Rules, Tips & Advice for Attending Concerts & Festivals

Sturgill

We’ve reached May and for some of us the winter weather has finally just ended. With the weather now nice, you want to get out and do something. If you’re anything like me, you’re itching to go see some live music. It’s officially concert season! So with this in mind I started to think of all the tips and advice I’ve learned from attending various live music events and realized I could write a whole post on it. This isn’t some list where you have to follow everything on it, but are some of my rules and tips for myself and other concert goers. I can’t say I’ve ever been to a “bad” show, but I’ve seen stuff that’s rubbed me the wrong way. And I’ve seen some stuff that’s just plain wrong. So as you get ready to embark on your own concert season, here’s some rules, tips and advice to keep in mind and pass on to other fellow concert goers (this goes for any concerts, country or not).

NEVER wear a T-shirt of the band you’re going to see at the concert. 

There are a few reasons for this. First because you’ll be lumped in with the crazy super fans who show up dressed head to toe in the act’s gear (plus the groupies). Second you’re just being redundant. Third because you don’t have a chance to show off the rest of your music tastes. I always wear a t-shirt of a band similar to the one I’m seeing at the show. For example, I attended a Lucero concert about a month ago and wore my Jason Isbell shirt. It got a lot of compliments and even sparked some conversations with fellow concert goers about their shared love of Isbell. That leads me to…

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to Fellow Concert Goers

This is an opportunity to meet new friends and have an even better time. You should especially do this before the show begins because waiting an hour or so before the concert begins can feel like it takes forever. Talking with others passes the time quicker. It’s especially important if you go alone. So that leads to…

Don’t Be Afraid to Go to Concerts Alone

I remember I used to not go to concerts when I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. As a result I’ve missed out on some really cool shows. It ate me up inside. Finally I had enough and said to hell with finding someone, I’ll just go alone. And I end up still having a great time. If the music is good and you chat it up with fellow fans, it’s going to fun. It may be even better to go alone because nothing is worse than dragging a reluctant guest along only for them to complain halfway through they want to leave (this has never happened to me, but I’ve heard stories and witnessed it). This tip is especially important for fellow fans of actual country and Americana because your friends will most likely only go along if it’s Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson or some terrible radio act.

That Being Said, Be Sure To Take Along Fellow Fans With You

It’s always more fun with more people.

Picking The Right Venue

When going to see live music, there’s a variety of venues you can see. I’ve been to about every type, including watching a band perform on a barge sitting in a river. There are pros and cons to each. Obviously this is highly subjective, but here are my thoughts on the most common types:

  • General Admission – This is almost always the cheapest option because you aren’t guaranteed a spot; its first come, first serve. For the concert goer on a budget, this is the ideal option. It’s usually a more up close, loud experience too that can be a lot of fun with the right crowd. You can get right up close to the stage and really feel the music. The downside to this of course is you don’t have a reserved spot. If you get to the concert late, you might get stuck with a terrible spot. So always get to these shows early. You should also avoid bathroom breaks because you can easily lose your spot. A crowd that’s too raucous can ruin this experience also.
  • Theater/Concert Hall – This is the more expensive option, but you’re guaranteed a seat. It’s also more clean and organized than general admission. For those who want a quieter, less rowdy experience and more family friendly environment, this is ideal. You can also show up closer to show time, don’t have to wait around as much and can take bathroom breaks. The cons I’ve found with theaters though is they’re not quite as fun. The crowd is too quiet and doesn’t get into the music as much it seems. The crowd can be stuffier and older, which explains why it’s too quiet. I usually only go to theaters for the more quiet, mellow acts.
  • Outdoor Amphitheater – This is my personal favorite because it has the best of the first two options above. You get a reserved seat like at a theater, but the fun, close environment of general admission. You’re also outside, which makes the sound perfect between not too loud and not too quiet. The price point of shows at amphitheaters can fluctuate and really just depends on the act. However I find the price is worth it most of the time. There are however two downsides to this option. First is the weather. You can only attend these shows during the warm months. Also when you attend these shows in the middle of summer, be prepared to sweat your ass off until the sun goes down. Second is amphitheaters can be hard to come by in your area.
  • Festivals – I’m sure you’re all familiar with a festival in your neck of the woods. Country festivals in particular have popped up like wildfire in recent years. The obvious benefit of festivals is you can see a bunch of artists over multiple days. You can cross a lot of artists off your bucket list this way. Festivals overall have a fun atmosphere and can feature more than just live music. You can get a lot of bang for your buck. That leads to the biggest downside of festivals: the price to attend one can be outrageous, especially out-of-town. After adding up the costs of tickets, gas, hotel, camping, food and extra stuff, it can get very pricey. Not even accounting for that inevitable trip to the merchandise stand! For some this is their yearly vacation because the expenses are so damn high. Then there’s the other problem I’ve often found prevents me from going to one and that’s spreading the festival out over multiple days. This is pretty annoying because inevitably all of the artists you want to see are all on different days and paired with five other artists you have no interest in. I’m not sitting through Brantley Gilbert to hear Alan Jackson. This is why we need more one and two-day festivals.

