8 Ingredients For An Amazing Concert Experience
In a previous post I have already discussed with you my 12 tips for summer music festival survival but I have never talked about the makings of an amazing concert. I am now taking the opportunity to do just that since there’s a contest going on right now by the folks at Syzzle. Syzzle is a new app for iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch which is in beta release and will be available for download in Canada from the iTunes App Store this month, July. You can sign up to be notified of when it is released on their website at http://syzzle.me/.
I love that they’re running this contest because it is giving me the opportunity to post about something cool (amazing concerts) and it totally fits with their brand since Syzzle is an app where you can find where top rated artists are playing, including hot up and coming bands. With Syzzle you can follow artists worldwide, receive tour alerts, buy tickets, locate the best music venues in town and a whole lot more. It is sort of like a Yelp for live bands and concerts and looks like it will be THE WAY to discover new bands when they come to the smaller venues in your city.
Now on to what the 8 ingredients to making for an amazing concert experience. However, one more thing before I continue on. For the purposes of this post we are going to assume that you at least enjoy the genre of music you are going to see if not the artist themselves. This is why I am not going to mention the band being one of the ingredients.
- Who You Go With.
This, for me is definitely a huge one since if you don’t go with the right group of people or with the right person you may not have as good a time as you otherwise could. Personally, when I go to a concert I like to be as close as possible to the artist performing. I remember a bunch of years ago I had a friend who was buying tickets to go see a band. I asked if we’d be close enough to see from the lawns – where he planned on buying the tickets – and he said we would. When we got to the concert, we were able to see the band, yes, but they could have been a bunch of random people up on that stage. For me, I like to be close enough to be able to see into the singer’s eyes and the lawn seats just didn’t cut it.
Beyond that, it is important to realize that everyone has a different way to appreciate their music and enjoy a concert. When I attended the October 2000 Anger Management Tour at the SkyDome in Toronto which was a concert of Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach, Eminem, and Xzibit I went last minute because I had just come into town unexpectedly from Israel, was by myself, and had to scalp a seat as opposed to going to the floors/pit where I would usually go for hard rock shows. I had never sat before at a metal/hard rock show and found that I really did not enjoy it as there was no room to really move (and obviously I couldn’t access the mosh pit or crowd surf). Since then, I have pretty much always refused to go to a show unless I knew I was going to be in the pit or on the floor because I know I just wouldn’t enjoy it as much. In fact, I can think of only two times since that October in 2000 when I have gone to a show and wasn’t in the pit/on the floor and one was the time my friend bought lawns. Much as I like hanging out with some people on a day-to-day basis, we don’t necessarily choose to enjoy everything the same way and with that guy, our ways of enjoying concerts are clearly very different.
- Artist Engagement With Audience.
When a DJ or band takes the time to say something to the audience or even come into the crowd to be a part of the action there is an extra electricity felt throughout. In March 2002, I saw Bush perform at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. Midway through the show, I remember Gavin Rossdale jumped down from the stage and through the crowd and ran up the stairs on the side of the venue into the balconies (which you can see in the picture above). From there he made his way to the lower balcony at the back of the venue and stood on the front wall of the balcony leaning against the railings and still playing his guitar. He then performed the same feat on the upper balcony. Security guards were obviously present to keep the crowd of screaming fans from getting too close and personal with the lead singer of Bush. I still remember talking to my buddy, Ari, who was with me at the show and one of us (I think it was him) said discussing Gavin’s in crowd and balcony antics, “THAT’S a rock star!”
This can also work in the opposite direction. I recall seeing an artist recently who doesn’t use English as their first language and they played a song which as the name of a city as its title. They got on the mic and said “What’s up (name of city that’s song title)!?!?!?” only the name of the city in the song title wasn’t Toronto. He then quickly “corrected” himself a few minutes later and said, “I mean Toronto! Of course I’m in Toronto!!!” Most of the people in the crowd had their own explanation for what had happened: he was super jet lagged from flying around the world, he wasn’t giving it his all, or was not entirely sober. I suppose we will never know but it his mistake definitely killed some of the vibe of that event.
Unfortunately, this is one of those things which is darn near impossible to predict in terms of the actual makeup of the crowd, HOWEVER there are certain cities which are renowned for the way their crowds respond to different artists. Seattle in the mid 90’s was probably one of the best places one could have gone for a grunge show for obvious reasons (I never got the chance, I was way too young) and nowadays when you go to different cities to see a band, you’ll often be surprised at what a different experience it is from your hometown.
I, for example, absolutely love trance music and going to see DJs perform live. I’ve seen the same DJs in Toronto, New York, and Miami and spoken to friends who have seen them in other cities and it is amazing how different the music they play is in each city. They may play this remix over that remix or stick with the faster beats in one city whereas in another city they’ll go for the softer and more mellow stuff.
The crowd is also super important in other kinds of music. When I saw Rage Against The Machine at their Battle Of Los Angeles tour stop in Tel Aviv, Israel my North American friends and I noticed that Israeli rock fans at the time seemed completely unaware of the concept of crowd surfing so we weren’t able to do it either since it is something which requires almost the entire audience to take part (or else you drop painfully to the ground on your back.)
Depending on the band, the venue, and the type of music this can change immensely. But seeing Gavin Rossdale climb up on the balconies is quite the spectacle as is seeing the visualizations that a DJ like Armin van Buuren brings for the big screens when he DJs for hours on end at venues like Toronto’s The Guvernment. When I went to see Bud Light Sensation Canada 2013 in Toronto at the Rogers Centre courtesy of Bud Light the music was only a component of the amazing show they put on in the creation of the “Ocean of White.” (As you can see in the pictures above.)
