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How to go to Concerts Alone

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Let me ask, is this your typical musical experience when seeing a band play:

  • Mid-size venue, between 500-3,000 people in audience

  • Scrambling to get a group of friends who are willing to go and then taking forever to get to the venue.

  • Standing at least 20 rows back unless you want to be squished and crowded.

  • The audience is over-reactive, constantly yelling and wooing on a whim.

This might seem like you are having fun, but you are not

  • The music is just blasting with few quiet moments.

  • The chatter between the front-person and the audience is generic or too neurotic/self-absorbed.

This is considered by most to be what should be expected when they go see their favorite indie band play live. This is what corporate indie sells as the best concert experience of your life while they earn back their million dollar advances. Venues like Brooklyn Steele and PS1 push the more the better. The truth is, this isnt what concerts have to, or actually should, be.

If you check my concert reviews page you will find I have near weekly posts of the concerts I've been going to at over a dozen different venues in NYC, and you might notice something:

  • My photos are often taken from just a few rows back.

  • Most shows have around 75-150 people at them.

  • These musicians are actually more talented than the ones that play at the larger venues.

When you create a space like this on a smaller, much more intimate scale, you will find your connection with both the band and the people in attendance is a lot more viable. A few weeks ago when I saw Tomberlin play it was a pleasure to watch her banter with the audience and actually hear our reactions to what she was saying. For the final song she got us all to sit down on the floor and sing along. I also talked to a couple strangers in the audience about the band/show. That's ambiance, that's performance, that's HUMANITY. Often the openers are just as interesting as the main act; in fact it is not unusual for me to go to a show to expressly see an opener and leave during the headliner's set.

Now it is not to say every concert has been a success. Sometimes the shows gets crowded despite being at a smaller venue. Some bars lack my vibe or make me feel unwelcome, despite playing bands that I like. But the only way to start getting a feel for your type of show, is to go out and dive into it.

If you want to start going out and exploring the music scene on your own, here are the steps to follow:

  • Create an account with BandsInTown (tech is your friend)

  • Put in literally EVERY band you like so you can see all shows coming to your area.

  • Check the venue, and see the capacity. If it is over 300, it isnt worth it. And aim for even smaller.

  • Show up a little early and catch the opener and feel the vibe.

  • When alone, try and talk to 1 or 2 people (just to talk) about the band. Convos might just last a couple of sentences. Dont expect to being making friends or find your true love.

  • Have a cell phone game to play for when you are just waiting, so you dont spend the entire time awkwardly scanning the room and making eye contact with other people.

  • Try and bring a friend at least 1/3-1/2 of the time. You dont always want to be the lonely person at the rock show.

  • It is ok to leave if you have had enough. Generally, I like to be at concerts for about 90 mins -2 hours. After that, I dont care if its Sir Paul McCartney backed by Broken Social Scene is up next, im gonna head out.

  • Intoxicate with care. A little "far-headedness" never hurt anyone, but dont overdo it. Drink 1 beer per set.

  • Take time off. Normally I went to shows every 2 weeks, but since things have opened back up I am going weekly, at least through summer, but make sure you are properly recharged and ready for the concert experience.

  • Reflect on your experience (how satisfied were you? what were your expectations? Did you feel like you actually connected with the bad and other concert goers, etc.)

Now that's ambiance!
Just people, being in the moment

With this strategy, I am, as a male in their 30s, able to come with the right energy and enthusiasm to really enjoy and be present in the performance. Shows are exhausting, there is a lot of standing, and sometimes bands make you wait for it. Obviously, there are other kinds of shows besides just bar-venues, like Festivals, or Park/Community concerts that offer a different experience. But in general, you will find seeing your 11nd or 15th favorite band at a small venue with just a few dozen other people is a much more meaningful experience than seeing your favorite band at a mid-sized or larger venue.

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