You scored tickets to your favourite artist/band’s concert (which is getting increasingly harder these days; more on that another time), and you could not be happier. So that’s it, right? Go to the show, let them music at you, and go home. It’s not always that simple; there are a lot of potential speed bumps that could greatly diminish your experience of what would otherwise be a wonderful live production. Whether this is your first ever live show, or you’re concert veteran, here are some tips that can help you maximize the magic.
Have everything you need before you leave
There is little worse than travelling to your destination, only to realize you’ve forgotten something. Concerts are no exception. Best case scenario, it’s something inconsequential, like your phone, or a pack of gum. Worst case scenario, and I’ve seen it before, is a wallet or purse that has the tickets. To avoid any of this, make a quick checklist of things you might need, and run through it before leaving the house. If it’s a 19+ show or you plan to have a drink or two, make sure to bring a piece of government ID (try to avoid health cards, as some venues are still hesitant to accept these). If an eTicket was the only option of delivery, keep your phone fully charged, and print a hard copy backup.
Bring ear protection
This isn’t just for the noise junkies that always bee-line for the front of the stage, right next to the biggest loudspeaker (you know who you are, and so does everyone else). Every show will use some sort of sound system that’s meant to ensure that everyone at the far reaches of the room can hear crystal clear, be it in a small bar that barely fits 500, or in an arena that houses thousands of bodies. That’s a lot of decibels coming at you, wherever you choose to be in that space. To avoid a nasty ringing in your ears the next morning, be sure to protect them. They don’t have to be the giant, conspicuous earmuffs worthy of a construction site. But rather, grab a pair of foam plugs for a few dollars at the drugstore to soften the speaker blow. Or if you’re an audiophile like myself, there are special “musicians” earplugs that start at about $25-$35. These don’t give you that muffled, underwater sound that you might get with the cheaper options. Ask your local music shop what they suggest.
If you don’t need it, leave it
Just as important as having the essentials, don’t bring anything that might prevent you from entering the building. Some things are obvious, like alcohol or any illegal substances, or anything that can be seen as a weapon. Less obvious could be the doggy bag you have from the dinner before the show. Outside food or drinks can mean red tape at many venues and concert halls. If you have a large bag or purse, try to empty as much out as you can before going to the show. Even if you don’t have anything offensive in there, security can be pretty thorough in their search, which can hold up the line.
Know when to get there
This one is a bit tricky, so bear with me. Every event will have a reported time, usually accompanied with the word “DOORS”. Many confuse this to mean that is when to arrive by, and thus when the show starts. This is a mistake that could leave you waiting an hour for the opening act to start, tempting you to get a few more overpriced stadium drinks. “DOORS” means just that, when security opens the doors to allow in the flood of bodies (only to be stopped again in 10 feet for security check at bigger venues). Unless you’re aiming to get within the first few rows of the general admission / floor (no seats) area, you really don’t need to be there when the doors open. And that’s if you care to see the opening act at all (which I normally do, but I seem to be the minority of my concert-going friends, unless the opener is of any notoriety). Find the “set times” for the show, which you’ll have to do a bit of digging for. Check any of the artists’, or even venue and promotion company’s Twitter or Facebook pages before the show. A simple Google search of the event could also work. One of those avenues will likely divulge exactly when each segment of the show is meant to start, so you can plan your night accordingly. Additionally, if you have seated tickets, there is no need to show up more than 30 minutes earlier than you want. A half-hour grace period will get you through security, and find your seats.
Don’t film everything on your phone
I know, it’s a special moment that you want to capture forever (or however long your cloud storage is active), but taking long videos at a concert can be problematic. It’s more for the consideration of others that you shouldn’t do this. Snapping a quick photo for your Instagram feed is fine, but anything more than that would just be disruptive to the people around you. I have literally seen a 10” tablet used to film entire segments of a concert. The people behind the aspiring music documentarian were not pleased. Unless something truly newsworthy happens, like a special surprise guest is invited on stage, or an over-excited fan tackles the guitarist, keep your recording tech away and enjoy the show the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
It’s a crowd of people, and not all people are awesome
It’s a game of numbers when dealing with any large group of somewhat random people, and the larger the number gets, the more likely you might encounter some social discomforts. Especially because concert etiquette is far removed from that of most other public spaces. Sometimes it will be unavoidable, like getting stuck behind a 7-foot-tall varsity basketball captain that also likes this band. Other times, it might be a disorderly fan who had a few too many drinks. In any case, I find it most rewarding to deal with these issues in stride. If the tone-deaf couple beside you won’t stop shouting the few lyrics they think they know, move to another spot (if you can). Remember, everyone is there for the same reason: to have fun. Although some might go about achieving said fun in ways you may not agree with, the best you can do is be the kind of person you want to encounter at a show.