I don’t know if this counts as spectacle or artist engagement with the audience but when I saw Markus Schulz perform a 9 hour Marathon Set at The Guvernment in June 2013 one of the most special moments for me was at around 3:15 in the morning. Someone, who I don’t know, named Chris decided that it was the perfect place to propose to his girlfriend, Julie and internationally renowned producer and DJ, Markus Schulz, decided to help make it the most special proposal ever. Markus put up on the big screen behind him a message from Chris to Julie (which you can see above). That is, to me, beyond amazing and I will always remember it even though it had nothing to do with me aside from my being in attendance. (She said yes, I found out on Twitter after the fact.)
If it isn’t an intimate, small club/venue kind of a show and you’re a big artist then seeing some spectacle during a show is definitely something your crowd will appreciate. I know I do!
- The Opener(s).
I know it sounds sort of silly but I sometimes wonder if they band/artist gets any say in the opener(s) for their tour. When I was at the aforementioned Rage Against The Machine concert in Tel Aviv, Israel in 2000 I still remember the opening band was not that appreciated by the crowd. They were a band called “HaYehudim” which literally translates from Hebrew into English as “The Jews.” According to their Wikipedia article they “have achieved tremendous success in Israel” and were voted in 1999 as the Band of the Year on Israel’s national radio station but you wouldn’t have known it from the concert I remember. I remember people just standing around and waiting for the band to finish so that RATM would come out and at one point one of the lead singers yelling (in Hebrew) at the increasingly bored crowd that if they didn’t like the music they could go outside. So ya, the opener is important for setting the mood and tone of the evening.
- Knowing The Artist’s Music Beforehand.
Sure it is great to sometimes discover a new band and enjoy their music completely unexpectedly but when I go to a concert and I know at least some of the music being played it makes the experience that much more fantastic. I guess it also matters if the crowd as a whole knows the music because if you’re the only one who isn’t singing along you’ll feel left out. However, not knowing any of the music beforehand means that you have nothing to look forward to hearing the band play/DJ spin and the sense of community gained from everyone singing along is something everyone should experience at least once. Also, when you can just look at your friend with unadulterated glee as you both mouth the words to a song is just an amazing feeling.
- The Community In Attendance.
This sort of sounds like my 1st point, “Who You Go With,” but it really isn’t. By the community I mean the people who you know you will often see at events of a specific music genre. This has been especially heightened nowadays in that we have social media to help connect us before, during, and after the shows. I, personally, love that whenever I go to an electronic music event in Toronto there is a strong likelihood that I will see my “Toronto #TranceFamily.” These are people who I don’t necessarily see ever outside of events/shows of electronic music but who I’ll always say hi to if/when I see them. They mean that even if I go alone to an event I will see friendly faces once I get there and have someone to enjoy the music with the whole night through. Obviously because many of us are based in Toronto a bunch of them have transcended just being acquaintances or Facebook friends to being actual friends I hang out with in my day-to-day life.
This community I have found in my love of electronic music also holds true for a friend of mine who absolutely loves the band Hanson (yes, they’re still around, they weren’t just one hit wonders in the 90s, and they actually are a good rock band). She goes to shows of theirs not just in Toronto, her home city, but in New York, Montreal, Pennsylvania, and more. I even suspect she sometimes plans vacations around being able to go to a Hanson show in that city. Further, this community of music fans can also can be seen in another genre of music, jam bands. Since the 1970, The Grateful Dead and projects by the band’s members since the death of Jerry Garcia have been followed by fans referred to as “Deadheads.” They have a community all their own of those following the band around the continent, sharing recordings of shows, and selling memorabilia. In terms of another jam band, Phish, there was even a group headed by a rabbi called “Gefilte Phish” which followed the band around and spread spirituality from their RV draped with Israeli flags. Because these very disparate genres exhibit the same kind of community I am going to assume it is something that happens across the board in every genre of music and therefore it is likely integral to many’s enjoyment of an amazing concert.
- Availability Of Media From The Show Afterward.
This is especially true in this day and age where everyone has a camera on their phone including the artists. I love when I see a DJ pull out his or her camera at the end of the show because it means there’s a chance I will be able to find myself in the crowd afterward online and that picture becomes an extra cherished memory of the event. Above you can see the picture that Armin van Buuren took when he visited Toronto’s Sound Academy in May 2013…unfortunately I can’t find myself in that pic. The same goes for when you can find a copy of the concert online afterward. Pearl Jam, for example, has a website which releases great audio quality versions of all of their live performances and when Markus Schulz played his marathon set at The Guvernment in June he used highlights from that set as his weekly radio show, the Global DJ Broadcast. Being able to relive those moments after the show by listening to parts of it or seeing pictures/videos from it make it last all the longer and enhance the entire experience. Heck, just look at my Instagram feed and you’ll see a large number of the pictures are from DJ events and concerts!
And while all that is cool, one of the most stupendous things that’s ever happened at a show which I now have as an experience always at the top of my list is being part of a music video shot at the concert. At the 2012 Veld Music Festival in Downsview Park, Toronto the trance DJ and producer Ben Gold decided to film his music video for the track “Where Life Takes Us” during his performance! Now, I always get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I watch that video or hear that track because the memories come flooding back…even though I can’t even spot myself in the video! (Watch it below, it’s great!) In fact, I didn’t even know who Ben Gold was before I went to Veld Fest 2012 but my friend told me it’d be some good trance and that he is signed to a label I know well so I figured I’d come the extra few hours early and check him out. He is now one of my favorite DJs and producers and this was before he released this music video. The video only added to my love.
Now I ask you, loyal readers: What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments!
Picture of Hammerstein Ballroom via http://onepowerfulmind.files.wordpress.com.
Picture of the Markus Schulz Fan’s Wedding Proposal via @TranceInTOR on Twitter.