Over the years  my friends and I have experienced a major difference between crowds at concerts in Montreal vs. Toronto. No matter what genre, the crowds in Montreal seem to be much rowdier, more energetic, more into the music, more willing to jump and dance. Meanwhile, Toronto crowds are consistently quieter, have more inhibitions, dance and sing less, and are less into the music in general. My brother has confirmed that Halifax has a crowd culture itself, also more energetic than Toronto’s.

This is an extremely interesting element of city life – the very real existence of a ‘city attitude’. We always hear that people from Charlottetown, PEI, are very nice, while Parisians and New Yorkers are rude and self-centred; Londoners are polite, and Tokyonians are stressed; Montrealers are stylish and hip, and Torontonians…bland and energyless? Though these city stereotypes are indeed extreme generalizations, my experiences of city-based crowd behaviour patterns are testament to the very real existence of differing city cultures and attitudes.

The consistency of the quiet Toronto and energetic Montreal crowds demonstrate a certain urban unity that has a power to influence the public mood, and ultimately, individual behaviour. Through what I’m sure is an extremely complex mix of history, economics, politics, natural environment and climate and urban form, the public of a city develops certain universal traits.

These behaviours, I speculate, are self reinforcing. It would be extremely hard and awkward to be the only energetic, dancing person at a concert in Toronto, social convention there dictating a very strong sensitivity to the well being and lack of disturbance toward others (though I myself broke this convention at a New Pornographers concert last June). Similarly, it would be hard to not succumb to the Dionysian energy that consistently emerges in Montreal crowds. Even if you did resist, and instead stood still in the middle of the bustling crowd, this would do little to change the overall atmosphere and behaviour of the concert.

Notice the very still, quiet Toronto crowd on the left. I attempt to break the quiet urban-concert-attitude by raising my hands and dancing energetically in the centre and right photos. Alas, Toronto’s attitude remained stubbornly still.

Perhaps it would be fun to do a sketch of a theory as to why Torontonians are so much less fun at concerts. You could start with the city’s historical cultural heritage: British,  seen as traditionally prude and subdued. But then again, the city has experienced extreme diversification since its beginnings as a colonial backwater, and the influence of other cultures is indeed a reality. Perhaps it’s because Toronto is a relatively new larger city, and thus has not grown out of it’s small town attitude? Cultural behaviour tends to have a stubbornness and inertia, so this might be the reason. Conversely, many speculate that since Torontonians think Toronto is the centre of Canada (and…the world?), nothing really impresses them anymore. If this theory doesn’t satisfy you….then how about relating it to Toronto’s urban form? A very straight forward grid, leaves little to the imagination, and thus has held back a urban-attitude of energy and spontaneity?

Another example of very city-specific behaviour is sports-fan culture. Chicago fans are known as being extremely loud. Here exists a certain pressure that citizens of a city hold themselves up to, understood through the behaviour of others, rooted in individual behaviour, but expressed in a unified crowd.

Whatever the reason, the reality of differing city attitudes certainly exists. These are not unified or monolithic, and have many outlets, sub-cultures, and manifestations. Isolating one common urban event, such as a concert, demonstrates that you can talk very meaningfully about the common behaviour shared by people from the same city.