The Casual Concertgoer

Anna G 2008, 30 Seconds to Mars @ The Filmore, Detroit, MI

Everyone enjoys a good live show from time to time; some are just flat out addicted.  The hardcore concertgoer has their system down, they know when to buy tickets, when to be there, how to equip themselves to ensure a good night, but there are still those out there who never quite figured out what works best for them.


The Venue

The venue you attend will dictate a lot of how you want to prepare.  Is it a small club?  A stadium or arena? How about an outdoor venue?  You will want to prepare differently based on where you are going and even when.  Parking is also a factor as to whether it is free, paid, paved, or dirt.  If you are unfamiliar with the venue you are attending, you should look up their website or look in an online directory to get a feel for it.  Some venues have strict rules as to what you can and cannot bring.  Some even lay out rules for a dress code, usually if the club is in a more urban area.  Mostly typical airline rules apply, don’t take illegal substances, sharp objects; some venues ban long wallet chains… some won’t even allow carabiners because at some point someone must have used one as a weapon.

It is also a good idea to check out the venue’s camera policy; I have had batteries taken away from me from having my camera where I wasn’t supposed to have it.  Knowing the rules and following them are two very different things.  A good share of venues won’t search your bags or your person, but the bigger the city, the more likely you will get at least a little pat down and they will want a quick peek in any bag you might have on you.


Small Clubs

With small clubs it is good to know that it is probably standing room only.  Even a club you are used to having a few tables around will usually clear out a few in favor of more standing room.  Small clubs are almost always general admission, meaning no assigned place to sit, hover or otherwise save.  You have to get there early to get the place you want, or be willing to force your way to where you want to be.  Some people don’t take kindly to this, since they were there early to get the spot they wanted.  A lot of the youth today are not as courteous in their concert going experience as those who have been around a bit.  People will be rude.  They came to see a show and nothing, especially you, could get in their way of that.

Because of the fact that you are probably going to be standing all night, wear something comfortable.  Don’t wear 4″ heels if you can’t stand in them all night.  If you can, more power to you!  It is very possible to still look cute or sexy without wearing killer footwear or clothes that are too restrictive.  Most concerts last at least 3 hours and you can’t count on some nice person giving up their seat to you.  Since you are standing all night, chances are there are no tables or areas to place things like drinks.  So keep you hands free.  If you want to bring a bag of some kind, bring one you don’t have to hold.  Even bags that can be propped on one shoulder get tedious as the night progresses.  The best thing is to get a bag that has a long strap so you can wear it across your body or even the clutch style purses with a wrist strap.  Whatever you decide, know that fanny packs are never good.  They may seem useful and handy but they add unnecessary bulk and lameness to your ensemble.  It can be hard to squeeze through a tight spot in the crowd if you have unnecessary bulk.  And they are just really lame.  A real good alternative is cargo pants or just a cute pair of slacks with lots of pockets.  And never bring more than you need, just grab some money, your license and your ticket.  You don’t need every credit card you have or all those pictures of your kids in your wallet.  Just keep it to the essentials so if you lose something, it isn’t everything.

Alcoholic drinks at small clubs can be anywhere from moderate to holy shit; whichever it is, you can be sure your local bar (or your fridge at home) has better prices.  It is not suggested to drink and drive, of course, but if you must drink, pre-drinking hopefully within walking distance of the venue is advised.

Wearing layers with your clothing, no matter the time of year and the temperature of the club is idea.  That way you can go for less if you get too hot or more if you get a chill, or for those like me, wear something light with long sleeves so you aren’t feeling someone else’s sweaty skin on your own.  At times bringing a disposable jacket can be very helpful.  Something old that you just assume donate can be great for those shows where you have to wait in a cold line outside only to get in and sweat your balls off.  Having something you can just leave without having to carry can be absolutely brilliant.  It allows you to be comfortable inside and out.  Comfort is key.

