The 10 People Who Will Punish You At A Rock Show
Whether you’re a regular at rock ‘n’ roll shows or a veteran musician, chances are you’ve met a capital‑p Punisher once or twice. A Punisher is someone who corners you at a show, talks your ear off about things you have zero interest in, and will not let you escape their sweaty, beer-breathed clutches. No matter how many times you repeat, “Wow man, that’s crazy,” roll your eyes back into your skull so hard you think they’re going to fall out, or angle your body as far away from them as humanly possible, a Punisher is 100% immune to taking a hint. Sound familiar?
Or perhaps it’s you who’s a Punisher and you’re realizing it in horror as you read this?
If you’re unsure, the guys at Two Minutes To Late Night portrayed a Punisher fantastically well last year in this hilarious sketch featuring Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor:
Here’s a helpful guide to the top 10 Punishers any rock ‘n’ roll fan or musician will meet in their lifetimes (or maybe just next week!), how you can spot them, and how you can defend yourself.
1. THE GEARHEAD
Usually found hanging around the stage right when a band is done playing — or taking photos of the pedalboard during the band’s set — Gearheads love to punish musicians about the equipment they use. They loudly ask things such as, “What kind of strings are those?” and “What kind of pickups do you use?” or provide unsolicited and highly unqualified advice like, “Your tone is so cool, man, but it could be so much cooler if you checked out this custom pedal my buddy on Instagram makes…” all while the sweaty, exhausted, underpaid musician is just trying to hurry to get off stage so they can go to the bar and talk about literally anything else with their friends. Or go to bed.
Signature move: Always showing up right when there’s a hottie at the bar the musician has been trying to talk to all night.
Best defense: Tell them about a completely made-up guitar pedal and watch them say, “Yeah man, I heard about that one!” Then tell that story to your friends once you’ve escaped.
2. THE CLINGER
There’s always one person at the end of every show, after the rest of the people have cleared out, who won’t leave the band alone. They’ll relentlessly ask if they can buy them a drink, even when they turn it down five times. They can be found hanging around long after the crowd leaves, trying to find out where the after-party is.
Signature move: Offering their floor to the band for the night — so they can continue punishing them at their house. The catch is their house is an hour away, and they live with their parents.
Best defense: Tell them the after-party is at the bar next door. Then leave out the back door and floor it in the van.
3. THE INTERNET LURKER
You’re in some of the same private Facebook groups and you share a ton of mutual friends online, but you’ve never met IRL. They like all of your Instagram posts. You regularly see their name and photo attached to long, ranty posts about why a band sucks, or essays oversharing about their personal lives. When they inevitably recognize you at a show and tap you on your shoulder, it feels like your real friends across the room are miles away. They’re ultimately the most harmless of the Punishers, but they will lock you in for a well-intentioned but painfully boring punishment.
Signature move: Yelling, “HEY! Aren’t you @metal_chick_slayer_666?!” even though your actual, real name is displayed on all of your social media accounts. Cringe.
Best defense: Say, “So nice to finally meet you! I’ve gotta use the restroom.”
4. THE NETWORKER
Just here to rock out, catch up with your friends, and blow off some steam from your stressful-ass work week? Too bad! The networker, an opportunist who seems to miss the entire point of friends and music, is here to turn everything into a future business deal! This person talks up their new YouTube series, DJ night, or bonafide business skills on social media so much that you muted them months ago. They still haven’t learned — and will maybe never learn — that the best way to “network” is to never use the word “network.” If they’d just chill out and be friendly to people, they’d probably make all the business contacts in the world. But since every bit of empty chitchat is leading up to asking you about how work is going and, in turn, what they can get from you, it’s tough to want believe they really want your friendship.
Signature move: Pressuring you to let them pay for your meal, your drinks, whatever — under the assumption you’ll reciprocate by doing something for them down the line.
Best defense: Give them your business card…from two jobs ago.
5. THE MANSPLAINER
The Mansplainer’s prey is always a woman he can corner when he finds her alone for a split second. He stalks his prey by explaining things to her relentlessly to make her think he’s interesting or better than her — which has never worked on anyone in the history of the world. This dude thinks it’s so cool you came out tonight! But hey, while he’s talking to you, he just wants to know: Do you know the band on their shirt? Do you know these guys? Well, it doesn’t matter if you do or not because has he got a story for you! He brags about his super-human hearing and understanding of the nuanced musicality in each genre, yet is somehow unable to hear words like, “I know,” or, “I’ve seen that band five times.”
