If you’re at all like me, a new year leads to new concert experiences. As of today, I’ve got Depeche Mode, Enslaved / Insomnium, and Herbie Hancock shows marked on the calendar, and I highly anticipate seeing what other events sprout up in Toronto and the surrounding area in the coming months.
While I maintain that each concert is a unique experience unto itself, every single time I go to a concert, I seem to have a relatively consistent set of take-aways based on my experience. No, I’m not saying I’m been bowled over by each show I’ve attended or that, on the contrary, I attend each show with a critical mindset. It’s a combination of the ups and downs (admittedly, mostly ups) that contribute to making a concert a memorable experience, and I often make efforts to take at least a few notes soon after I leave the venue. Sometimes, it will be taking note of the songs I remember being played, though I tend to abandon this practice due to plenty of other fans cobbling together the set-lists and sharing them online. Most of the time, my notes (sometimes mental ones rather than physical) are of those little things that you can only sense by being physically there rather than watching a recording of the performance.
I’ve used several of these basic post-show observations to compile a list of what I believe to be important aspects regarding overall concert enjoyment. I could just as easily have titled this list “My Keys To Enjoying A Concert” since some items amount to a personal preference rather than things that universally enhance a show for everyone, but that should be clear as you’ll start to develop your own counter-opinions at least two or three points into my list. And if you don’t disagree with any of it, then we should plan a meet-up at a future concert without hesitation.
Don’t Worry (Too Much) About Ticket Prices
I like to think of myself as someone who is fiscally responsible for the most part. No matter what your hobbies are or how much you like to travel, go out partying, and so on, each of us ultimately have a limit on funds which we can set aside for entertainment in order to keep fed, clothed, and sheltered. This is why I included the “too much” caveat because of our respective income and living expenses.
If you’ve been looking for concert tickets in the past year or so, you’ve likely noticed that dynamic pricing has become a disturbing new trend that seems designed to divide you from your money quicker than you are comfortable with. It’s phenomena like this that makes me wish more bands like Pearl Jam put forth a sustained, united effort in the Ticketmaster battle to keep fans’ interests at heart. I realize that it can be expensive to tour depending on your crew size, but many people out there feel they are being taken advantage of like never before.
Despite it all, here’s the good news: you are the one in control! As much as us music junkies crave them, nobody has to go to a concert at the end of the day. If musicians are happy to risk getting a big payday with a chance of playing to a half-empty stadium (note that I’m not going with the optimistic half-full here), that’s on them. That being said, you are your own master, and you don’t necessarily have to let a “little” obstacle like an inflated price tag stop you from doing something you truly want to do. Before the tickets go on sale, ask yourself a few questions before making the purchase. Have you ever seen the artist/band live before? If you have, is there something special about the performance this time around (such as a lineup change or the playing of a classic album in its entirety)? Are they still performing at a strong level? How frequently do they perform near you? Depending on the price, you may instead be able to use that money to buy concert tickets to two, three, or possibly more shows at smaller venues, and potentially have just as much fun if not more.
These days, I’ve also been weighing the cost of a concert ticket to the prices of other entertainment near me, such as those of sporting events. The nearby Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors each play 41 home games a season, yet those tickets average deep into the three-figure range, and add an extra digit on those prices for a really good seat or if a top-tier opponent is coming to town. Up against other options, it might not seem too terrible to spend $150 on a ticket for someone that comes locally once every five years (if you are even that lucky).
Quality Over Quantity
This may sound like a no-brainer to some if taken as a general axiom, but by this I’m referring to the number of artist performing at any one particular concert.
Festivals drive me nuts in this regard. I’ve only attended a few festival-style concerts (such as the Riot Fest weekend from the above poster), but looking at the sheer number of musicians vying for your attention at many of them, it can be overwhelming. Plus, stage time is often very limited for most at festivals unless they are headliners. While twenty minutes at quarter-past noon is still decent exposure for lesser-known artists at these type of gigs, people don’t typically pay the sometimes extraordinary admission prices to see them. Multi-stage festival set-ups usually have one or two stages for the so-called “main acts”, with another stage (or perhaps more depending on the size of the festival grounds) reserved for the more obscure acts that are often on independent record labels. Some festivals may also split the stages up based on genre classification. That’s all well and good, but if you have a wide range of tastes, you could suffer from choice paralysis in deciding which stage to attend at a certain time. While there is some fun to be had in planning your day, there are sure to be a few hard choices to be made.
