Going to see a live show can be an amazing, even life-changing experience. Being able to say you went to see a band in concert back in their heyday is an excellent way to impress friends, acquaintances, chicks at bars, and future grandchildren. What is completely uncool, however, is having the opportunity to go see musical mastership in the flesh and passing it up, or worse yet, getting to the concert only for it to be a suckfest because of unforeseen circumstances. I have heard so many stories from people my parents' age about how they almost went to go see Led Zeppelin or they were this close to having tickets to Pink Floyd. You don't want to be the guy, thirty years from now, whose only cool story for the second cousins at the family reunion is how you were going to see the White Stripes at the Fillmore, but you caught a cold so you stayed home and drank Gatorade instead. It is in the interest of future generations for you to go out and see some shows. I can't make you attend concerts, but I can help you have a good time once you've made that decision.
Step 1: Before the Show
-Pick the Right Band
There are a lot of good reasons for wanting to see a band live. You like their albums, you heard they put on a good show, your half-brother is the electric violinist for the band. There are also bad reasons, such as: your girlfriend likes that one song of theirs that got played on the radio for a few weeks, or you were conceived while your parents listened to their greatest hits album. Do some research before you break out the debit card, and consider whether this is a band that consistently outdoes themselves onstage, or if this is a band that needs the controlled, computerized environment of the studio to produce listenable music. There are a lot of artists who pull off miracles of live music to transcend even their studio-recorded greatness, but if a band has a track record of poor live performances then they might not be worth the sticker price. Speaking of which:
-Don't Pay Too Much for Tickets
Buying tickets online has always been a painful process. LiveNation has the concert industry by the balls since their merger with Ticketmaster, and a monopoly has never led to lower prices. Service/convenience/processing fees are all sleazy ways of bleeding more money from you, and are largely unavoidable when buying online. Smaller venues will often sell tickets online through independent or proprietary services which are cheaper than LiveNation/Ticketmaster, but still introduce fees. However, these extra fees can be sidestepped if you drive to the box office (usually at the venue) and buy your tickets in person. Obviously this is not always possible or feasible, but it's something to keep in mind if you're in the area.
- Or For Parking
If you do drive down to the box office to pick up your tickets, you should scout out somewhere cheap to park while you're there. Some cities have free public parking garages, most have paying garages and metered parking spaces. The concert venue will sometimes have a parking lot of its own, but you will almost certainly pay for it. If you look hard enough, though, you will often be able to find a place to park for free within walking distance of the venue, whether it be on the side of a residential street, in a construction site, or behind a restaurant.
-If Tickets are Sold Out, Don't Despair
If for whatever reason you waited too long to buy your ticket, there is a real chance the show will be sold out. This causes many people to simply give up; but not you. You will quickly search through Craigslist or, better yet, StubHub to find tickets for resale. You will probably have to pay a premium for last-minute tickets, of course, but sometimes you just have to see that concert. If all else fails, there are always scalpers skulking around outside the venue before the show to buy overpriced tickets from.
-Bring Some Friends
Concerts are usually more fun when you have other people to enjoy them with. Bring your significant other, your roommate, your sister, your uncle who didn't see the Doors because he had to go to your dad's wedding. Having someone to reminisce about the concert with is a good thing, and so is having a witness to prove you were totally there when Steven Tyler took a dive off the stage and broke his leg. This also means you can carpool and split the cost of parking, if you weren't lucky enough to find a spot for free.
-Don't Get Sick, But If You Do, Just Grow a Pair
Being sick on vacation ranks up there with testicular cancer and Maroon 5 on the suckometer, it just takes the fun right out of Disneyland. Being sick at a concert is a lot like that, so it's best to avoid it. Take care of yourself for a couple weeks leading up to the show. Drink plenty of water, eat copious amounts of vitamin C, and wash your hands frequently. If you do get sick the day of the concert, man up and go anyway, in a Dayquil-induced haze if you have to. The worst that could happen is you die, and that happens to everyone sooner or later. Also, you can apparently trip balls on cough syrup, so that might be cool.
Step 2: At the Show
You need adequate preparation to have a kickass time at a concert. First and foremost, you will need cash. There will be a merch table, a bar, a stranger selling pills, and you will need money to pay for their goods and/or services. Plan ahead and bring enough money to buy as many t-shirts and CD's as you might want. Speaking of which, try and buy stuff before the concert starts, since everyone will want to buy stuff afterwards and the lines will be horrendous.
Public nudity is still illegal, unfortunately, so put some clothes on. A band shirt is always good, and cargo shorts might help to carry all the stuff I will recommend bringing below. Shorts are also better at preventing swamp-balls in a hot, crowded venue. If you have standing room tickets, comfy shoes are a must. Standing in tight or unsupportive shoes for two hours makes it harder to enjoy the show, and will turn the short walk back to your car into the Trail of Tears.
Earplugs are essential: if you want to enjoy music for years to come, you need to protect your ears from hearing damage. Sound levels around 100 decibels (on the low end for a rock concert) can cause permanent hearing damage after as little as an hour. The concert sounds just as good once you get used to the earplugs, often better because your ears don't start ringing halfway through. Bring them, use them, save your hearing.
You should stay hydrated as well. Bring bottled water, unopened to be safe; most venues will allow water bottles that are still sealed but many won't allow opened ones.
If you're going to bring controlled substances, or plan to acquire them at the concert - and I neither condemn nor condone that - be smart about it. Hide them well before you go in (some small venues require patdowns before entry), don't flaunt them when you're inside, and try not to do anything dangerous once you've ingested them.
Speaking of dangerous things, getting physical with other people at a concert is either something to avoid or a valid part of the experience, depending on the music. Mosh pits have their time and place, and if that time and place is the concert you're at, then by all means have fun but don't be a jerk. Help people up if they fall, don't intentionally injure anyone, and be aware of your surroundings.
-Bootlegging Is Not a Women's Garment
Finally, you may well want to create a visual and/or aural record of your concert experience. This is frowned upon by venues, but you usually won't get talked to by security unless you're using flash photography or obviously recording the show with a video camera or audio recorder. It's tough to conceal video recording, but audio recording can be hidden fairly well in the middle of a crowd. For a good balance of concealment and sound quality, I recommend being in the standing room near the front, and holding the microphone by your chest.
Step 3: After the Show
-There's Only One Bullet Point For This Step
Assuming you make it back to your car safely, and that it wasn't stolen after you parked it in an alley behind a crackhouse, don't go straight home. Chill with your friends for a bit, get some food, talk about the show. You'll be (hopefully) too amped up from the concert to go to sleep for a while anyway, and just hanging out with people who shared the experience with you will help to compartmentalize the memories of the night, so you can regale your offspring with glorious recollections many years later.
Don't drive drunk, watch out for other drunk drivers, blah blah blah. Once you do get home, hold on to your ticket stub. Stash it somewhere safe for you to find later, so you can prove to your unborn children that you really did see Muse at Madison Square Garden, and you paid as much for your ticket as a gallon of gasoline will cost by then. Alternatively, if the band you saw becomes big enough and you hold on to the stub long enough, you could sell it for, like, forty bucks. Totally worth no one believing you.
That's all for now, thanks for reading! If you keep all of this in mind, you should have an awesome time at your (hopefully numerous) concert experiences, and create memories which you will cherish and stir up envy with for the rest of your life.
Support local musicians, keep on rockin', fight the Man, seize the day, love thy neighbor, and keep being awesome!