2011 has been a learning year. I’ve learned a lot about music, concerts, bands and life. But I’m not gonna give you any boring life lessons. Odds are good I’m not an authority on the subject anyway. But, I will provide the top 5 lessons I’ve learned in my music-listening, concert-going, band-stalking year. Some of these lessons were hard won. Others were passed on to me from sage minds worthy of praise (not that they’ll be getting any).
So, here are my lessons of 2011. Read them, learn from them, and don’t repeat the same mistakes I’ve made. After all, I made them so you don’t have to.
1. Try, Try Again
This will sound trite, but it’s true. Listening to a song/album/band once isn’t enough. Let me say that again. One listen is NEVER enough. One time will not tell you if you like the song, the lyrics or the band. It will give you a first impression that, admittedly, might be impossible to overcome, but it won’t tell you if you like the music. First time I listened to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, I was very not into it. I mean, weird voice, right?
The second time I listened to it, I was a little more interested in what he was doing with his voice.
The third time, I listened, I was sold.
Best solution I’ve come up with is to listen to something at least twice before you decide that you love it or hate it. Or indifferent it. It’s the only way to be sure it wasn’t a fluke.
Of course, I’m constantly teaching myself this particular lesson. I’m on my third listen to Bon Iver’s “Bon Iver.” It’s not that I dislike it, it’s just that I’m having a hard time admiring him quite as much as everyone else seems to admire him. That being said, the music of “Perth” is quite beautiful…but he’s not my favorite (apologies to the indie music scene).
2. The Opening Act
Always, always, ALWAYS get to the concert in time for the opening act. Firstly, it’s the only way you’ll get a decent place near the stage (Side Lesson: ALWAYS get a place near the stage). Once the opening act has started, people are pretty much set on where they’re going to be standing. The only times this isn’t true is if the venue is small or the crowd is small. Secondly, and most importantly, every opening act deserves just as much of your attention as the headliner does. Who knows? You could discover a new band you love.
Example? You know that Ludo concert I went to in February? That’s where I heard Tommy & The High Pilots for the first time. And, for those of you who have kept up with my blog, I’ve mentioned them a lot. Because I love them a lot.
3. It’s Not What You Know…
I’ve been very fortunate this year. I’ve gone to shows where I’ve actually liked the people going with me. This is incredibly important. If you don’t like the people, odds are good you’ll feel a bit weird at the show. There’ll be no one to talk to about the awesome music, no one to giggle with about the band’s delightful banter, and no one to argue with about the merits of the band’s outfits (VITAL things, people).
In other words, it’s hard to enjoy the concert when you don’t enjoy the people.
I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have had a good time at the Mister Heavenly concert if I had been there with someone else, but it probably wouldn’t have been as good. Music is a way of connecting to people. You’ll like the music more if you like the people listening with you (Note: That’s the reason the audience is a factor in my grading scale for concerts).
4. Show Me The Money
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that them bands need to have access to a credit card machine. The reality, however, is that the merch table is often a cash-only place.
With that in mind, you should always have some cash on you. God forbid you can’t buy any merch because you don’t have any of the green stuff.
I recommend bringing a minimum of $40 cash. Concert shirts can run anywhere from $10-$25, so it’s best to be prepared. If you’re planning on getting posters or more than one shirt, bring more! Some venues these days accept credit cards (like the Pageant), but you can’t rely on that.
At the Tommy & The High Pilots/Antennas Up/Hey Penny show in August, I ran out of cash. I had to run to an ATM down the street. I like getting whistled at as much as the next girl, but good grief. I would’ve preferred staying at the bar.
Two shirts later, I think the run to the ATM was worth it.
5. What Not To Wear
When you go to a concert, you are going to battle. Make no mistake, friends. Tears will be shed, blood spilled and your enemies will learn to fear you…or mock you.
Does a soldier go into battle wearing 3″ stilettos? Does a warrior wear a skirt short enough to display the leg in its entirety? Of course not!
You’re going to be standing for hours (at least 3). It’s important that you’re wearing the appropriate footwear. Ladies, flats are my shoe of choice for concerts. You can take them off easily in the event of a lengthy car ride to and fro, they let your foot relax, and they’re cute (unless you have appalling taste). If it’s colder, I wear some Chucks.
Gents, I think you’ll be safe with some sneakers. I would definitely caution against dress shoes, but that’s only because you probably don’t own a pair as stylish as these:
If you do own a pair like these, wear them. And call me. We should get together and…talk cobblers sometime.
Then there’s the matter of short skirts and short dresses. Ladies and the occasional gent, a concert is no place to wear one of the aforementioned articles of clothing. It’s impossible for you to bend over (while preserving your dignity) and it decreases your street cred. By a lot. I mean, when I see a girl at a concert wearing a mini skirt or short dress, here are my thoughts:
Who’s she trying to impress?
Quickly followed by:
She’s not here for the music. She is SO uncool.
Yeah. I know what you’re thinking. It’s impossible for me (uncool as I undoubtedly am) to judge coolness. And you’re probably right. But, my personal biases aside, it really boils down to a sense of comfort. Odds are very good you won’t be comfortable in heels and a mini skirt. And it’s a lot easier to enjoy music when you’re able to breathe and walk without worrying about showing everyone something they’re not supposed to see.
Of course, if you’re comfortable in heels and a short dress, knock yourself out (literally).
And those, darlings, are my top five lessons for 2011. Yes, I learned other things. But I can’t teach you everything. You, ducklings, must fly on your own someday. If I have to push you out of the nest to do it, I will.
And I promise I’ll only laugh a little.