Signature moves: He’s completely silent when you finally get a word in edgewise and tell him you work in the music industry.
Best defense: Ruthlessly interrupt him.
6. THE MALE FEMINIST
Similar to The Mansplainer, yet worse. He is, like, so sorry you have to put up with so many assholes objectifying you at this show. Oh, you didn’t realize you were being objectified? Don’t worry, he’s here to let you know that everyone there just wants to get in your pants — except him! Good news, though: He’ll protect you by ensuring no one else can talk to you for the whole night…and never letting you speak for yourself.
Signature moves: Cutting you off, talking over you, being unable to read your subtle eye-rolls, telling you stories that begin with, “Well, as a feminist, I…”
Best defense: Employ the use of thinly-veiled sarcasm. “Wow, I had no idea you knew so much about my experience in the world! Did you read that on Tumblr?”
7. THE BLACK-METAL DORK
No matter how much you know about metal, this Punisher — who is always punctuating every sentence with an elitist sniffle — knows a band that is more underground, more TRVE, and more genuinely Satanic than anything in your record collection. Hey — good for them! Except they won’t shut the fuck up about it. Every time you see them at a show, they fill you in on the new tape (limited to 5 copies!) they got in the mail from a dude in the Midwest, the fact that they’ll never procreate because the Satanic black-metal subreddit they’re on is currently evangelizing the values of Anti-Natalism, or why it didn’t work out with the latest person they met at a house show.
Signature move: Making sure you’re aware that they only came to this very un-TRVE show for the opener, an underground black-metal band that only released their album on parchment. (Or Bandcamp for the price of $6.66!)
Best defense: Look them in the eyes and tell them how much you genuinely love this new underground band you heard about, Korn.
8. THE DRUNK MESS
This person usually has five beers and three whiskey shots before they even hop in the Lyft to the show. They’re friends with all of the bartenders because they worked together back in the days “when the scene was cooler” (and are sure to tell you so at every opportunity), so they get most of their drinks for free. Their stories usually include how much cocaine they did the night before with their famous musician friends, and everyone wonders how they hell they have the money to sustain their lifestyle. (What do they do, exactly?) When you run into them outside the show, they’re usually swaying and trying again and again to light the same cigarette.
Signature move: Close-talking with beer-breath and refusing to stop touching you when they talk.
Best defense: Say, “Man, looks like I need to get on your level! I’m gonna go grab myself a drink.” They’ll never notice you didn’t come back…or that you’re not as drunk as they are.
9. THE PERSON WHO REALLY WANTS TO GIVE YOU THEIR DEMO
Have you heard of his band? It doesn’t matter, either way he’s going to tell you! They have two shows booked right now! They are trying to shop their new album to the best labels, even though it was created by him and his two friends in Logic! They’ve played with many famous bands — all great guys. (Want to hear the story of the time he got high with Wino? Already heard that one? He’s gonna tell it again!) Do you want a sticker/patch/flyer? How about their email? He’s got his Bandcamp link copied and ready to slide it into your DMs whether you agreed to it or not.
Signature move: Only uses social media for overbearing band-promotion, meaning you won’t miss anything interesting if you unfollow/mute.
Best defense: Distract them by being agreeable and stoked. “Yep! Love your band — already have all your stuff. Gotta go!”
10. THE SHOUTER
You know that personal conversation you were having with a friend between sets? Most well-adjusted people realize you have to table it for a bit once the band starts playing. But during the opening riff of the first song, this Punisher just gets louder! And closer! Soon, they’re full-on shouting and/or screaming through their cupped hand into your already-ragged eardrums about whatever their drunk buddy said to them earlier.
Signature move: Complaining to you at the bar later about how lame it is when people talk over the band at shows.
Best defense: Try saying, “Hey, I really want to hear this band. Let’s talk later!” If that doesn’t work, make like Homer Simpson and disappear into the crowd.
WORDS: Cat Jones
Special thanks to seasoned Punisher experts Chris Krovatin, Jordan Olds, and Michael Dimmitt for their input on this story.
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