Know Before You Go

A Field Guide to Clubs

Everything you need to know before you go to an arts event in a club setting

Before the Show

Before the show begins, here's what you need to know...

  • Dress up. No need for a tuxedo, but do try to look nice.  

  • Bring warmth. Even if it’s toasty outside, bring a sweater or jacket. Clubs may be cold. It’ll be hard to concentrate on the performance if you’re shivering.

  • Bring your tickets. For obvious reasons.

  • Bring money. For food, drinks, or souvenirs.

  • Turn off your cell phone. And anything else electronic that could cause a ruckus. 

  • Say thanks. If the club has hosts and waiters, be sure to thank them for showing you to your table, handing you a program, and bringing you food or drink.

  • Sit smart. If you’re at a comedy show, there’s a chance the comedian will speak to or even tease audience members. The farther back you sit, the safer you are!

  • Find the “EXIT” signs. Look for the illuminated signs over the doors. You always want to know where the nearest emergency exit is in a club in case of a natural disaster, a medical situation, or a fire.

  • Read your program. This tells you what you’re about to see. Who’s performing? Are you seeing a comedian? A jazz band? A vocalist?

  • Go. To the bathroom. And to take a look at the stage. Clubs are more casual than theaters. They usually have a low stage and one-level seating, which means you can get up close much more easily than at a theater.

During the Show

Once the lights go down and things get started, keep in mind...

  • No pictures, please.  Don’t take photos unless you have been told that it’s okay to do so.

  • Respect the space.  In these kinds of small settings, space is at a premium. Tables and chairs are placed very close to one another. Be a good (and respectful) neighbor.

  • Who’s on first? There may be an opening act—that is, someone who performs before the main act. In comedy shows, the main act is the “headliner,” and the opening act is the “feature.” In any club show, there might also be an “emcee” who comes on at the very beginning to “warm up” (entertain) the crowd and to introduce the other performers.

  • Clap on; clap off. But only at the right times: If you’re seeing a music performance, you can clap at the end of songs. At comedy shows, you can clap when you think a joke is particularly funny or clever. If you love a show, stand up while applauding (but only at the very end of the show). That’s called a “standing ovation.”

  • Give jazz a hand. You’ll probably find that jazz audiences clap quite often: at the end of instrumental solos, songs, sets, and performances. (“Sets” are groups of musical numbers; the band may take a momentary break between individual pieces and longer breaks between sets.)

    The audience at a jazz concert is far less formal than at a classical music performance, so you may hear people calling out their support for the musicians. You do still need to be respectful, though, so save rowdy hollers, hoots, and hoorahs for outside and only cheer when you’re sure it’s appropriate.

  • Talk back. At an improvisational (improv) comedy show, actors might perform skits and play games on stage, often with the audience’s help. If the actors ask for a suggestion, try to give them a good one. For example, if they tell audience members to shout out a non-geographic location, think of one that will inspire them to create a unique scene.

    Good suggestion:        An igloo
    Bad suggestion:          Kentucky (That’s geographic!)
    Bad suggestion:          A room (That’s vague!)
    Bad suggestion:          Go home! (That’s rude!)

  • No heckling allowed. It’s not okay to shout or make comments at the performer. That’s just plain rude and annoying to the rest of the audience. Heckle the stage and you’ll be shown the door.



Marina Ruben
Original Writer

Editors & Producers

Lisa Resnick
Content Editor

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