How To Enjoy And Have An Unforgettable Music Concert

Concerts are something special. Whether we’re a regular concert goer or someone who occasionally enjoys live music, there’s always something memorable about each performance that we attend, see and feel.

Over the last few years, I’ve gone to more music concerts than I can count: pop and rock 30,000 stadium capacity shows, intimate independent artist gigs, classical symphony orchestra performances, music festivals, both seated and general-admission standing shows.

Music concerts are where we lose ourselves in the moment. Green Day, 2017.

Music concerts are where we lose ourselves in the moment. Green Day, 2017 | Weekly Photo Challenge: Collage of concerts and that Unusual, out of the ordinary show.

At the time of writing, the last concert I went to was Green Day earlier this year. I’m quite a fan of this punk-pop-rock band and grew up listening to their music since the early 90s. Oddly enough, rock concerts never appealed to me. It wasn’t until the night before the band’s second Melbourne concert a few months ago that I got tickets on a whim.

Every artist and performer has a different kind of approach to the art they create, a different kind of rhythm, a different kind of stage presence, and so a different kind of concert. Often artists evolve their craft over time and so generally each concert is a once in a lifetime experience – each concert is enjoyed differently.

Whether we’re a small or big fan of a well-known or obscure artist or band, there are a few things we can do to have the best time possible at their shows:

1) Know the artist or band

Being familiar with an artist and listening to their music, there’s every chance we’ll connect with them on a deeper level when we see them live. Researchers from the University of Leeds proposed in 2008 that the music we listen to lets us become ourselves and assists in the emergence of a stable self, especially during our younger years. That is, memory is the narrative of our lives. When we hear songs that have spoken to us all these years performed live, there’s every chance we’ll feel the person whom we really are – profoundly feeling the musicians’ stories as ours in the present moment of reality at a live concert. That said, there’s no reason why we can’t go to a concert without having heard about the act – no spoilers, go with the flow of the show, and let the show surprise our emotions.

The night before the Green Day concert, I looked up the band’s setlist for their (current) tour. They were playing songs from their past and present catalogues, all of which I knew. My mind flashed back to the time I saw Taylor Swift live, sang along with the crowd to her past and present upbeat pop songs – and felt like I was the energetic, spirited person that I am and have always been..

Music makes us feel. Taylor Swift, 2015

Music makes us feel. Taylor Swift, 2015

2) Arrive early

Go early, get some merchandise and perhaps enjoy the warm up act. Avoid being late, settle in, soak up the atmosphere of anticipation and once in a lifetime concert moment.

I’m a pretty short person at 1.48m and never expect to see much of the stage at concerts. But I’ve been lucky. For all three electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling’s concerts I’ve been to, I arrived 3 hours beforehand, queued to get in and wandered to the front of the mosh pit. At Florence and the Machine’s Melbourne concert two years ago, the rebel in me arrived as the doors opened, sat in my allocated seat, then stood up, walked past security…without getting stopped, squeezed past other concert goers and reached the front barrier at the stage. At the Green Day concert, when I presented my nosebleed section seat ticket to the usher, she pocketed it and gave me a relocation ticket: the concert didn’t sell out, and I got relocated to a seat at the front section.

3) Sing

Sing the songs played live, feel the rhythm and stories performed together along with the crowd. Psychologist Shira Gabriel argues that going to concerts fill the need for human belonging, that concerts are unconscious collective effervescent experiences. Humans are innate social creatures. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing in tune: the band and crowd will carry your voice along. Everyone sounds good for one night, part of one voice.

Some have said they’d rather not sing along at concerts, preferring to listen to live music with as little distractions as possible. Fair enough when you want to appreciate a performance as it is performed, think opera or theatrical performances. When I saw American folk singer Kina Grannis a few years ago, I sat through pretty much her entire show entranced by the rhythmic strumming of her acoustic guitar. Seeing Josh Groban perform and wield his baritone voice with such control last year, I was speechless.

Right before the Green Day concert, Bohemian Rhapsody played over the speakers and the crowd sang along to the 1975-released song word-for-word –  thousands coming together at the drop of a hat because of one song, magically chilling.

Feel the music, dance, sing and play. Green Day, 2017.

Feel the music, dance, sing and play. Green Day, 2017.

