The Good Listener: Is It OK To Attend A Concert On A First Date?

Jeez, people. The guy with the acoustic guitar is trying to perform right behind you. Get a room, would you? (
Jeez, people. The guy with the acoustic guitar is trying to perform right behind you. Get a room, would you? (

We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and alongside the boxes of chocolate we bought ourselves to eat alone in the dark on Valentine's Day is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on the collision of concert etiquette and first-date etiquette.

Emily writes via email: "I have high hopes for two upcoming events: a concert by a band I like and a date with a boy I like. The only problem is that I don't know how many tickets to buy, because I haven't asked him. I'm pretty confident he'll say yes, so that's not the advice I'm asking for. What I'm wondering is, is going to a concert a good or bad way to do a first date? On one hand, it seems like a natural setting for that sort of thing — available drinks, music for dancing, distractions in case the conversation is boring and all that. But it's not like we can/should talk during the show, and I can see the potential for awkwardness. Or am I just being neurotic?"

Neurotic or not, you've identified a reasonable list of pros and cons. The availability of distractions is, as you suggest, a double-edged sword: It's inconsiderate (and not always easy) to have a getting-to-know-you chat while a band blares away nearby, but you're also alleviating some of the pressure to have what could turn out to be a nervous, stilted conversation. Unlike, say, going to the movies, concerts generally provide manageable built-in breaks between sets, so you can enjoy the live music without forgoing conversation entirely. And if there's so much chemistry that you decide you prefer talking to hearing a performance, your grandkids will surely forgive you for walking out of a perfectly good show as an alternative to bothering the folks nearby.

I'd argue that the other major disadvantage you name — the potential for awkwardness — is a feature, not a bug. The primary purpose of dating is to winnow out potential partners you do or will find undesirable; to determine not only what you're looking for, but also the precise location of your unique deal-breakers. The potential for awkwardness is there on any and every first date, but concerts offer a unique and helpful set of opportunities to suss out major trouble spots. Is your date the sort of guy who rudely shouts over opening acts or otherwise shows disregard for the people around him? Does he talk to you about music in a way you find condescending or belittling?

Concerts actually provide a useful little ecosystem for the way people treat other people: how much regard they show for others' personal space, how they treat bouncers and bartenders, what kind of company they keep when they're not the center of attention. Sometimes, the best thing you can get out of a first date is the information you need in order to avoid a second. So buy those tickets and ask away! Good luck.

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