Whether you heed this advice or are simply amused by it, know that I’m coming from a good place, I promise.
This is both a love letter to and advice column for concertgoers. I’m drawing from over 30 years of experience seeing national acts in huge venues and local acts in tiny ones.
Here’s my guide to being an awesome concertgoer.
Don’t give up on seeing a show just because you don’t have a ticket. Show up on the early side and have cash on you (in a variety of denominations). Other fans often wind up with an extra ticket or two for whatever reason. Case in point: I once scored a Cher ticket outside the Cumberland County Civic Center for 10 bucks from someone who had an extra they couldn’t use. Also, tickets sometimes get released last minute at the box office. Several years ago I went to Mansfield, Massachusetts, to see a double-bill of Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette. I arrived a few hours before the gates opened and hung around the box office. Sure enough, tickets were released and yours truly caught a spectacular show from a second row center seat.
Also, never assume a venue accepts credit cards for same-day purchases. Always carry cash.
With regard to “ticket agencies” and scalpers: They are the bane of my existence. From scalpers on Craigslist to myriad online ticket sellers, people are out there to make a buck off music fans who were shut out of ticket sales. Often these scoundrels are extremely well-staffed and have enormous buying power. I have only bought tickets once or twice in my life from such ilk and thankfully the financial blow wasn’t too bad. I wish this practice were outlawed.
Just be sure you know with 100 percent certainty what you are buying before you pull the trigger on such a purchase. And don’t be afraid to negotiate. The last thing scalpers want is to eat tickets.
Shows at local venues such as Blue are often free, meaning there’s no ticket required or cover charge. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show the musicians a little love. If you see a tip jar or a hat passed and you’ve liked what you’ve heard, toss in what you can. It really does matter.
I get it, there’s no going back. Heck, even I do it. But let’s do it in moderation and be mindful about it. Ask yourself this: Does anyone (even you) really want to see your photo of a band taken from hundreds of feet away? Even from good seats, consider keeping your picture-taking and especially your video-recording to a minimum. Do you really need to record an entire song or would a short clip suffice?
And, depending on where you’re shooting from, the video and sound quality of your recording can be poor. If you love the artist, do you really want to repay them by posting such a clip on YouTube or Facebook? And remember, every time you whip out your smartphone you are impacting everyone around you. Either your raised arm is obstructing someone’s view or the neon-bright glow of your screen is distracting people.
Here’s a tip: Adjust the settings on your device so the screen brightness is turned down as far as it can go. This reduces the annoying glow from your screen significantly. It’s also been my experience that there’s a direct correlation between putting one’s smartphone away and being more in-the-moment at a show. I fondly remember times when the only thing I had with me at a show was a ticket, T-shirt money and maybe a lighter to hold up at strategic times (those were the days, U2).
When I shell out cash to see a show or I am at a small venue seeing a local act, I’m there essentially for one reason: to hear the music. I don’t want to hear you yelling back and forth to your friend about the stock market, the time you saw the band seven years ago, the fact that you want to go to Denny’s after the show or anything else. I just want to hear the band. Dig? So chat if you must, but please keep it down to a dull roar. This is especially true at smaller shows. Remember to show the band some respect and show some respect to those of us who are there to hear the music.
If it’s any kind of rock or loudish show, knock yourself out. But if it’s a quieter one, or, say, a solo acoustic one, please refrain from singing along. Enough said.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve loved the opening act. With few exceptions, every act has been an opener at some point along the way. Give them a chance. If you decide you don’t like them, that’s fine, but please keep in mind that other people may. So act accordingly.
If you have to get up for any reason, please, for the love of all things sacred about music, wait until the end of a song to leave – or return to – your seat. Also, sit only in your actual seat. Nothing’s worse than finding your seats occupied by people who don’t belong there. It’s disruptive and a pain in the neck for all involved. If it’s a general admission show without actual seats, that’s another story, but please don’t shove your way to the front, blocking those who have staked their turf while you were down the street having cocktails. Respect other people’s personal space. Be aware of your surroundings before you bust out in a flailing interpretative dance. No one wants beer splashed on them or to be knocked out by a thrashed arm.
We all go to live shows for different reasons but let’s hope the one uniting factor is a love of music. Some people may have had to save up for weeks or longer to afford a ticket. It could be the first concert for others or maybe a first date. You just don’t know. By all means, have the time of your life. But make sure you allow others to do the same. I’ll see you out there.