4) Move and dance

Move to the beat, head bop, jump like a pogo-stick, wave, cheer, do the peace sign. If you’re at a heavy metal show, there’s a chance you might not only be a part of crowdsurfing but also a part of the Wall of Death – the mosh pit splitting into two sides, running and charging at each other (not my kind of thing, though).  Everyone really is there to see the performer, not judge your dance moves or singing. Be part of a collective voice, be a part of a collective body, mind and soul – and hence feel the energy from the stage, be that energy united as one. Your tribe, one tribe for one night with the same moves, same heart.

A few years ago, I attended Handel’s Messiah performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. At the end everyone stood up, swayed to the beat and sang along to the last chorus ‘Hallelujah’. At the Green Day show, after the band played their first song, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong asked the crowd to stand and stand we did for the next three hours, cheering to ‘No Trump!’ chants and the moment when a girl got a free guitar on stage.

Concert are once in a lifetime moments. Florence and the Machine, 2015.

Concert are once in a lifetime moments. Florence and the Machine, 2015.

5) Watch the show. Put the camera and phone down for a bit. No talking.

See and feel a concert as who you are in that body of yours in the present moment. Let go of your inhibitions, see and feel the crowd, energy, enthusiasm and freedom all round. Enjoy every bit of concert with your heart by feeling another’s warmth with your senses as who you are, sharing in the moment together.

That said, some will insist on taking photos and filming concerts, documenting the show from their perspective, creating their own digital concert souvenirs. This can be distracting to other concert goers and arguably one isn’t fully experiencing the show. I’ve been guilty of taking photos during concerts but I don’t do it for the entire show. It’s one thing to try your hardest taking a non-blurry photo and another to hold up your phone haphazardly and losing yourself enjoying the music.

What I actually remember from the concerts I’ve been too is singing along. How the drummer played the drums at a certain part of a song. The moment Florence and the Machine came close, looked me in the eye and sang to me. The moment Lindsey Stirling knelt down arm’s length away from me, looked at me and smiled as she played her violin. Indescribable feelings.

One concert, one party, one voice. Green Day, 2017.

One concert, one party, one voice. Green Day, 2017.

*  *  *

A concert is a social experience as much as an individual one. Often we go to concerts to experience a singer or band that we’ve always loved for our personal gratification. However, it’s fun to share something with someone who feels the same way.

That said, about 90% of the concerts I’ve attended, I’ve attended alone. Not many of my friends share the same taste in music as me. Also, I’d much rather go by myself than with someone who isn’t a fan of the performer: what if my companion gets bored halfway or starts playing with their phone (I’ve seen other concert goers do this at almost every concert I’ve been to, even dead-centre up-front in the mosh-pit…). A fan would be more deserving of their ticket. Moreover, concerts aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, some saying they feel ‘stuck’ when they’re in a crowd or preferring to enjoy music privately at home.

Perhaps our taste in music changes over time, and we have different expectations of concerts at different points in our lives. In Australia, 50,000-crowd big annual music festivals such as Soundwave and Big Day Out have seen their demise due to expensive ticketing. Boutique music festivals and inner-city niche music subculture hubs are more popular these days, with smaller crowds and scenic secluded venues. Watching the confetti rain down on a cheering crowd after Green Day played their final song, I felt a bit sad – I didn’t want the show to end. A concert can very well be a journey that touches upon our innate wildest dreams as we fully connect with the depths of our individual mind, heart and soul through music, and a journey that may also make us realise how all of us can actually be happy together in this world.

Concerts are where our wildest dreams come true. Green Day, 2017.

Concerts are where our wildest dreams come true. Green Day, 2017.

And so live music concerts can have a positive, lingering impact on us, be it alone or with a bunch of friends. A study conducted by the Centre of Performance Science shows attending a live music event reduces a person’s stress hormone cortisol. In 2016, Deakin University surveyed 1,000 Australians and found Australians who attended communal musical experiences such as music festivals reported higher levels of satisfaction and well-being with their lives. It’s not every day we get to go to a concert; it takes time to save up and travel to get to a show – it takes the right timing to be at a concert. Coupled with this, there’s something special, powerful in knowing one is not alone when it comes to sharing something personal, subconsciously connecting with those in the same tribe.

Sometime a great concert experience not the case. The recent concert incident in Manchester that involved explosives and fatalities was a very scary experience for those who attended. According to GirlAtTheRockShows, some might attend a concert and feel disturbed by violent and sexual connotations on stage, feeling the line between theatrics and complete inappropriateness has been crossed.

One concert, one people for a moment. Green Day, 2017.

One concert, one people for a moment. Green Day, 2017.

