Monday, July 8, 2019

Rock 'n' Roll: The Concert Experience

The Classic Generation 1940 -1950 | The Concert Experience

The "Renovated" Forum, Inglewood CA
Photo - Eric Meyer, 10/5/74 - The Forum
In 1974, Mary Kit and I drove from Santa Maria, CA to Inglewood in LA to see Elton John at The Forum (setlist that night). The Forum is where the Lakers and Kings used to play from 1967-1999 and was a prestigious venue for big time rock 'n' roll bands. We sat in the cheap seats up top in the back and my most vivid memory of that concert was the volume and how the sound bounced off the walls. Mary Kit's most vivid memory were Elton's costumes and Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting. Elton sold out four straight nights and was on top of the world. 

After the Lakers left The Forum, the building really lost its luster and I think was forgotten by many. That all changed in 2012, when the Madison Square Garden Company purchased it for $25.5 million and put a whopping $100 million into renovation. Since the renovation, Mary Kit and I have seen Don Henley and Eric Clapton there and are excited to see Queen + Adam Lambert there later this month. In our opinion, the sound quality at The Forum is the best place to see an arena concert in Southern California, if not the west coast. 

I think a lot of people are into music in their teens and early twenties BC (Before Children), then life completely changes when a couple has children. For me, having children didn't wipe out my love of rock 'n' roll, I just kind of put it further down on my priority list and slowed way down in buying albums and cassettes, and then CD's. For many, one's career and family life takes over and going to a concert would be great fun, but just gets pushed to the back burner.

Like I said, my love for music has never died, but something wonderful happened as I was getting closer to retiring from being a school teacher for 35 years. Mary Kit and I started going to concerts. There's nothing quite like seeing a live concert of an artist or band that you really like. For me, it's kind of like running a 10K or half-marathon with thousands of strangers. You're surrounded by people with the same shared interest and the energy is very positive and exciting!

Mary Kit and I have now gone to a number of concerts where we've picked up a few tips and tricks along the way. I'm hoping even my seasoned concert going readers can pick up at least one idea here for future concerts. Every concert gives you a different experience but all share the wonderful vibe that live music brings to our hearts and souls.

Social Media
  • Follow artists and bands you like on social media. We often get our first alert to a concert we are interested in through social media.
  • In that same vein, follow venues you like as their concert series schedule will often be posted and you can start planning.

San Diego Civic Theatre
Tickets and Pre-sale for Large Venues
  • The ticket game is rigged and not in your favor! There is no fair first in line for the general public. The best seats or even blocks of tickets are already taken by the promoter and ticket agencies.
  • A rule of thumb - Purchase the most expensive tickets you can afford.
  • Knowing the ticket sale date and time is essential for purchasing a hot in demand concert.
  • Have a map of the venue printed out so you can refer to it when you are purchasing your tickets online. Literally, every second counts if you are wanting to see someone like Paul McCartney.
  • There is a way to get ahead of the masses in line and that means having a credit card account with the specific credit card holder that is aligned with the concert. This perk qualifies you for PRE-SALE. Pre-sale with that particular credit card, gets you a day or two head start and sometimes even a week on tickets sold before the official ticket date is opened to the general public. Yes, this means you have to have more credit cards in your life like American Express, Chase and Citibank, but just put them away and only use them for concerts.
  • Ticketmaster - If the concert is really a hot ticket, you have to act fast on your phone or computer. Ticketmaster is the largest ticket agency and be ready by having a Plan B like -
    The spinning wheel of death as the website is overwhelmed. Have both your computer and your phone logged into the site at the same time, and see which one hits first. It's weird, we've started with our phone or computer, and we haven't liked the "best seats" tickets presented. We then quickly switch to another device and low and behold we are offered better seats at the same price.
  • StubHub or Vivid - Third party ticket agencies will gouge you on price, but if you hear about a concert, later than sooner, sometimes you can find the seats you want and live with the price. Also, the artist may have their own lottery ticket plan (e.g. Mark Knopfler). We have not found this useful and just wastes time. If you want the tickets and venue, sometimes you just have to suck it up. Ironically, some of our best concert seats and experiences have been the Plan C of using StubHub or Vivid.
Direct Ticket Buy and Smaller Venues
  • In smaller venues, you can usually buy tickets over the phone with a human being. This is often preferable, because that person knows their venue and will usually get you the best seats for the price you can afford. The Belly Up in Solana Beach CA is a good example. The Belly Up often has general admission which is stand only. But, they do have upper loft reserved seating if you call the second the ticket sale date opens up for that show. 