For those drawn to the center of it all, do NOT wear open toed shoes or sandals or anything that might slip off or allow your foot to be crushed by an unsteady fellow fan.  The deeper you get and the closer to the stage, the more chaotic it can get; if you can’t handle constant physical contact with strangers or pushing and shoving, it might be a better idea to hang in the back or lean against a wall somewhere.  It is so easy to lose things in the sea of people and having shoes that stay on will save your poor foot contact with a sweat and beer soaked floor (among other things that may have found their way to the floor).  You also may want to keep a spare set of clothes in your car.  Strange things can happen in the pit.  Also it might just be nice to peel off your sweat adhered clothing and put on something fresh.  Taking some baby wipes or other cleansing clothes might be a nice relief as well… and I never go anywhere without a full bottle of water in my car.  Dehydration is a serious danger if you spend a lot of time in the eye of the storm fighting to get closer to the stage.  Even if you do have something to drink inside, by the time you get to your car, water will have never tasted so good.



Big stadiums and arenas are more likely to have assigned seating, unless it is a festival being held at an arena such as Van’s Warped Tour or Lollapalooza, then small club rules apply.  General admission exists as well, so keep that in mind when getting seats, and most venues like that have a seating chart you can look at to know where you will be sitting in relation to the stage.

With assigned seats, your life is a little easier.  While a small club may not care if you have a camera phone or small digital in your pocket, the larger venues usually do and look for them. That is how you get batteries, memory cards and even whole cameras taken away from you.  Never a fun thing.  Sometimes you can get an item back at the end of the show, but it is just not worth the hassle and chances are you are not at all close enough to the stage to get a good shot anyway.  So why bother?  At least you get a seat though… which means that if you do wear big heels or have some giant purse or get some beer and snacks, you have a place to put it; meaning your lap or a cup holder in the arm of the chair.

You will get sticker shock though.  You thought that movie theater drinks and snacks were overpriced?  Well try a concert venue.  Ouchie.  For these I would suggest sucking it up and just chewing some gum during the show and getting a drink at a pub or home afterwards.  It is just so not worth it.


Outdoor Venues

In the summer (or all the time if you live in a warmer climate) outdoor concerts are everywhere, from little local fairs to big festival tours.  You have two options when it comes to this:  pack light or pack like you are camping.  If you want to keep mobile and wander at shows like this, just bring what you can carry on your back.  Pack light and wear layers.  If you want to stake out some territory of your own, bring a blanket and collapsible lawn chairs.  Some people even bring plastic molded patio furniture, which is fine if you have helpers and a big car, but that can be a pain with crowds; folding chairs are so much more versatile.  Those camping chairs even can have built in pockets, cup holders and even footrests.  Depending on the venue (again, check out their web site) you can even bring a cooler with your own snacks and drinks.  If the venue has food vendors though, they are probably not going to allow you to bring your own in since they want you to buy their pricey little delights.

Keep the weather in mind for all outdoor events.  Rain, wind and sun can all determine how much you enjoy your show.  Umbrellas can be handy in any weather as a little barrier between you and the elements.  Even in bright sun it can give some well needed shade.  Sun block is also a good idea when you are standing in a wide-open space sweating with several thousand people.  Bug repellent can be equally as precious in those rural areas.

Parking can be wicked though.  It is never close and it is usually just on grass or dirt, though often it will be free.  Don’t count on that though.  Always bring some extra cash for parking expenses.  Also wear appropriate shoes.  If you want heels, try wedges, they won’t get eaten by the soil like a thin little heel would.  I am sure they aerate their lawn in their own way and they don’t need your help.  You are going to be walking a long way in those shoes, make sure they are suitable to the surroundings.


Free Fairs

Free fairs that are actually free (some retain the name but have started charging admission or increased parking fees in recent years) will bring all sorts in.  Anyone looking for a good time and within a few miles of the festival location is probably going to go.  Be careful.  You may have arrived to see the band play, but many people just want somewhere to hang out for the day and they got there early so that they could claim their spot and start drinking.  These people are rude, disrespectful and terribly territorial.  Even if you just approach their vicinity they feel the threat.  Security personnel are not always in great abundance in these events and are not likely to come quickly to your aid if you get in a scuff with one of these locals.