So far, I’ve enjoyed all the music concerts I’ve been too. This is even despite: not having anything to drink for 5-6 hours because outside food and drink are banned from the venue and I refuse to buy hideously overpriced refreshments at the venue. Being pushed in the back by moshing crowds every thirty seconds while standing up front. Having a tall person stand in front of me…only to have them trade places with me when I asked.

It’s hard to choose which is the ‘best’ concert I’ve been too since each concert is unique in its own way. With the Green Day concert, I’d remember it for bringing out the punk-rocker chick girl in me once again, the girl who sang emo songs many, many years ago. The morning after the show, I woke up feeling very stiff all over, parched throat and heavy eyes. Couldn’t even bend my toes. I spent the rest of the day in bed, dreaming of doing another concert sometime soon. Perhaps my body is telling me to slow down, but music and concerts will always remind me how young I can always be.

What is your most memorable music concert?

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238 thoughts on “How To Enjoy And Have An Unforgettable Music Concert

  1. Unlike you I haven’t gotten deep in music concerts. And the concerts I enjoy are baroque classical music concerts –instrumental and vocals. Ah well, glad you enjoy and are inspired.

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  2. I’m afraid that I haven’t been much of a music concert-goer myself… maybe it’s because of the atmosphere itself. The only one that I attended was a religious one in Auckland (and we’re talking at least a decade ago). I chose the seat furthest from the stage and on the top-tier – instead of rows away from the stage.

    But if I were to attend music concerts in future, I’d rather choose the middle seat (I won’t be deafened by the loudspeakers and I’ll still be able to hear the singer). I’m not sure if I’ll sing because I’m not the vocally blessed person in town. Me singing is synonymous to a cat howling from pain. ><

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    • No shame in sitting furthest away. For two years when I frequented classical concerts, I’d buy the cheapest tickets right up the last row, top-tier and the people on stage seemed to look like ants 😀

      I’m sure your singing isn’t that bad. It is just in your head and if you sing along with a crowd, you sound amazing 🙂

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  3. What an incredible piece of writing and photography Mabel. Concerts of all types seem to have a magic to sweep us away into another world, if only for a few hours. I love them, although it has been awhile since I’ve been. Love the photos, they seem to flow right along with your words: “Music makes us feel”

    A few days ago, I was just talking about how true beauty in life is the type of beauty that is not seen but rather felt…and the same can be said about music. When able to experience such music live and with others who share the passion, then as you say it can be an unforgettable event. The experiences you share adds to the mystic of concerts and of the wonderful things that can make up a year 🙂 Wish you many more such feelings during the remaining days of summer 🙂

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    • You are so right, that true beauty is felt. And experienced and so a lot of of the time can be very hard to describe. Concerts don’t come by often, and hope the ones you went to were ones to remember. They do last for usually a few hours but sometimes they make you feel you you’ve never felt before…even for days after.

      Hope you are doing well, Randy. Missed your writings and missed you, too 🙂 We are on the final stretch of winter here in Australia, so we have lots of upcoming summer days 🙂 You enjoy what’s left of it ❤

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    • I would love to. My concert photography is limited to the concerts I choose to go to and pay for on my own, which is probably at most no more than 3-4 shows a year and they are usually the kind of shows that don’t allow anything bigger than a point-and-shoot. That said, even with a point-and-shoot (on manual mode), concert photography is very fun and wouldn’t mind doing more of it given the opportunity 🙂

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  4. This post makes my skin tingle. It takes me back to all the times I felt so alive during live performance. Thank you for breaking down this process and bringing it back to the memory. I love Green Day too. It is great to connect via a shared love of live performance. Thank you for the insight that all this makes me feel real. True!

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    • You are very kind, Lita. Thank you for the nice words. Green Day are amazing and I love how they have evolved as a band and their sound too. Hope you get to go to a concert at some point. Live performances often leave you will such a special feeling.

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  5. For me, it would have to be seeing Kylie Minogue is concert, Mabel. I’ve seen her three times in concert, but at the last concert we were in what was called ‘The Pit’. The stage was all around us, with about 50 people in a pit below. We were given waterproofs, as part of the show involved water fountains going off, with those in the pit getting soaked. Great fun, though. That was one concert where I never used my phone. I just enjoyed the whole experience, especially of being so near to Kylie. 😀

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    • Amazing you got to see Kylie Minogue not one but three times, Hugh. From what I’ve seen in photos, she puts on a big show with big costumes and light shows 😀 So lucky you got so close the last time – maybe she even waved your way too 😉 Nothing like getting close to a performer you’ve loved and known for so long. It’s a very special feeling.

