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It’s summer.  Okay, it’s almost summer.  If it’s after May 1st, I consider it summer.  I’m not going to talk about what a sound tech should have on hand or how to handle outdoor gigs.  This post on ProSound Web covers what sound engineers should be ready for during outdoor shows.  In this post, I’ll give you some tips for going to a festival or local outdoor show as a fan.

This summer there are plenty of festivals and outdoor concerts to choose from.  Bonnaroo (June), Rock on the Range (May 19-21) and Rocklahoma (May 26-28).  I’m going to Rocklahoma this year.  It’s the first time I’m headed there and I’m pretty excited.

Of course, you don’t just have to hit a festival to enjoy great music. There are plenty of places that do outdoor shows when the weather is nice. I live in NYC metro area and I have my choice of attending Jones Beach, PNC Bank Arts Center or Bethel Woods.  Not to mention MetLife Stadium or Citifield.

I just recently kicked off my summer concert going this past Sunday, which also happened to be Mother’s Day.  I went to Metallica with a large group of friends and family.  Folks, if you have the chance to catch Metallica on their tour the next few weeks, I strongly recommend you do it.  They were phenomenal.  If you’re an old school (or even a newbie) Metallica fan, you won’t regret it.

What can you do, as a fan, heading out to any number of outdoor shows this summer?  As someone who has gone to quite a few outdoor concerts, I have some helpful advice to share.

Go Local

If you’re planning to go to one of your local outdoor venues, my advice is have a plan in place before the show.  Questions such as:  Who will be the driver?  Do you have a backup plan for getting to or home from the show?  Who’s getting the tickets?  Are you buying all together or individually (if you want to sit together, buy as a group)?  Most importantly, what are you brining for the tailgate party? Tailgating is a fun way to start your concert experience.  Like the Boy Scouts, being prepared is a great idea.  We tailgated this past Sunday.  Everyone pitched in and it was a great “pre-game” to the concert.

Traveling To a Show

If you’re traveling to a show in another state, like I am, preparation is key.  Like a local show, decide how you’re getting to the event.  Flying or driving?  Where are you going to stay?  These are the two most important questions to have answered before purchasing your ticket for the festival.

I’ve listed below some other tips for festival travelers that can save you the frustration of being unprepared.

