are pretty consistently blocking all our views.

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Don’t get me wrong, there’s a difference between someone cutting in last minute at a show, and someone arriving early, just like everyone else, who happens to be at a different height then you. Most people with sound logic and understanding will agree that whoever takes the time out of their day to wait on line before the show, or show up a few hours early, and subjecting themselves to a string of tedious opening bands, deserves whatever spot they get. Usually when I claim a close spot fair and square, I’ll usually just find an vacant empty space immediately behind me. Come with me to any general admission show here and you’ll see it for yourself.

But there are some times, like with the friends I made last night, that will argue with me to no end that I deserve to be placed in the back, or the side, you know, out of sight, out of mind. No matter if I got there before them. There are plenty of nights and venues where I will just gravitate to the far corner, keeping myself free of the ear-chewing. Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with it. But I end up far away from my group of friends who want to be up close, or give up the good spot to take the photos I’m assigned to take, which I probably earned by sitting on the FDR for an hour in order to get to the venue early. If you’re short and are worried about being able to see, maybe getting to a show early may be in your best interest. Or at least ask the person without spitting venom at them, as if their sole hobby in life is to ruin your night.

I hear all the passive aggressive comments about me and my height, or my stupid camera or earplugs, all of it. The irony of those earplugs is it preserves my hearing and helps me hear all your comments. All of them. So when you come at me asking less than kindly why I’m standing where I am, it comes off as someone who clearly has some sort of problem with tall people at shows. Going to shows for the past ten years, I truly believe that a lot of people have a very real hatred for tall people at shows, due to previous experiences and encounters. But it’s not fair to attribute those experiences to every tall person there. Believe me, I want nothing more than to be left alone at shows and just enjoy it like everyone else. And in what other scenario would this attitude towards someone be alright? There aren’t many. But who the hell is going to come to our defense?

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It doesn’t just end in the crowd, I’ve also dealt with hostile parties in photo pits with some of my fellow photographers. I’ve been told by most of my peers here in New York that as a tall person, I’m more than cautious and courteous to everyone and aware of my placement. Yet at Newport Folk Festival just last month I was greeted with yet some more hostility from some heigh-ho photographer who told me I had no right to be anywhere but in the back on the photo pit. Thing was, I stood in the back for the first two of our allotted three songs, and got a bit tired of other photographers, including my new friend, raising their cameras above their heads completely obstructing my shots, or the fact that no one can or wants to move around at all. So at what point do I stand up for myself, when no one does, and try to make sure I do the job that I was credentialed to do.

“Quit you’re whining, you have a good view at every show” is probably what a lot of you are thinking, and sure, that’s true. But then there’s the other things about being tall that aren’t too great. I don’t fit many cars, airplanes, beds or pairs of shoes. Taking a shower usually involves a shower head pointing at my chest. I already have some issues with my back and knees, and when I was in high school I had a few health scares involving my growth and my heart’s ability to keep up with it. Oh and yes, I do play basketball, thanks for asking. Please ask me again. So being able to see a bit better than most at shows isn’t exactly my ideal tradeoff there.

I’m sure all of you have a tall friend, lover, or family member. If you go to a show with them, and you want to be in the front, would you tell them to go to the back or to disappear to the side, while you enjoy your view? Probably not. I’m sure these same people who curse me out under their breath would change their tune if they brought someone they cared about to the show that was tall.

For all those times that a tall person cut in front of you or ruined your experience at a show, let me say on behalf of all us BFG’s out there, I am sorry. But just imagine for a second that us tall folk want to enjoy a show just like you, and maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t be constantly relegated to the side or back bar with wall street bros just because genetics went a different route. I didn’t write this post for anyone to feel bad for us, just maybe to reconsider the next time you come out swinging at someone tall who is just there for the music.

  • Johann

    As a short person, thank you for being respectful. My own usual frustration are tall people at shows who move back and forth every single time I find an angle where I can see, right in the way. A tall person is fine as long as they are conscious of who is around them There have been many times where tall people even moved me directly in front of them since I am so short I don’t affect their view at all.

  • http://www.KiirstinMarilyn.com Kiirstin Marilyn

    This definitely changed my perspective a bit about tall people at shows. I’ve always thought that there should be sections based on height, and I’ve always said, “if I ever make it to the big time I’m going to require height restricted sections at my shows.” I’m kind of thinking twice about that now, because you’re right, its not your fault that you’re tall, and I’m sure you would trade being average height for fantastic view at shows in a heartbeat. Sorry for being so judgy. 🙂

  • tall_dude

    As a tall guy who goes to a lot of concerts I am shocked at people’s blatant discriminatory comments and threats purely targeted at the fundamental aspect of who I am – my height.