That’s why I largely prefer single-stage shows, but even these could have their issues. If you are into punk or metal like I am, you’ve likely been to shows in small clubs where they squeeze a local opener or two onto the bill at relatively short-notice. In some cases, the local act begins playing as the doors open. More often than not, I’ve been to shows where the newly-inserted openers bump the rest of the performers’ stage times back, leading to concerts ending later than anticipated. My preference for shows that start at a typical time in the evening (around 8 PM) is that no more than four artists are part of the show. That’s still enough time to fit a local opener in depending on what curfew bylaw the venue observes. If it’s on a weekend or begins earlier for another reason, then seeing the bill feature more names make much more sense.
Wear Whatever You Want
Read other people’s golden rules about attending concerts, and you’ll hear one rule repeated ad nauseam: Never wear a shirt of the band you are going to see. The most ludicrous aspect of this statement is that it gets violated constantly, so I’m not sure whoever put this idea out into the mainstream. I want to say it was used in one of those cult-status movies or two, but a concrete use of it currently escapes me.
Wear a sundress and cowboy boots to your next black metal show, don a suit and tie at a techno festival, and unveiling your new Gentle Giant t-shirt at an Olivia Rodrigo concert shouldn’t really weird out anybody. Furthermore, if you want to skip out on the ten-dollar coat check and wear your parka for four hours in a sweltering night-club, that’s your prerogative too, but don’t complain that those three beers you downed before the headliner hit the stage cost you fifty bucks. If you’re comfortable with your attire, then everyone should comfortable.
Make Sure You’ve Got Your Ticket on You
Physical tickets are becoming about as dead as disco (as is the expression “as dead as disco”), but there are still the odd cases where you obtain one. Certain events allow for print-off tickets, and other venues that use physical tickets offer a will-call option, which saves you on delivery fees and acts as a great protective measure against absent-mindedness. That being said, you’ll likely need to show ID to verify you are the owner of those tickets, so be sure to bring whatever wallet, purse, etc. in which you typically carry your credit card or forms of identification.
Dealing with how things are in 2023, simply having your phone on you may not guarantee you smooth entry. Apps and websites can have their fair share of headaches, so do your best to minimize them well in advance of the concert. For instance, I went to see The Mars Volta last year, and there was a so-called event delivery delay on tickets. This means that while I purchased my tickets several months in advance, I could not download them to my phone’s wallet or re-sell them until a set amount of days prior to the concert. Wanting that peace of mind of having those tickets nestled snugly in my digital wallet, I panicked and fired off a series of inquiries to Ticketmaster support. Neither of the representatives I talked to could give me a specific answer, so I had to wait until my issue sorted itself out. In case you have a similar panic about a concert you are going to, know that certain shows do not release access to purchased digital tickets until approximately 48 hours prior to showtime. Among my long list of grievances with Ticketmaster, I suggest they make this fact known when you log into the site or app and attempt to view your ticket(s).
With that out of the way, my advice is that as soon as possible, place the digital ticket in your wallet. If able, I do this within days of making the purchase. If your ticket was e-mailed to you, flag it so that it can easily be located or print the ticket (I often do both!).
Try to Temper your Expectations Prior to Going
There are so many factors that contribute to making a concert an enjoyable experience. Ultimately, many of them are out of your control. One or more of the on-stage performers may be having a bad night, be it due to technical difficulties with equipment, the audience isn’t behaving to their standards, or they just broke it off with their significant other minutes before their show and it shows in their mood. While that can all be a mess unto itself, sometimes expectations can be altered based on your own perception.