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Don’t Get Black Out Drunk

You’re there to see live music, not get so damn wasted you have to be escorted out by security for getting into a fight with someone. I’m all for having a drink or three at a concert (as long as I’m not driving), but I just don’t see the point of getting absolutely shit-faced. Not to mention the beer prices at any kind of venue you go to are going to be pretty high. You also don’t want to be the drunk person screaming the lyrics and pissing off people around you.

Don’t Be A Loud, Obnoxious Asshole When People Are Singing (especially during acoustic sets)

This is just rude. I’m looking at you people having a phone conversation while John Moreland is pouring his heart out on-stage.

Go Check Out The Merch Stand & Support Your Favorite Artist

If you’re on a budget I can understand if you don’t buy anything from the merch stand. But if you have a little extra coin to spend, go check out the merch stand. This is the best way you can support your favorite artist because they get all of the money from it. Sometimes the merch stand will even have stuff you can’t find online or anywhere else, especially leftover old records that aren’t sold at outlets anymore. Independent artists will especially thank you for doing this.

Be Helpful & Respectful To Your Fellow Concert Goer

This should go without saying.

Don’t Spend The Entire Show Capturing Videos & Pictures

Snap a few pictures and maybe one video. Then put your phone away and enjoy the show.

If You’re Tall, Be Aware of People Around You and Try Your Best Not To Block. If You’re Short, Arrive Early and Find A Good Spot Near The Front. 

This is only applicable for general admission and festivals.

You Should Always Call For An Encore. And Always Stick Around For The Encore. 

If the band you’re watching has put on a great show, always make noise for the encore. Do not leave before the encore, unless you have an emergency. You look like a square if you leave before the encore.

That being said if the show sucks, feel free to leave. You’ll probably be gone before the encore is even thought about.

Have Fun!

Duh. Hope you all enjoy the concerts and live music you attend this summer. And feel free to add your own rules and tips in the comments below.

12 thoughts on “Rules, Tips & Advice for Attending Concerts & Festivals

  1. Derek Hudgin May 6, 2016 / 11:21 am

    Great tips! I’ve been to several concerts on my own and I enjoyed every single one of them. And I got lucky when I dragged a friend with me to a Will Hoge show, and he loved it!

    A few of my own I’d add:
    Go early and see the opening act, especially if the opener is smaller/newer act within the same genre or scene as the headliner. If you’re not familiar with their music, it’s a great chance to learn about new music you’re likely to enjoy. And if you do enjoy it, then it’s two (or three) good shows for the price of one! And if you go early to see the opener at a GA show, then you’re likely to get a better spot closer to the stage.

    And if you go early to see the opener, Go meet them after their show! More times than not, the openers will probably hang around the merch table after their set. Go up and introduce yourself, get a picture, and autograph! I met William Clark Green, Bo Phillips, and Judson Cole Band at various shows where they were the openers. They love meeting fans! And if you’re lucky, the headliner may stick around to meet fans after the show, though that’s only likely at smaller GA shows. I’ve gotten a picture with Will Hoge after every show of his I’ve seen, and even had a great conversation with Hoge’s drummer after one of the shows.