    I show up to shows early and occupy, at that time, the last row of people in front of the stage. I never push my way in front of anyone. And yes, I get annoyed and find it disrespectful when someone pushes in front of me afterwards (regardless of height or any other individual trait).

    Yet, sometimes hours later, as the main show starts people (usually the late arriving ones) suddenly loose all decency/respect and feel free to comment about my presence, push me or push into my space, issue threats of physical violence, etc. – in every possible way make me feel like a 2nd class person who, in their mind, is supposed to be only allowed in the furthest peripheries of the concert area. How clearly wrong this is and on so many levels surely does not warrant further elaboration.

    The NPR article referenced states that “tall people do indeed have a social obligation to minimize the obstruction they create”. To me it is unfathomable that such statements seem to be shared so freely by the larger populous. Replace adjective “tall” with any other inherent personal trait and see where that leads you. And don’t get me started on people who claim I have a “height privilege” and, thus, I should never be allowed to see anything up close and personal.

    We all need to respect each other and celebrate our diversity!

  • Grammaurai

    I don’t inherently object to tall people being at shows, or even being in the front — especially if they get there early. But as a 5’0″ person, who always makes it a point to get to a show as early as possible, and is frequently pushed aside, ignored, or outright told “No” when I ask someone to please move so I can see the view, too, it’s hard not to feel more than a little bit put out. After all, in a general admission show, I’ve paid the same money you have — why should I not get at least a comparable view?
    I don’t really think it’s fair to compare being short, and stuck behind a tall person, to standing in the back. At least if you’re in the back, your view may be from a greater distance, but you still HAVE one. If there’s a 6’0″+ person directly in front of me, my view is of their shoulder blades and little else. You might be a nice, relatively handsome fellow, but I didn’t spend my hard-earned money and take time off work (as I often must just to go to a show) to look at your back (and if I have to, at least have a clever shirt or an interesting tattoo. I’m just saying, if I’m going to be inconvenienced, at least make it amusing for me.)
    Trust me, I don’t like asking people to move — I’m inherently a people-pleaser and I genuinely want people to enjoy the show along with me, and if I’m stuck behind a taller person I usually have a long internal struggle before deciding whether to ask him to move or not. And a lot of the time I may decide that it’s not even worth it to put the other person out if I can find somewhere else to stand. But the frustration you experience from being asked, repeatedly, to move so that a shorter person can see anything at all, is at least comparable to the frustration of a shorter person repeatedly having their hopes of actually being able to see a show — “Maybe THIS will be the time I’ll see more than just the performer’s forehead!” — crushed.

  • Grammaurai

    BTW — I stumbled on this blog because of a conversation had elsewhere about viewing dynamics at general admission shows versus select seating, so I kinda feel like an asshole if I don’t at least say that I’m actually enjoying the blog itself and the reviews. Very nice layout, good design, great writing, awesome photos.

  • metaldaze

    This is so perfectly written, that it saddens me how similar each tall person’s experience is. One of our few salvations and it has to be destroyed by drunk short people. I show up plenty early and typically stand to the side, but if my wife is with me, or if it’s reserved seating, there’s not much I can do. Even worse is when all the people who only bum-rush the front for the hits, pushing everyone out of the way, and looking at me as the main enemy, since they are such loyal fans who only showed up for 1 song.
    Luckily as a fan of the Grateful Dead, their #1 fan and friend of the band is Bill Walton, who’s 6’11”. His presence and history with the band stops any short person’s claim to rights at Dead shows.

  • http://www.weallwantsomeone.org/ weallwantsomeone

    Thanks for sharing, and for the kinds words!

    It is frustrating, but if you show up early, you deserve that spot. It’s BS that the people push through like that and we are the only ones who end up getting the wrath of the crowd. And good point, thanks you Bill Walton, haha

  • Victoria Rickman

    Nope, as a tall person your moral obligation is to stand out of the way regardless of how early you show up. Just came from a show where some 6’4″ bitch was blocking the view of everyone behind her. She could have moved three feet back and still seen everything. We can’t make ourselves taller, but you can always see over us shorties.

  • http://www.weallwantsomeone.org/ weallwantsomeone

    There’s probably a moral obligation for people to not be drunk a-holes or to talk over the band or shove there way through you, or start a random mosh pit in a part of the crowd that doesn’t want it. I don’t think there’s any obligation if that person gets there at 5pm and waits and then someone shows up at 9:59pm pushes there way through and expects to have a good view. Did this 6’4 person do anything to make her a “bitch” aside from being tall and being where she was? I understand the frustration, but if she moves back for you, then the people she’s in front of then will want her to move, and next thing you know she’s behind the bar. I am sorry this happened to you, but I don’t think it’s fair that tall people should be designated to the back, they are fans too and deserve to be close to their favorite artists. In the end like most things in life, there’s no way to please everyone I suppose.