The Venue
The more you go to concerts, you learn the venues you like and the ones that are not so hot. Sometimes, the venue is actually the #1 thing that gets you looking at whose coming to play there.
Balboa Theatre, San Diego CA
  • Overall, smaller venues are generally better than larger venues. You're always closer with a cheaper ticket price at a smaller venue. Smaller venues also give you an opportunity to see either rising stars or a star that doesn't have superstar status or just doesn't want to play arenas anymore (Jackson Browne comes to mind). Here are our best venue types rated 1-5.
           1. Performing Arts Center or Small Theater (Seating <500)
           2. Concert Hall or Large Theater (Seating < 3000)
           3. Amphitheater (Seating <5000)
           4. Arena (Seating < 18,000)
           5. Stadium (Seating from 30,000>)
  • Indoor venues are better than outdoor venues. You don't have to deal with the weather conditions, airplanes, ambulance noise, and general lower quality of sound. Parking is 90% better at or around indoor events.
  • Parking - Avoid parking structures if possible, unless you are super early and can park in level 1. Otherwise, it seems like it will take you as long to get out of the structure than the concert itself. If the concert venue is in a safe area, park several blocks away in a small pay lot (usually cheaper) with easy street to freeway access. In any event, plan your exit strategy.
  • Travel and Lodging - If you are traveling to another city for a concert, make it a small vacation and get a hotel room for the night. Get a hotel that is walking distance to the concert venue and enjoy a few extra drinks without driving responsibilities. We like to scout out a restaurant near the venue, park at the hotel or in a small pay lot, have drinks and dinner, and then walk to the concert and avoid the crush of cars. Remember, if you buy tickets say for a show or two in Las Vegas, get reservations for nearby restaurants at the same time. In Vegas, it's amazing how many restaurants are sold out months before the night of a big show because a lot of people have figured out to play this concert game.
  • Women's Purse or Handbag - For security reasons more and more venues are now limiting the size of a woman's purse. As a rule, we would suggest you just carry in what Mary Kit calls a small "clutch" purse. At one large stadium venue, they were making women get out of line and this caused a lot of panic, especially if your car is parked outside the venue, or you didn't even arrive by car! We saw one women take out the contents of her purse and throw her purse in the trash can. Anyway, Mary Kit is now ready for the security people with her clutch packed as full as humanly possible.
  • Sound Quality is important for the money we are all paying for tickets in 2019! If a building is notorious for "poor sound" it may not be worth the money. For example many older sports arenas like The Sports Arena in San Diego (now called Pechanga Arena) are not the best place to see a loud rock band because the sound will bounce off the walls. I went to see James Taylor at the SD Sports Arena a couple of years ago, and the sound was bouncing off the walls with the king of soft rock!
  • Aisle End Seating - If you can, try to get an aisle end seat if the venue is broken into sections like an arena, as this generally does not apply to older theater seating with long miles of aisles. With an aisle end seat, you simply have a few more options. One, the largest person in your party gets a little more leg room. 
  • Flat Level or Theater Seating with Little to No Slope - Stack chair seating is a drag because you feel like a can of packed sardines. Mary Kit is smaller than me and always takes one for the team by sitting next to my aisle end seat. If the venue has plastic stack chairs all tied together (like Humphries Concerts by the Bay in SD), and Mary Kit has someone encroaching on her space, I can lean one cheek over my aisle end seat and she can slide my way. Also the easy exit is a no brainer. 
  • Floor Seating at an Arena - Unless you are young or willing to stand for two-plus hours do not buy seats on the floor. Floor seating at an arena is for STANDING, it's a concert rule!
  • Off the floor at an Arena are in Tiered Sections. We have found if we can sit in a section just above the floor and somewhere in the middle of the arena, we can get a great view of the stage and actually see the band without always looking at the big screen. We just no longer buy tickets in the noise bleed upper level where the band members are dots that you have to watch on the big screen. If you have to watch a live show with a big screen TV the whole time, well there's your sign.
