Live Shows 101


The best live shows will make you feel like you’re completely lost in some metaphorical musical alternate universe. They can even change your perspective on artists too, for instance, when I saw The Decemberists live at Festival d’été de Québec, my appreciation for the band skyrocketed. Not only did I see one of the best live performances of my life, my faith in the music industry was also a little bit restored. It was restored in the sense that I realized there are still artists out there who can put on a damn amazing show without all the flashy lights, DJ beats, background dancers and mosh-pits. It was just the crowd, the band, and some amazing music. That night I walked away from the gig with a newfound appreciation for live shows.

So you’re new to the live show scene, and you want to know the basics before diving into a whole new universe. Well here are a few basic principles you can follow whenever you have the opportunity to witness the greatness that is a  live-gig.

  • Buy your tickets as soon as possible: Let’s say your favorite band is coming to town but you’re not sure if you’re going to be able to make the show or not. Buy your tickets as soon as they’re released anyway. This way you won’t have the stress of figuring out your plans before tickets sell out and it’s another thing off your to-do list. It’s better to have your tickets on hand instead of wishing you did when the night of the gig comes and you’re not able to go. Worst case scenario, if you’re not able to make it to the show, re-sell! Ask your friends if they’re looking for an extra ticket or post them on an online buy-and-sell site. If the show is already sold out, chances are pretty good you’ll get all your money back. Just double check the venue’s re-sale policy on tickets to make sure that if you need to sell them off, there won’t be a problem in doing so.
  • If you plan on buying merch, go early:  Merch lines are always super long, and if you wait until after the show, your choices will be slim in what you can get. Show up to the show when the doors open and get your merch then. You’ll get to have the first pick at the merch stand and waiting in the lineup won’t be as long. Always bring cash to live shows, some places may take debit or credit, but pretty much every vendor will take cash, so it’s your best bet. Another option for buying merch is to sneak out during the show when the artist is playing a song that’s not your favorite. Everyone else will still be in the show, so it’s prime time.
  • Be prepared for weather: If you will be attending an outdoor gig, say at a festival or something of the sorts, always check the weather forecast beforehand. Most shows will go ahead, rain or shine. As they say, the show must go on! You just don’t want to be the person at the gig completely soaking wet or cold because you didn’t anticipate weather.
  • Getting a good view: If your gig is being held at a venue with pre-arranged seating such as a stadium or arena, this process will be solely based on when you buy your tickets and how much you’re willing to spend. Ask yourself the question ‘will the extra money I spend on getting a floor ticket be worth it for me’ if the answer is yes, go for it! If not, usually all seats in arenas will have a decent view of the stage, and sometimes it’s nice to not be in the craziness of the front row. If the gig is being held at a smaller standing-venue or outdoors, the crowd are usually let in on a first-come-first-serve basis. Get to the venue early. Especially if it’s your favorite artist, it will be a show that you want to remember forever. Determining what time to get to the gig early is a little tricky but you have to think about how popular the given artist is and how many people in your area will probably be there. I saw The Red Hot Chili Peppers at a festival last summer, and we actually ended up getting to the 4th row. The downside to this was that it meant we had to wait a total of nine hours. If you’re planning on camping out for a few hours, please make sure you wear your most comfortable shoes, because, after nine hours of standing, your feet will not be happy.
  • Limit the things you bring along: You’ll want to keep your hands free during the show, for snapping the perfect picture or dancing around. You can put your belongings into a backpack or small bag but you also don’t want to be weighed down the whole show. Remember that if you plan on waiting for the front row, you’ll have to carry everything with you all day long. My essentials for shows in town are: my wallet (with an ID), phone, & my keys. My essentials for shows outdoors/festivals are: my wallet (with an ID), phone, keys, a rain poncho, an extra pair of socks, water bottle & snacks.
  • Have fun! Don’t worry too much about planning the details of gig-night right down to the smallest things. Live shows are meant to be fun and adventurous, so don’t worry about it! Go, have fun with your friends and take lots of pictures of a night you’re sure to remember.

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