    And a concert horror story for the fun of it: Cain’s Ballroom for Bo Phillips Band, Chance Anderson Band, and Cody Canada & The Departed. During Bo’s set, we were treated to this drunk “fan” who annoyed the hell out of everyone. Firstly, it was the first of a 3-act show; it’s like 7:30pm, there’s no good reason to be THAT drunk THAT early. Secondly, this guy (who was easily underage, btw) kept dancing around random people, wanting to be my bro, hitting on the group of girls next to me (who were clearly uncomfortable with it), and not only kept yelling during the songs, but would yell to the music as if he was at a rap/r&b show and not country at all. (it was things like “Heyyyy-ooohhhh” like Nelly would do). Needless to say, myself and the guys in front of me tried our best to be civilized with this dude, and thankfully his older sister dragged him away before the second act. You could clearly tell Bo Phillips was annoyed with this guy, and even asked the crowd to be quiet during one of his song saluting fallen soldiers (a request this drunk a-hole didn’t listen to). Point being, don’t be that guy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott May 6, 2016 / 11:51 am

      Thanks! And great additional tips! I’ve actually never attempted to hang around the merch stand after the opening act finishes and I’ll keep this in mind when I go to a show next time.

      He was drunk that early?! I’m guessing he didn’t even know who was playing and just showed up to drink. Those people are the worst. I don’t know how civilized I could have been, especially when they’re shouting “heyyyyy-ooooohhh” at a country show. If I was Phillips I would have stopped playing until the asshole left. This reminds of what I’ve heard about John Moreland and how he deals with crowds that don’t listen. Whenever he thinks the crowds being too loud and not paying attention, he’ll just start singing his song “Nobody Gives A Damn About Songs Anymore” as loud as he can. Sometimes he’ll even stop in the middle of one song to start playing it. He actually closed with this song at the show I was at, where I’d say 25% of the crowd wasn’t paying attention at least. Needless to say I wasn’t pleased with these people.

      There’s only one opening act I’ve saw where I didn’t give a shit if people weren’t paying attention and that was The Lost Trailers, who were opening for Eric Paslay. They did nothing but bro country covers and a particularly terrible cover of “Friends in Low Places.” It was so bad I nearly left.

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  2. A.B. May 6, 2016 / 12:36 pm

    Always go see the early acts at a festival. When the local radio station still had a Countryfest, I didn’t go see the early acts. The year was 2003 and Dierks Bentley was an early act. Only caught the last song or so. Years later and I always think of the missed opportunity. I think the headliner that year was Montgomery Gentry.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. OlaR May 6, 2016 / 1:57 pm

    We have small clubs & our big riverside park. The next city is close & all big international acts will play there. My last “big” concert was Dolly Parton 2014. She knows her audience. A perfect concert.
    Country music is an exception to the rule. The club concerts & festivals are overcrowded. Public television is recording a couple of acts each year.
    The riverside park events are a hit or miss. 10-12 events each summer. Classic music, older international acts, national & local heroes. One highlight is the “beer exchange” every july. Free entry to the concerts & 700 different beers.
    I prefer to stay in the background, not the right guy for the front row. Don’t like the loudness & the die-hard fans (with the band t-shirts) can be little bit rowdy. Tomorrow night is “River in Flames”: fireworks, a flotilla of riverboats & music with 300.000 visitors.

    First Impressions:
    Keith Urban – “Ripcord”: electro-dance-pop-banjo-whatever-(but not bad)
    Cole Swindell – “You Should Be Here”: i like one song “Remember Boys”
    Travis Collins – “Hard Light”: love the single, the album not so much
    Jason Owen – “Proud”: more luck next time

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  4. southtexaspistolero May 6, 2016 / 7:36 pm

    NEVER wear a T-shirt of the band you’re going to see at the concert.

    *shuffles feet nervously and looks down at the ground*

    I sorta made this my thing for my almost-yearly George Strait shows in the late ’90s and 2000s. Saw him 16 times between 1996 and 2013 and just about every year I’d dig out one of the shirts I bought on the previous tour I saw.