  • Victoria Rickman

    She only needed to move back about four feet and still would have had the same view. She was drunk and dancing (horribly) and kept backing into me. Every person behind her was pissed. It’s all general admission, we all showed up to get a space and instead of being conscientious and saying, “I’m super tall and should make sure other people can see”, she chose to stand in the very front of the section. But hey, go being entitled because of being genetically blessed. That’s not asshole at all. Fuck everyone else, I got mine.

  • metaldaze

    Your attitude is probably why she didn’t move. No moral obligation there. You might want to take a moment to realize who the actual “bitch” is.

  • John Wright

    I’m 6’5 and seem to always end up with some 5′ tall girl behind me at shows who’s view would be blocked by any man of even average height, yet they bitch because they can’t see because I’m “so tall”. Frankly, I think they stand behind me because they’ve resigned themselves to the fact that they won’t see anyway, so they may as well have elbow room in my wake, or they hope they can work their way up to the rail by guilting everyone else in their path to the front. I talked to a kid my height in a food line at a show about it once who had a great line. “Don’t body shame me for my height”. Yes, I like being up front. Yes I can see from anywhere. When you put your phone over your head so you can get a good video, that’s right in my line of sight. My ears ring 24/7 because I’ve stood off to the side in front of the PA so you can see without my melon in your view. I’ve stood in front of plenty of poles and in that void behind other tall guys.

    Ya know what? F*k it. Hey short people. You can take two steps to the right and not stand behind me. The space I am occupying at a GA show was available. I didn’t push anyone out of the way to have this space. It could have been yours, but you elected to stand where you are. At a reserved show, I got the seat I paid for. Could have been yours but you elected to buy the seat you have. Suck it up buttercup. I can’t help being tall any more than I can help the fact you are not. I’m going to enjoy the show. Hope you do the same.

    To the author of this post, if you’re in the pit taking pictures and other photographers complain, that’s called competitive advantage. Enjoy that! and make it work for you.

  • Robyn Gesek

    I get what you’re saying for sure. Nobody likes being judged for their genetics, but the fact remains that if you both showed up at the same amount of time and paid the same amount of money, one person still obstructs the view of the other, and it simply is not fair anyway you slice it. You (and I) are still not going to be able to see it if the said tall person isn’t consientous enough to offer to let you in front of them, despite the fact that it doesn’t obstruct their view either way. I agree with you that both people would be able to see if the tall person let the shorter person stand in front of them. Unfortunatly, what usually happens is the tall person decides it’s too much work to constently offer to let the shorter people up front or gets tired of being nice and eventually says “not my problem”. I mostly stopped going to large shows for mainstream acts because I’m tired of being pushed around and do not enjoy spending money to look at the darkened heads and shoulders of those who block my view. As for the argument about tall people going to the way back, I think that’s a little of an exageration. I think they could probably step a few feet back to let us short chicks up front and still enjoy the show. It doesn’t mean they need to go all the way to the back. But clearly if the person is more than a few inches shorter than the tall person (like a foot), you could have the courtesy to let them in front of you without it being an ordeal. It sucks that for the author of this post it is actually his job, and that changes things a little in that he really does need to make sure he has good viewing access (at least in the “photo pit”). I’ve been to a few shows were people offered to let me in front of them and it really made my night. But more often than not, the taller, bigger dude is usually defensive, sweaty and already pushing into my chest to establish his space. Expecting the general public to be courteous and civilized doesn’t make you a bitch. Unfortunatly though, I wouldn’t realistically hold my breath waiting for people to be considerate and aware. It takes people a little more energy to be considerate, and if they don’t know you, often they don’t care. Especially if you’re at a metal or hard rock show where you can expect for there to be a mosh pit, as you probably know. I have considered buying platform boots just to wear to shows, but am afraid one of those big dudes would just knock me over when they barrel into me. I also wonder why concert venues aren’t built with this in mind. It doesn’t seem like a new problem. In movie theaters and in arenas, the seating ascends to a degree so that the further away you are the more raised the area you’re sitting in. Obviously nightclubs and dance floors are different. How could the layout of a venue be changed to accomadate more people? In this day and age, isn’t something possible? Like maybe the stage is set higher by a foot or so overall, or maybe the floor space changed somehow as it moves backwards, like maybe there’s an ascending area, the way a ramp ascends/descends (in a less dramatic, gradual way). Just my thoughts… Anyway I feel you. It doesn’t make you judgemental to want a good view, and yes it sucks to be the tall person having to listen to complaints, but that’s the way it is. If someone is rude to you, that’s unrelated to whether you should let a short person in front of you. All it says is that that person is rude, and not because they’re short, but just because they’re rude. Sure, they could nicely just if they could get in front of you, but also it wouldn’t kill you to try to see their point of view (no pun intended) and to be a little more considerate to them by letting them in front of you. The who photo pit thing is another story.