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  6. Nice article! I haven’t gone to as many concerts as you have. To quote from My Happy List Item#24: “Back in college, I was able to attend three live concerts, all for free. One was because I interviewed a band for the school paper. The other two were care of the college radio station I worked for. I wasn’t even really a fan yet of all three. I watched because I got in for free. So I decided I wanted to be able to attend a concert I was really interested in and I would pay for my ticket. I did. Watched Mariah Carey’s live Manila concert. It wasn’t so nice an experience, actually.”

    The first concert was by the legendary The Dawn, next two by South Border (saw twice) and Parokya ni Edgar. After Mariah, there was a large free ant-AIDS concert that featured many local bands and groups and highlighted by the presence of Mandy Moore. The next concert I went to was after many years, the anniversary concert of Lea Salonga. I doubt I’ll be watching any concert again anytime soon unless I get free tickets. Concerts cost much.

    BTW, if my calculations are correct, we’re almost of the same height. 😉

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    • So cool that you got to interview a band for the school paper and for the college radio station. Not everyone can do that. So sorry to hear the Mariah concert wasn’t all that good. I would have thought if she missed a few lines – or if they were pre-recorded – the visuals and lights of the show would make up for it.

      Mandy Moore – I still remember her music and acting in the 90s and 2000s. I still have some of her songs on CD. Hope you liked that performance. A good concert is always worth the time and wait. Agree concerts cost a lot – it’s probably a good thing there are no upcoming concerts that I want to go to 😉

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      • I got to interview The Dawn because I was part of the paper. At that time, it was supposed to be their farewell thing. The other bands, I didn’t get to interview, but as a college DJ, I and the others got to watch their concerts for free as a kind of ex-deal–the sponsor or school organization got to promote through our station, the DJs got to watch for free (we got tickets at first, then later, all we needed to do was to flash our DJ IDs).

        The Mariah concert was good, but from where I was, I didn’t enjoy it. I wanted to buy a ticket that could get me nearer a bit, but it was a bulk order, so to speak, and everyone decided to get lower-priced ticket that didn’t get us actual seats and placed us far from the stage…I HAD to bring my teeny binoculars. I’m just saying I would’ve been better off watching it on TV. Imagine, I am almost of the same height as you (I think you’re taller by almost an inch), then I had to stand up in a crowd where most people were much taller.

        I kinda liked Many Moore when she started acting, then she became obscure. As fro concerts costing a lot, the Ariana Grande concert was just held here and there were people who were willing to part with P50,000 just to see her. I dunno, but I don’t think I’ll ever want to pay for something like that just to see anyone. Well, it’s their money, no judgment. But I just feel I can do so much more with that money.

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        • It sounded so easy to get concert tickets and see bands when you were in college. Nothing like getting in easy and no need to go through the hassle of buying tickets.

          ‘concert was good, but from where I was, I didn’t enjoy it’ SUCH a good point. A concert can be a good show with on point singing, amazing light show and theatrics, but if you can’t see anything…you can’t see anything. Might as well stare at a wall.

          Like you, I always think if it’s worth it to spend so much on concerts. If I love the act enough and know most of their songs, yes I’d go. But if not, no and the only time I’d go is if I got a complimentary ticket.

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          • Hear! Hear! Even if I don’t now an artist, if I’m invited and the ticket is free, I’m also free to discover new artists, he he.

            The ticket for the Mariah Concert was only P500, I think, and it was in an open field. The cost wasn’t so much. But the only artist I ever really watched after that (well, after Mandy, at least) and didn’t mind to spend on was Broadway/West End star Lea Salonga. I still didn’t get any of the best seats, but I still paid thousands from my well-earned money then. But if money was really too tight then, I wasn’t going to spend much on it still, to be practical.

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            • I often wonder how people get free tickets, especially complimentary tickets. I never seem to know anyone or a sponsor offering them right to my face, lol.

              ‘ if money was really too tight then, I wasn’t going to spend much on it still, to be practical. ‘ So well said. Concerts are a treat in more ways than we know.

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  7. Wonderful post Mabel. You’ve definitely seen an amazing array of music by the sounds of it. I love live music. Saw Josh Groban both times he was in Melbourne and thought he was absolutely fantastic.

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  8. Oh my, I love concerts but I normally get so stressed out trying to enjoy it that sometimes I don’t. Bookmarking this post for the next time I go, I can enjoy it better. Thank you! 💖

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