I was nine when my mom took me to my first concert: Martina McBride’s Christmas show at a stadium in Pensacola. It was hardly wild, but it was still a very cool experience, since Martina McBride sounds fantastic live (tiny woman, huge voice) and she invited all the little girls in the audience to come sit on the stage with her while she sang “In My Daughter’s Eyes”.
I didn’t understand its importance at the time (we were almost late to the concert because I had to finish a very important Neopets battle), but that night was the beginning of my love for live music. A decade later I still love going to concerts, whether the name on the ticket is famous or barely recognizable.
My BFF/sassy motivator Ira and I went to a performance by our favorite band, Parachute, over the weekend (Gavin DeGraw was
technically the headliner, but we were definitely there for the band formerly known as Sparky’s Flaw). We got there ridiculously early in hopes of getting the best possible place to stand, and thus had a lot of time to make friends in line. I was shocked by the number of people my age who said that this was their first concert. Ever. I always knew I was lucky, but I had no idea that so many of my peers had never seen popular music live before. (I qualify this because many of them were music majors who had been to several classical shows.)
That got me thinking about the fragility of the concert experience. Live music is so fun, but there are so many ways that a night that’s supposed to be fun can turn exasperating. Beyond the requisite safety tips, here are some ways to make sure attending your first concert, or any concert, doesn’t suck.
What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the world of concert attendance as actually going to see live music without embarrassing yourself or getting injured.
- Release your negativity. You might be under the impression that you can’t afford to see live music. Regardless of your financial situation, you’re probably dead wrong. If you’re at a major university, your tuition could be paying for concerts and other events on campus. In the real world (as opposed to on College Island), local bands will often perform free at bars and restaurants. Even if you do have to pay for a show, if you pay attention and grab tickets early you can usually get them for $30 or less (as long as you’re not trying to see Taylor Swift or the Rolling Stones’ 80th farewell concert). With that in mind…
- Stalk. Follow your favorite bands and artists on all their social media platforms. Same with your favorite local venues. All of these generally post upcoming events and tour dates online, and if you stay on top of your News Feed you might never miss a local performance again.
- Dress right. Concerts are fun. They are also often hot and uncomfortable. Avoid heavy layers, high heels or anything restrictive, especially if you know the show is standing room only. Also, if you’re going to wear a t-shirt advertising your love for a band that is not the one you are going to see, make sure you do your research; music rivalries are serious stuff. You do not want to wear a Police shirt to a Sting concert, a Megadeth shirt to a Metallica concert, or a Justin Bieber shirt… anywhere.
- On time is late. People called me and my friend Ira crazy for showing up to that concert three hours before the doors opened. However, when we finally got up from the asphalt with our legs asleep and our bladders full, we got to stand exactly one person-width away from the stage. Any closer and the lead guitarist would have spit on us while he was singing. (No, seriously. The girl in front of us got spit on. I’m pretty sure she’s never gonna wash her face again.) The people who got there fifteen minutes before the concert started stood at the very back of the second level balcony. Lesson: if you like the band, be willing to suffer a little. The early bird gets to steal guitar picks and set lists from the stage.
- Groupie see, groupie do. Just like anywhere, the best way to avoid humiliating yourself at a concert is to do exactly what everybody else is doing and no more. Is everyone standing? Don’t sit. Is anyone singing? No? Then listen to the music you paid to hear. Most importantly, stay in one place as long as possible. However, if you find yourself needing a bathroom or a t-shirt at intermission (or if the crowd starts getting crazier than you’d care to be involved with), then…
- If you have to move, get creative. If music is playing, dance your way through the crowd. If it’s intermission and you have got to get to the merch table before the band leaves, here’s my proven solution: lock arms with a buddy, plow on through and say nice things to people as you pass them (i.e. “Excuse me! Love your necklace!”).
- Bring cash. You can’t always guarantee that a band’s merchandise table will take credit cards. If you feel like you’re going to enjoy the show, stop by an ATM before you get there—and if you want something signed, have it in your possession as quickly as possible before the end of their performance. The members of your favorite band have probably traveled thousands of miles in the past couple of days, so you can bet they’ll be getting on their tour bus and out of your reach as soon as they can.
Rock on, readers. If you’d like to give The How Not to Suck Blog some love, come like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @hownottosuckblg (no, there’s no o in that. Blg would make a really good name for a Swedish band).