  • Robyn Gesek

    I get what you’re saying for sure. Nobody likes being judged for their genetics, but the fact remains that if you both showed up at the same amount of time and paid the same amount of money, one person still obstructs the view of the other, and it simply is not fair anyway you slice it. You (and I) are still not going to be able to see it if the said tall person isn’t consientous enough to offer to let you in front of them, despite the fact that it doesn’t obstruct their view either way. I agree with you that both people would be able to see if the tall person let the shorter person stand in front of them. Unfortunatly, what usually happens is the tall person decides it’s too much work to constently offer to let the shorter people up front or gets tired of being nice and eventually says “not my problem”.

    I mostly stopped going to large shows for mainstream acts because I’m tired of being pushed around and do not enjoy spending money to look at the darkened heads and shoulders of those who block my view.

    As for the argument about tall people going to the way back, I think that’s a little of an exaggeration. I think they could probably step a few feet back to let us short chicks up front and still enjoy the show. It doesn’t mean they need to go all the way to the back. But clearly if the person is more than a few inches shorter than the tall person (like a foot), you could have the courtesy to let them in front of you without it being an ordeal.
    It sucks that for the author of this post that it is actually his job, and that changes things a little in that he really does need to make sure he has good viewing access (at least in the “photo pit”).
    I’ve been to a few shows were people offered to let me in front of them and it really made my night. But more often than not, the taller, bigger dude is usually defensive, sweaty and already pushing into my chest to establish his space.

    Expecting the general public to be courteous and civilized doesn’t make you a bitch. Unfortunatly though, I wouldn’t realistically hold my breath waiting for people to be considerate and aware. It takes people a little more energy to be considerate, and if they don’t know you, often they don’t care. Especially if you’re at a metal or hard rock show where you can expect for there to be a mosh pit, as you probably know.
    I have considered buying platform boots just to wear to shows, but am afraid one of those big dudes would just knock me over when they barrel into me. I also wonder why concert venues aren’t built with this in mind. It doesn’t seem like a new problem. In movie theaters and in arenas, the seating ascends to a degree so that the further away you are the more raised the area you’re sitting in. Obviously nightclubs and dance floors are different. How could the layout of a venue be changed to accomadate more people? In this day and age, isn’t something possible? Like maybe the stage is set higher by a foot or so overall, or maybe the floor space changed somehow as it moves backwards, like maybe there’s an ascending area, the way a ramp ascends/descends (in a less dramatic, gradual way). Just my thoughts…

    Anyway I feel you. It doesn’t make you judgemental to want a good view, and yes it sucks to be the tall person having to listen to complaints, but that’s the way it is. If someone is rude to you, that’s unrelated to whether you should let a short person in front of you. All it says is that that person is rude, and not because they’re short, but just because they’re rude. Sure, they could nicely just ask if they could get in front of you, but also it wouldn’t kill you to try to see their point of view (no pun intended) and to be a little more considerate to them by letting them in front of you. The whole photo pit thing is another story.

  • http://www.weallwantsomeone.org/ weallwantsomeone

    Hey Robyn, thanks for your thoughtful response. My issue is what you said early on, that we both showed up at the same time. Which isn’t what I am speaking about here. The only issues I have are when I get there EARLY and then still get yelled at by people who show up after me or 5 MIN BEFORE THE SHOW STARTS and give me shit, whatever height they may be.

    But usually if the person is kind enough I will work with them to let them in front of me or try and make sure they can see, as long as they don’t have an attitude or say stuff behind my back (I guess people think we can’t hear all the way up here). And maybe it would seem to be an exaggeration about going all the way to the back, except that I’ve literally been told to do so numerous times including that can’t I just get the same photos from in the back (no, that’s not how that works). You’d be surprised what people will say when pissed and slightly drunk.

    Putting everything else aside, my biggest problem is that when I’m approached 9.9/10 there’s already a preconceived idea that I must be a prick since I’m tall. If people were just a bit nicer and calmer when approaching me or didn’t talk shit immediately before approaching me, I’d be more willing to work with them. It’s all about how you ask.

    But thanks for taking the time to respond, hope you don’t have too much difficulty with us tall folk at your next show 🙂

  • Robyn Gesek

    Thanks man, but I mostly don’t go anymore to big shows because of this issue. I tend to stick to smaller shows. Anyway, manners are for everyone short or tall, so that sucks that they were rude to you before just asking if they could get in front of you. I guess it depends on the show (how rough it is), sometime I feel comfortable asking if it seems like a good vibe, sometimes I don’t, but I don’t tell to lash out at people and insult them. I Totally get the job thing, I’m a photographer too, though I don’t often bring my camera around to concerts unless I know for a fact that there will be a safe place for me to take photos from without getting knocked into or knocked over.





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