It may be worth your time to look up live clips of an artist in advanced of tickets going on sale, and even read personal accounts from previous concert-attendees to get some anecdotal information about the overall experience. One of my own uses of this technique came prior to seeing goth-rock icon Peter Murphy. I was just discovering his music, and soon spotted he was coming to the area for a show. I read underneath certain YouTube comments and online discussions that he was rather cold and a bit of a diva. Repeated on-stage tantrums over a megaphone that didn’t seem to be functioning properly showed me the then-former Bauhaus front-man (they have reunited since that date) on a bad-night. I don’t know all the details of what was going on and never looked into if he was going through any personal issues (it’s really none of my business), but despite hearing some stories about other similar incidents, I was rattled and had a hard time getting comfortable given that I was standing in one of the first few rows. I will say that had I not done my homework, I likely would have felt worse than I did.
Despite carrying these types of memories with me, I try not to let them get to me, especially as it has not happened to me at a more expensive concert. Even if the worst parts of what you hear come true, there will always be other concerts. Shake it off, and go on to the next one.
Indoor Beats Outdoor
Let me put it this way: If I’ve got a schedule conflict dictating I choose between an indoor or an outdoor concert, I’d take the indoor show assuming all else is relatively equal (ticket cost, number of bands, quality of bands, etc.).
I can tie this back to any festival experiences I’ve had. You don’t even have to watch any Woodstock ‘99 documentaries to get an impression about how bad they can get. Anecdotally, the last festival I went to led to a bad case of mud-shoe (which sounds like some disease from the Middle Ages, but I mean my shoes were drenched and caked in mud) and the rain also damaged the Walkman I had in my backpack. Add to that restroom conditions that would make a truck-stop seem cozy, the likelihood of dehydration even if you take precautions, and the ease with which you’ll be gouged by food and drink vendors given that no local competition exists, and I have myself thinking twice about wanting to attend such events. Still, there are many that can put up with these elements for the good of the music or even the social aspects, and all the power to them. Do what you love!
In my preference of indoor shows versus outdoor, here are a few other factors that swing my vote:
Relative climate-control: Clubs and stadiums can get hot when you are shoulder-to-shoulder, but at least I can’t get rained on. While chair comfort varies, I don’t have any lasting memory of being terribly uncomfortable temperature-wise when inside with assigned seating either. Some outdoor shows are advertised as “rain or shine”, but that is at the discretion of the concert organizer and venue acting in compliance with public safety. Concerts can be cancelled for significant enough rain events, which can also potentially stop a concert or festival at the midway point. I understand that certain severe weather events can cancel indoor shows as well, with perhaps the most notable in my area being a winter snowstorm. Still, the issue of such cancellations is more likely to be due to unsafe travel conditions to the concert as opposed to conditions being unsafe for the artist to perform.
Superior sound: If I ranked the concerts I’ve attended into a top-ten for best-sounding, I wouldn’t place a single outdoor show in that list. Outdoor sound, to my ears anyway, seems to always be worse the further you are from the stage. Indoor sound is usually more balanced regardless of where you are situated. It’s not as if there’s nobody doing a live mix at an outdoor show, it’s just that there seem to be many factors outside that are harder to balance (primarily echoing and external noise sources).
Lines: Larger-scale concerts of both types involve dealing with lineups for several purposes, be they for the washroom, bar, food, or merch. With indoor shows, at least they are usually well-marked. Depending on where the outdoor concert/festival is held, where each respective facility is located can vary from show-to-show. This is all fixed and labelled at indoor shows (merch lines may be the exception), and the larger of these venues are well-equipped for volume given that they often host sporting events.
Don’t Burn Yourself Out On An Artist Ahead Of Time
Let’s admit it. There are some people who when they get into a band, they get WAY into a band. They follow them on every single social media platform, own all the albums plus a good chunk of their bootlegs, and they carry just about everything there is to know about the band in their heads. Ahead of a concert, they are the ones listening to the band on the drive there, and they’ll continue their music marathon in the parking lot or max out the volume of their phone to play it while in line. There was a time when I was not too dissimilar from this, but it has passed me by.