    (I was quite the fanboy. Saw him in several rather far-flung places, from the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana to Texas Stadium in suburban Dallas, and from the Alltel Arena in Little Rock to the Alamodome and the AT&T Center in San Antonio. My longest drive was 420 miles from Port Arthur, TX to Little Rock in 2006 and ’08. But that’s the only artist I ever did that for, honest! And I came for the opening act every single time!)

    Seconded on the blackout drunk thing! Makes me remember…Houston, what was then Enron Field, June 11, 2000, at the George Strait Country Music Festival. Started about noon with Asleep at the Wheel. Dude and his girl sitting beside me were drinking all day and by the time George came on they were blasted out of their gourds. The guy was constantly elbowing me, trying to get me to get up and dance, and that just wasn’t my thing. I wanted to punch him. Lucky for me, the dude next to me and his significant other saw what was going on, took mercy on me and motioned me to the seats on the other side of them, far away from Mr. and Ms. Drunkard. Good times though, still. George never disappointed, not even once…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Cobra May 6, 2016 / 10:02 pm

    I go to a lot of shows and most of them I end up going to alone because most of my friends have much different taste in music than I do (though I have gone to a couple shows with friends).

    I’ve ended up meeting some really cool people at a couple shows. Ran into a really cool couple at a Wade Bowen show in Lansing, MI and then saw them again in Columbus at the Wade/Randy HMBWT show. Concerts are a great place to meet new people.

    I’ll never get drunk at a concert. Not only is it counter-intuitive to enjoying the show, but it’s also so damn expensive. Unless you’re at a barroom/listening room show, the prices are just egregious and you would end up spending more on alcohol than on the concert tickets themselves.

    I would also say another good rule is to refrain from calling out song requests after every single song. Artists generally have setlists, and while they may sometimes deviate from them, especially at much smaller shows, calling out song requests over and over is just obnoxious and detracts from the show the artist is playing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Zackary Kephart May 7, 2016 / 9:30 am

    ^I concur with the “don’t shout out song requests” during show thing. I saw Loretta Lynn in 2013 and someone asshole kept shouting “play Coal Miner’s Daughter!”. Finally she just said “I don’t like that song” (since obviously that would be one of the last ones she’d play). The whole room erupted with laughter (including from myself).

    I get dragged to some concerts I don’t want to go to by family sometimes so I’ve seen the worst crowds. I’ve seen people passed out on the lawn (before the show even started) and also had beer spilled on me…..

    The bright side is that I’ll be seeing Chris Stapleton come June so I’m beyond excited for that! I don’t know if I can resist wearing my Stapleton shirt there though haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cobra May 7, 2016 / 11:23 am

      I’ve seen Jason Isbell twice and both times, people constantly shouted out “Outfit.”
      One time he played it, one time he didn’t. But I say let the artist perform the show they have planned.

      I’d love to see Stapleton. I’m going to see Josh Ritter again later this month and he puts on an incredible show.

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    • Robert May 7, 2016 / 2:14 pm

      I’m going to see Chris perform next week 🙂 I can heartily recommend a visit to the little Highway 23 Country Music museum in his hometown (and Loretta’s) Paintsville,KY. Museum exhibits include Dwight Yoakam, Keith Whitley, Patty Loveless, Ricky Skaggs, Tom T Hall, the Judds, and on and on and on.

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      • Cobra May 7, 2016 / 11:28 pm

        I traveled down to Paintsville to see that museum last year, Robert! Well worth the trip. Very cool little museum with some really cool exhibits. Small, but worth it. I got a completely individual guided tour from the employee.

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  7. jmarsh123 May 9, 2016 / 8:05 am

    Great advice! Never understood the people who pay to see a concert while blackout drunk. When I saw Tom Petty a few years ago, the girl in front of us was so wasted she had to be taken home before he even got on stage.

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    • jmarsh123 May 9, 2016 / 8:07 am

      Also after a few years of subtly playing Red dirt music in the background, my wife has become a big fan so I always have at least one person who is willing to road trip to a show with me.

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