Kids will be everywhere.  These free fairs are family events so multiple generations of people will attend.  Which is great when you want to go to a show and not find a sitter.  There is plenty to do, just make sure you have some sunscreen handy for the little ones and some fluids for the old ones.  Everyone can enjoy themselves at these family friendly shows, but keep in mind not all bands 100% respect the idea and may slip a few f-bombs into their banter between songs.  Family friendly does not ensure a G-rated event.  Especially if it is really hot out, it is amazing what people wear in public, or rather what they don’t wear and there is something about the heat that brings out the vulgarity and crankiness in people.  They don’t censor themselves for anyone.

Free events can be great fun, and excellent people watching, but they are generally not the best way to see a band you really want to see so don’t set your heart on having it be an amazing show, just go and enjoy it for what it is: free.


After Show Ailments

The most common post-concert issue you may find yourself with is the ringing of the ears.  Earplugs are sold in a variety of styles, shapes and colors; it really doesn’t matter which you choose, they will all reduce the likelihood of your ears ringing for a day or two.  The standard cheapie cylindrical foam earplugs are perfectly fine, they block out a great deal.  The more customized silicone molded earplugs will fit better and provide a truer sound since they are meant only to reduce certain tones of noise, not block it out entirely.  If you find yourself in loud environments often, investing a few bucks in the good ones is well worth it.

If you forget earplugs and find yourself with a loud, piercing ring it can be difficult to wind down and fall asleep.  The ringing can be very distracting in the silence.  To combat some of the irritation, keeping some white noise going on in the background such as a fan, A/C or even some music on a low volume.  If you can sleep with the TV on, that will be fine too.  Anything to cut the silence will help you to not hear the ringing quite so loudly.  Sleeping on your back helps too, since your ear is not pressed on the pillow magnifying the sound in your head.

You may also find yourself severely dehydrated after a show.  If you didn’t drink enough non-alcoholic drinks during the show or if you spent the whole show in the mosh pit, there is a good chance you are gonna feel a little thirsty.  Stopping by a gas station to get Gatorade, water or juice should be the next stop of your night.  Dehydration causes fatigue, overheating, headaches, and body aches.  It is important if you think you are suffering from dehydration to get some fluids as soon as possible.  Even a light snack.  You will feel a thousand times better in the morning if you treat your symptoms before you go to sleep.  Incidentally a lot of these symptoms can help prevent a hangover as well.  Too many sugary alcoholic drinks in one night (just as much as too much cheap beer) can cause a few nasty pains the next day.


Spending too much time in the center of the crowd can also result in a lot of bumps and bruises.  To help with swelling and discoloration, cold is extremely important in the first 24 hours.  Some ice (properly insulated, you don’t want to damage your nerves) or a chilled spoon against the bruise will help with the breakage of blood vessels and calm the injury.  After 24 hours, heat should be applied to get a bruise to dissipate more quickly.  An electric heating pad or the disposable stick on pads you can buy at the store is excellent for this.  This works on every kind of bruise, even those inflicted by the lips of an over eager companion.  Keeping a healthy amount of potassium (vitamin K) in your system can help reduce the bruising in the first place; but no bruise is entirely preventable if you choose to be in a mosh pit getting tossed around and doing some shoving of your own.

In the End…

Just have fun!  Don’t give yourself any undue burden at these things.  Keep it light and fun and don’t let anything stress you out.  People may suck but you don’t have to be one of them and you don’t have to let those that do ruin your good time.  You can just go to your show, enjoy your band and have a good time.  Oh and know that if you stay until the tail end of the concert it is probably going to take you at least a half hour to get out of there.  There can be some nasty bottlenecks in foot and vehicle traffic.  Even leaving 10 minutes before a show ends can save so much time spent just waiting.  If it is an all ages show, be careful not to get in the way of one of those moms in mini-vans and SUV’s out front when the show is over.  They take no prisoners.