It may be tempting to marathon albums or compile a playlist in the days leading up to the show, but I no longer see the point in this. I never did this practice often, but I did do it early enough in my concert-going years. In the summer following my high school graduation, my brother and I had tickets to see Iron Maiden, who were on a metal-head’s dream bill with Dio and Motorhead opening. This was at a stage of my life where neither of us had much of a music collection, but the albums we did have we would listen to religiously. Iron Maiden made up a sizable portion of those albums, and while I didn’t have access to all their albums, I listened to ones that we owned often. What I didn’t have, I made up for in concert tapes, as I recall pretty much wearing the spools off their Raising Hell VHS tape from over-use. I also looked up their set-list prior to the concert, so this had the unfortunate side-effect of taking away the element of surprise. Did I need to know that they were going to play “Die With Your Boots On” immediately after “2 Minutes to Midnight” but before “The Clansman”? No (Note: I can’t remember the running order of the songs now, but they did play each of them). A song like that isn’t a fixture in their set-list, so hearing the lesser-known tracks come up in a band’s performance feels like a greater treat when it reaches you unexpectedly.
I did enjoy the show, but looking back I can’t help but feel my obsession and over-consumption of their music diminished the experience slightly. I pretty much do the total opposite now. If I’m seeing a band, I try to starve myself of their content, which I think heightens the live experience.
Bring Ear Plugs
Don’t lay that “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” garbage on me! I have enough grays popping out at odd angles of my head to be considered on the older end of the young man spectrum. I’m definitely old enough to get concerned about my long-term health, and hearing is a big part of that.
If you are going to a larger venue or an outdoor one, this may not be as big an issue. Audio has more space to bounce around the room, and you’ll probably be seated or standing at a much further distance from the speakers. I’ve also been to jazz and softer rock shows where plugs were not a necessity due to the lower decibel levels, and this is attending some of the same clubs that I’ve seen hard rock and metal at. Still, I’d ere on the side of caution. Don’t leave home without some.
I’ve noticed a minor ringing developing in my ears over the past few years, particularly when I’m indoors and/or lying in bed. It doesn’t impact much of my hearing, but I’ve taken hearing tests online that estimate the frequency spectrum I can hear matches that of a person around ten years older than me. It may not have been the most scientific of tests, and can vary depending on the speakers of the device you are listening to, but I take it as a sign of decline nonetheless and want to do my best to limit damage.
At one point in my adulthood, I made habit of keeping ear plugs in my pocket when heading to a show, but they would rarely make an appearance in-ear. Part of me was self-conscious for using them because if you have disposable ear plugs in, it tends to look a little goofy having these orange things poking out of your ears. I can remember a turning-point show where I started to re-access my relationship with ear plugs, and went on to (dare I say it?) love them. It was roughly ten years ago at one of the many multi-band metal shows I’ve attended, with Gigan, Artificial Brain, and Pyrrhon playing in a cramped room above a Mexican food restaurant (Rancho Relaxo, who had great food!). I know it must have contributed to some of the ringing in my ear because it was one of the loudest shows I’ve endured! I experimented on multiple occasions during that show pulling my ear plugs out and putting them back in, but I didn’t wear them for the most part, and had the worst day-after hearing loss that I can recall.
I think I got into the habit of bringing earplugs when seeing Swans, who play so loud that they had signs posted all over the venue recommending hearing protection. Do not take such warnings lightly! If using a foam pair, I find if you don’t insert them too deeply they don’t block out too much of the audio, just enough to cut off extraneous noise and higher frequencies to prevent that 24-hour post-show ringing. You may even want to consider looking into getting a custom-fitting pair.
Don’t Flex Your Knowledge (Too Hard)
The practice of gate-keeping comes up a lot as it relates to music, a concept that has grown more mainstream in light of Strangers Things and their use of music from the 1980s. While I like to think I act less and less protective of my investment in a band’s fandom as I age, the term is commonly used for someone that goes the extra mile to de-legitimize someone else’s enjoyment of something (see various Urban Dictionary definitions for some use cases). Among music fans, the term is sometimes reserved for a person that demands someone to test their knowledge of music for them (for instance, someone saying to you “You call yourself a Rage Against The Machine fan? Then name five songs.”). I’m coming from this at another angle, and saying to avoid showing your music knowledge at any cost. If you feel the need, express ignorance to a degree (“I could be wrong, but I’ve heard…”). I say this mainly so you avoid embarrassing yourself.
