March 5th, 2013
I came across these tips on how to have an awesome time at a concert on Alan Cross’s blog. It’s good, but extremely sparse to me, and probably to most people who don’t regularly attend concerts. Tips like “bring a friend or go alone” and “when to drink and where” might make some uncool people like myself think that this is a code keep the uncool out.
It’s not true! Just like how on the internet no one knows you’re a dog, in the dark no one knows you’re a dork: if you feel like going to hear live music, you should go. I went to a show last week with a kleenex in the sleeve of my cardigan, so if I can do it, anyone can.
If you’re like me, you probably used to go see bands semi-regularly in high school and university, whenever someone told you about a cool show and you could afford it. But then, after graduation, you (I) knew fewer people who went to stuff, and moved to a city where I didn’t know the venues, and gradually got really intimidated and started picturing every show I considered attending as a cross between a mosh pit and a grade 8 dance.
About 4 years ago, my brother and I realized that while we both finally had money to spend on each other, we could never think of anything we wanted for holiday or birthday gifts. We also realized we have similar taste in music and both regretted not taking part in Toronto’s vibrant musical offerings. So we buy each other show tickets for every gift now, and we attend together. It’s really fun, and not nearly as intimidating as I thought. So, after a few dozen shows, here’s some tips if you’re old-ish and looking get back to concert scene:
1) Listen to music. A friend said to me once, “It’s so sad how terrible music is these days. All I ever listen to is my old albums.” I barely stopped myself from screeching, “That is how you die!!” Music is not depreciating, it’s changing! It’s harder to find things you like when you don’t have whole evenings to spend listening to music and none of your friends suggest things to listen to. But try. Listen to the radio and google anything you hear that you like. Try one of those internet radio stations that takes a performer you like and suggests more. Ask your friends what they’re listening to. Most people in their thirties didn’t stop listening to music, they just stopped forming their identies around it. And it’s totally fine to stick to some bands you used to like in the 90s–they were great–but for goodness’s sakes, listen to their current albums. Bands evolve, and you don’t want to be disappointed at the show because it turns out you don’t like anything they’ve written in the past 15 years.
2) Pay the money. One thing I don’t do in my rock-and-roll renaissance is see random bands. I don’t just go sit in a bar and see who comes on, or go to free community shows, or anything where I don’t have at least a hopeful suspicion that I will like the band. If I’m that hopeful, I am also willing to pay whatever a ticket costs. Not usually that much–I don’t have Rolling Stones tastes–but I pay whatever it takes. I wish I could be out discovering the stuff that no one knows about yet, but really, to stay out late on a weeknight, I have to sorta know I’ll be happy.
3) Plot the logistics. In case you’re a real newbie at concerts, or have only been to those outdoor summer festivals, here’s the biggest logistical issue with concert attendance as a grown-up: you don’t get to sit down. There are no chairs in most venues, and in the few that some stools or whatnot, like Lee’s Palace, people hunch on them grimly as soon as the doors open. It’s not worth it–wear comfortable shoes and a bag you can hang on your shoulder, and come well-rested–you’ll still be tired at the end of the night, but it’s manageable.
Other logistical issues: There are coatchecks in most concert venues, but then you’re stuck in a giant line at the end of the night when you want to go home. I favour the “roll your coat into a ball and stick it between your feet” approach, but it’s up to you. Also, figure out how you’re getting to and fro, especially if it’s Sound Academy, which annoying to walk, transit, AND drive to. Basically, unless you have a jetpack or are willing to live there, only go to Sound Academy shows you *really* want to see. Lee’s Palace and the Phoenix are on the subway line and are awesome; the Opera House and the Mod Club aren’t, but at least have some reasonable transit options. I have no idea how to park anywhere, but if you’re going to try driving, best to look into it–might be challenging.
4) Embrace the experience. I sometimes skip the openers in favour of eating and sitting down for a little longer, but I’ve discovered some good music when I see the full show. Go to the merch table, buy a drink, crowd watch. Music is growing increasingly atomized–we listen alone, on our computers and ipods, and have little idea who our fellow fans are. It’s an amazing experience to assume this tiny bit of solidarity–I like a thing you like–with strangers. In the absence of knowledge, I assume everyone who likes a band I like is just like me. Imagine my surprise to discover teenagers in arm-warmers and eyelines at the Bright Eyes show and drunk university students at Hey Rosetta. My favourite crowd ever was at a The Wooden Sky. I think of them as a gentle roots-rock band, but the early twentysomethings at the show seemed ready for a kegger for some reason. Many were drunk upon arrival, including two beautiful young women who were so surprised to meet up in the lobby, they embraced so hard they fell down. A girl standing in front of me in the bathroom lineup asked me to tell her “honestly” if she had puke on the back of her shirt, and I sadly had to tell her that she did. Later in that same lineup, the girl behind me was having so much trouble waiting that I peeked around a corner and told her we were only a few people away from the door–she hugged me. It was a really really fun night.
5) The music is worth it. Not every time, of course–some bands suck live, and sometimes you just aren’t feeling it. But in general, I feel that the *being there* aspect improves the music by about 20% on average and if you liked it already, that’s amazing. It’s neat to see what people look like and how bandmates interact with each other. Hell, it’s cool to see how they hold their instruments. I’ve never tried to meet anyone or get an autograph or whatever, but just being in the same room is pretty cool.