  1. Deciding on how to get there. If you fly, purchase your tickets about 6-8 weeks before your travel.  I learned a tip from a Pinterest post, that booking on a Tuesday at around 2 p.m. you can find good deal on airfare.  If you’re driving, decide if you’re taking your own vehicle or renting.  If you’re going with a bunch of people, split the cost of the rental.  If you’re driving a personal vehicle, I suggest doing any routine maintenance on your car before your trip.  At the very least, check the oil and tire pressure.  In addition, an emergency kit in the car is good to have.  Not just first aid, but having flares, spare tire, oil, and anti-freeze on hand can save you if you have the misfortune of breaking down on the road.
  2. Accommodations. When I was younger, I would travel with a large group of friends to Grateful Dead shows.  Mostly on the east coast.  In summer, we’d camp out for most of them.  Camping, if done right, is more cost-effective than a hotel room.  Plus, camping can be a lot of fun.  However, now that I’m closer to 50, camping, unless it’s in an RV, is not my idea of fun.  I’ll take a hotel.  If you and your group are choosing a hotel to stay at, I suggest booking as soon as you know you’re heading to a show.  Big festivals, like Rocklahoma and Bonnaroo, start selling out rooms as the date for the concert gets closer.  Sometimes the promoters work with local hotels and you may be able to score a deal on the room price.
  3. Day of show. Most places allow you to bring a tote bag or backpack.  However, if possible, check the rules the venue has about how large a bag you can bring.  I use a small size backpack for shows, because most venues these days do not allow duffel bags or large backpacks.  Here’s a list I have in my bag.
    1. Water. Stay hydrated!  I can’t stress this enough.  Have water with you.  If the venue allows, have a bottle you can keep refilling.  Some venues frown upon bringing outside beverages, so you may get stuck with buying from one of the vendors.  In that case, buy a bottle of water and refill it at a water fountain.  Drinking booze at a show can be fun, but it won’t keep you from passing out from dehydration.  For every two alcoholic drinks, drink a bottle of water.  Not only will you keep from dehydrating, but you can stave off that hang over as well.
    2. Snacks. I’m not saying pack a lunch, unless you can.  Chips, granola bars, nuts, cookies, fruit, etc., something portable and easy to have on hand.  My go to snacks are usually granola bars, cookies or a snack pack of mixed nuts.   Bring something that doesn’t need to be kept cold but will give you some nutritional value.  We all know how expensive it can be to get food at a venue, so by having some snacks on hand may help in waiting to get a real meal outside the venue. Traveling is fun and getting to sample the local cuisine can be part of that experience.
    3. Sunscreen. I know, I sound like a buzzkill, or worse, your Mom, but you’ll thank me for this tip.  Take it from the idiot girl who once fell asleep in the parking lot at a Grateful Dead show and ended up with a 2nd degree sunburn that day.  SPF 50 that blocks all the bad rays from the sun works.  I know you want to sport a tan, but your skin will thank you for protecting it as you get older.  Get a small bottle and throw it in your bag so you can re-apply at the show.  Also, wearing a hat and sunglasses help protect you from the suns strong rays.
    4. Miscellaneous stuff. I usually keep the essentials listed above along with an extra shirt and a tiny first aid kit. If you have medical issues, bring your meds. Having an extra shirt is good for when the sun goes down and the temp drops a bit.  Or if you just want to change your shirt because you’re sweltering in the heat.
  4. Be smart. Be safe. No matter what, indoor or outdoor concert.  Be smart.  Go with at least one other person.  Know your surroundings.  Tell your friends where you’re going.  You need to run to the bathroom? Go with your buddy.  As much as there are regular folks out there wanting to just have fun, there are also scary folks out there looking to ruin someone’s good time.  Be smart about who you talk to and trust.  I’m not going to argue about whether or not drugs are bad or good.  I will say this, if you choose to smoke weed or take other drugs, KNOW where you got it from.  I know, sounds weird to trust a person giving you drugs, but hey, if you’re going to get high, don’t take a pill if you don’t know what it is.  That’s not smart at all. Know your limits when you’re drinking.  Just because you’re having a weekend away from responsibilities, doesn’t mean you need to get stupid drunk at a show.  Concert tickets are very expensive these days.  Don’t waste all that hard earned money by getting too drunk to remember the show or worse, wind up in the ER for alcohol poisoning.  Have a few drinks.  Chill out and then go see some awesome music.  On the flip side, just because you’re not the one imbibing, don’t bring everyone down by pouting.  If you all want to have a good time, consider getting a party bus or limo so someone else is driving.
  5. Be respectful. Clean up after yourselves people!  I can’t stress this enough.  You have garbage, find a trash can.  Yes, there are people employed to clean up, but seriously, your Mamma didn’t raise a pig.  And if she did, well, pick up after yourself anyway!  Be respectful to the people working the venue.  Yeah, you may be there to blow off steam, but they’re getting paid minimum wage to clean up after your ass, don’t be a jerk.  If there’s a problem with your tickets, yelling at the gate agent is not going to get the problem solved. Crying might, but yelling will definitely get you nowhere.  Well, if you yell loud enough and act like an ass, it’ll get you to jail, and you’ll miss the show.  Smoking is another touchy subject at concerts.  Smoking weed, cigarettes, and I noticed now even vaping is frowned upon in most places, even when you’re outside. If you get asked by one of the venue security guards to put it out, don’t be a jerk to him.  He’s just doing his job.  One other thing leave the weapons in the car.  Seriously, do you really need your pocket knife inside the venue?  You don’t need your gun in the venue either.  Be safe and keep it locked in the car.

Nothing Better Than a Live Show

Going to a show, inside or outside, can be one of the best experiences of your life.  If you’re like me, and have been to multiple shows over the years, you know those moments. When the music is just right. The band is on their game.  The weather is fine and you are with your friends grooving to the music.  It’s just one big magical moment that you can hold onto for days.  I’m writing this two days after seeing Metallica and I am still feeling the love.  Truly, there is nothing like a live music show. Whether it’s the Allman Brothers at Jones Beach, Dead and Company at Citifield or The Zac Brown Band at Bethel Woods, there’s nothing more fun than seeing your favorite band live.  Do yourself this summer, get a bunch of your friends together and hit a live show.