Some people like to flex their credibility by pulling someone into a deep conversation about topics such as the first time they saw a certain artist, discussing the drummer’s entire recording history, or the inspiration behind certain songs. It’s in these moments that you can catch provably false information seep from one’s lips. Stuff like Jeff Beck (may he rest in peace) once being a touring member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (who may have been mistaken for other guitar legends like Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor), or that Mos Def was in the Wu-Tang Clan (when they possibly meant Black Star). It’s an innocent enough act, but while I would bite my tongue at wanting to jump in with a correction, another fellow fan queuing up for the concert may be more bold with their fact-checking.
If I’m not too careful, I’ll fall into these trappings, and I probably do currently without being aware. And come to think of it, pointing out what not to do at concerts also makes me some sort of gatekeeper. Whoever said I was perfect?
Respect the Opener
The ultimate sign of respect for the opening act would be to have them play to a nearly-packed room. It sounds a bit of a simplistic ask, but show up for them. The ticket lists a time when doors open, and the first band most often starts thirty to sixty minutes later. If you treat the printed ticket time as when to show up, you may be in for a heck of a treat. I’ve had several openers surprise me with just how good they were. Artists such as Cleric, King’s X, Thantifaxath, and Autobahn all won me over with their sets despite getting little or no exposure to them before the concert. You never know what you’re in store for if you don’t head in early, and also keep in mind that your favourite band had to start their career at the bottom of the bill.
Granted, I know this rule of mine is not possible for everyone. Many concerts fall on weeknights, so travelling into the city for a concert may eat up more time than desired. Some can leave work early that day, but others aren’t granted the flexibility. I don’t think any less of anyone if their schedules don’t align to make it on time. I know that due to similar constraints, I’ve had to do the opposite and leave shows early.
If you are there early enough to see the opener, listen to them and give them a chance. You don’t have to like them, but don’t hate on them. Don’t boo the opener or chant the name of the headliner in the middle of the support act’s set (some call this “the Slayer treatment”), don’t stand with your back to the stage, and give them some encouragement. They may make the smallest cut of the money that night, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be thought of as an annoyance or as inferior musicians.
Enjoy It Sober
This one will come across as sounding preachy, but that’s not my intent. I’m not saying you can’t have a drink or two or three at a show (we all should know our limit), but there’s no polite way to say it – most people don’t know how obnoxious they come across when they are drunk or high. If a show is great enough, I can overlook some of these people, but certain intoxicated individuals can do enough to turn an average show into a bad one as a spectator. Most shows are 19+, so act like someone resembling an adult if you partake in the devil’s nectar.
You know what? It’s not so much the concert if I think more deeply about it, but the aftermath. It’s a point I get reminded of often when taking the train back from a major concert, particularly ones on weekends or during the summer. It’s much easier to tolerate the inebriated when you are witnessing music history in front of you. It’s much more difficult to do so when you are trying to relax after the festivities. I was once caught up in a packed train car fight after going to a Beastie Boys concert, and I guarantee things wouldn’t have erupted so violently if participants had been closer to sober (and if they left their high school grudges in high school). Additionally, the amount of drunken arguments that have no point that I have witnessed on such rides, such as a recent one where a man coming from an Elton John show argued with a man coming from a Pearl Jam show over (of all things) what the net worth of the company he worked for was, are countless. Sometimes I look forward to what the next one will sound like, but when the next one inevitably happens, I wish I would just fade into the background as not to get involved.
Manage the Moshpit
Though moshing is undoubtedly an aggressive behaviour, keep in mind that it isn’t war. Moshing is occasionally referred to as “slam-dancing”, though I don’t know of anyone who dances in the traditional sense who does so with the objective to hurt somebody.
- Help a guy up if he falls down.
- Don’t push people into the pit (especially as you aren’t sure if they want to participate)
- No kicking or arm-swinging (you aren’t a weed-whacker)
- Mind the elbows, too!
There are apparently a slew of other rules if you observe the guidelines on WikiHow, now a go-to source for everything from moshpits to migraines.
On that note, I’d advice against moshing if you do have a migraine. In fact, sit the concert out altogether.
Be Mindful of Your Surroundings (and Your Height)
In all reality, when it comes to general admission shows, position on the floor is pretty much a first come, first serve deal. Still, and I preface this by reminding you that I am a modest five feet and five inches in height, be aware of those nearby if you are a taller person.
I realize that this height grievance is the least likely sub-point on my list to be followed, but I’ve got to stand up for my fellow short people. This isn’t really for those slightly tall. I’m referring to those outliers that are like 6’2” and up, well above the average North American height. More than a few times I’ve had a prime spot near the front of the stage where I thought there was no way that I’d have my view obstructed. Then comes the hand on your shoulder that gently turns you back like a page in a book as someone steps in front of you. It’s a much easier maneuver to perform when you have a significant height advantage. I try to be fairly territorial when picking my spot if I get very close to the front of the floor. If I’m at the barrier, I plant one hand on it so moving me away from it isn’t an option in polite society.
I know tall people can have their own share of struggles in daily life, but in the case of general admission seating, you are blessed with a great gift. If you see someone significantly shorter directly behind you, offer to switch spots with them or ask if they can see the stage. That’s all I ask, or else one of us little Napoleons may take it personally. As an example, I once saw at a Julian Lage show a guy angrily call out a tall man for stepping in front of him and blocking his view, but I have a feeling it was because the man complaining was there with what appeared to be his girlfriend. It was actually kind of funny because he waited until after the concert ended to confront the person. Good on him for not ruining the guy’s night who ruined his night! I’ll always wonder what impact that incident had on the couple’s relationship.
Some concert attendees also wear backpacks when they are in the crowd. If it’s a small bag, it can rest easily on your back at no hindrance to yourself or others. However, wearing a larger bag can be a big problem. As it juts off your back, it can take up the space of an extra person. As you move back and forth, it can knock a drink out of someone’s hand or knock someone down if your movement is too sudden. If carrying a backpack (some do so to carry merch or because they came to the show directly from work or school), the best spot for it is on the floor directly in front of you (as gross and sticky as some concert hall’s floors can get). Not only would people near you be thankful, but your back will thank you too.
This can also come in the form of standing while in a seated section at the top deck of a balcony. In larger venues, it adds nothing to the overall experience, only causing a cascading effect where everyone is left to stand in hopes of gaining their view back. The aisles and walkways are another issue altogether. Ushers, in an ideal world, will clear the aisles to make sure (at the very least) you stay in your designated seat even if you do choose to stand in front of your seat. I’ll put on my Fire Marshall Bill hat and say that not only can blocked passageways cause a hazard in case of emergency, but they don’t design sight-lines in anticipation that people are going to occupy those spaces. To give an anecdote, some concert-goers would occupy the aisle-way intermittently at the recent Red Hot Chili Peppers show I attended at the Rogers Centre, but had the courtesy to return to their seats after one song (at least that was their stated plan once my sister asked if they would move). Also, in a case of karma for not being mindful of her surroundings and aisle-way obstruction, I saw a young woman (another aisle blocker) almost drop her cellphone off the balcony at the same show after a man gently brushed by her as he attempted to return to his rightful seat.
Be careful out there!
Pay Attention to the Solos
This one is a similar point to respecting the opening acts when I say to pay attention to solos. Whether it’s executed on guitar, bass, drums, piano, tuba, xylophone, mouth-harp, or even a spring door stopper, a solo spot in a concert can be a time for spontaneity and creativity that you may not get from listening to an album or from a different concert. Someone is putting their heart and soul out there in a vulnerable spot where there is no other musical accompaniment, so this is another time where encouragement and focus would be particularly appreciated. Years ago, I was near livid when I saw two men talking at length in front of me when seeing Allan Holdsworth perform in a small room above Cosmo Music Store in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Allan likely didn’t hear them, but being within five metres of the stage, I couldn’t be certain how their voices would carry. Don’t take the chance that the soloist catches your disinterest.
I’d sooner you take a washroom break or beer run than treat this solo as if it were muzak in an elevator. In fact, many bands that play to stadium crowds essentially use solo spots as an opportunity to give other musicians a rest in a multi-hour show. If you also need the rest, go ahead and take it elsewhere. Talking through a solo may be your idea of a rest, but the people surrounding you may actually want to hear the musician speak through their respective instrument. Something is happening in front of you that others (in cases of sold out events or individuals who live too far from any stops on the tour) would have killed to witness in-person. Soak it in, or step away.
Don’t Distract From the Stage
Here’s yet another seemingly vague point I’m bringing up, but as I’m nearing the end of the list, I’ll treat this category as a catch-all for other potential forms of distraction. The moral of the story is that the entertainment should primarily come from the musicians. You can laugh all you want at the antics of those around you all you want, but do your best not to contribute to them.
I’ll append to this point that moshpits are a major exception from stage distraction. In fact, many bands will demand that you mosh if they aren’t seeing much movement in the crowd. Several bands feed off the crowd energy much like the crowd gets energized from the band on-stage. If you have the vantage point of a good one, it’s like watching an eclipse or another natural phenomena, a compliment to the music rather than a distraction.
Can I get more specific about other true distractions? Well, for one, attempting to talk to the singer in between songs comes across as heckling no matter the tone of your voice or content of your speech. If you want that personal moment, you could have sprung for the VIP ticket instead of interrupt any pre-song speech, or wait until after the show to try to get a word in or a photo or autograph. Even then, the experience would still be largely dependent on how much they would tolerate your possibly-drunk ass.
This one is a very specific anecdote, but I remember at an otherwise excellent Faith No More show seeing a couple a few rows in front of me in the balcony standing up (see previous point), looking each other longingly in the eyes, and singing the lyrics at each other. I can put up with it in small doses, but when your view-blocking antics involve additional public displays of affection (groping, kissing, etc.), it’s kind of gross. I don’t care if you’re “having a moment” and will go on to tell your grandchildren that this was the instant you realized that you truly love each other, but don’t forget to spare the lyrics you lip-synched in “Be Aggressive” in your recollection, then watch the charm of the moment evaporate.
I know, that’s a bit of a weird one, but what other things can distract from the stage? We all have our pet peeves that could bulk up this point, but I’ve got one more to close on that deserves a point all by itself.
You Are Not a Filmmaker
You want to grab a few pictures or record a snippet of your favourite song to help you remember what it was like? Fair enough. That is, if the artist permits it. Many concerts these days have a pre-show announcement advising against this, such as in the Porcupine Tree concert I recently attended, and to remain in the Progosphere, King Crimson also share this policy. Take your phone out of your pocket in cases such as this, and you risk being escorted out of the venue by security. Argue all you want on these measures leaning authoritarian, but that’s just one of the issues that might come up if you can’t help but reach for the record button on your chosen device.
Some venues, particularly older ones like Toronto’s Massey Hall, have poor sight-lines to the stages in some sections. Add to that a phone or tablet being extended outward at arm’s length, and that device has become the lens through which the person behind you has to watch the show. On your little handheld piece of technology, there are other issues that make it an irritation for your neighbours. If you chose to live-stream part of the show on social media, an annoying scroll of comments and reactions will inevitably pop up to further distort the person’s view behind you. How about if you are using your phone? You can be texted at any given time of day about anything. Do you want risk a stranger reading an intimate conversation of yours? I didn’t think so.
I never record audio or video, but I still take the odd photo at a concert. When doing so, I aim to not keep my phone out any longer than necessary. While I like looking back at my own photos, I find that most of the photos I take don’t turn out as well as I hoped. Keep in mind that with many concerts, there will usually be someone out there with a better camera than you have, and they’ll be more skilled at taking pictures. These people are often professionals in the music media or part of the band’s crew, so you should be able to track down superior photography after the show to save as a beloved keepsake. If the demand exists, a film crew may even record a concert on the tour for future release to the public. It may not be the show you attended, but it should be similar enough to it.
I think sixteen items gets the point across. Applying myself further and adding another year or two’s worth of shows, this list could easily grow rapidly. I can nitpick until the cows come home, and become annoyed by surrounding behaviour that easily!
Did I leave anything notable out? Are some of my guidelines utterly ridiculous? If you’ve got your own ideas that help make concerts better in your eyes, shout ‘em out!