  • Large Party - If your party of concert goers is larger than four, we suggest buying a group of seats in two rows. This allows you to freely talk before the concert and not be all strung out in a long line.
Concert Etiquette - Things You Can and Can't Control
  • Most people attending concerts are wonderful people! We are all having a blast together, and the great majority of people attending concerts are well-behaved fans.
  • Be a good neighbor for the people on other side of you, in front of, or behind you. Sometimes if you strike up a little small talk especially with the people directly in front of you before the show, that will pay off big time once the concert starts.
  • If two or more people are talking non-stop during the concert, politely ask them to stop and listen to the show. Most of the time this works.
  • Drunks are the worst. Never raise your voice or act mad, that will only explode the situation. I had a guy a couple of seats from me in my row at a Fleetwood Mac concert in Las Vegas try to get the drunks in front of him to settle down, he took the tough guy approach and the fists started flying. If you're at a stadium show and you have drunks next to you, scout the seats around. Mary Kit and I were at an Eagles/Doobie Brothers Concert at Safeco Field in Seattle and the drunks two rows down from us were killing the show for all the good people around them. I spotted a number of empty seats in the next section to our right, and got up and we sat over there. Soon, about 10 neighbors from our previous seats came over to join us.
  • Scenario - We are in theater type seating where all the seats are fairly leveled with one another. We get settled in our seats with average sized people all around us. The two seats in front of us are open and we're hoping, hoping, damn here comes a 6' 4" dude and a gal with a cowboy hat and sits right in front of us! The place is packed and under the category of "things you can't control," you are leaning left and right all night. Several years ago I went to a Jackson Browne concert at Balboa Theatre in San Diego. Jackson finishes his first song and the house lights come up. I look to my right and a few rows over I see Bill Walton sitting and cheering. I'm thinking about the guy behind Bill, poor bastard. Most concerts are a clear unobstructed view. Overtime, I have learned to relax and try to go with the flow...
  • If you are at a Boomer concert where the star or band are in their 70's, the vast majority of people attending the show are 60+ years old themselves. What is really uncool is when the person, couple, or group stand in front of you for most of the concert. Remember, prolonged standing is for the people who have purchased floor seats and know what they are in for. Sitting in a tiered section at an arena is for sitting, and then with bursts of standing for the "big hit songs." Then, sit your ass back down, because the person behind may be using a cane and needs to sit back down. You don't want them to weaponize the cane...
  • Category - Things I Can't Comprehend. The guy way up in section ZZ 250 in the rafters who stands and videos the entire concert with his phone! Do not watch these horrible quality self-uploaded videos on YouTube, life is too short.
  • If you like to smoke pot and relive your Grateful Dead years at concerts, don't. Boomers often bring their children, and they in turn bring their children. I see whole generations of families having a wonderful time together at so many concerts. Hey it's 2019, marijuana is legal in most states I visit. Simply go to your local marijuana Dispensary and get some THC gummy edibles (and know your dosage level). So simple and you won't have to blow smoke and smell up your concert neighbors. Nothing worse than someone yelling at a pot smoker at a Neil Young concert (that just doesn't seem right), but I understand. A gray-haired woman did this a few rows up from us at the Santa Barbara Bowl and was vocal because her 10 year old granddaughter was with her. In 1971, this woman probably smoked joints herself with all her peers seeing Neil at the Fillmore West, but that was then, and now she's bringing a little one to see her hero.
Go See Younger Artists and Bands -
  • If you are a Boomer, your rock 'n' roll heroes are not getting any younger. Almost all of the rock gods I talked about in last week's blogs are in their 70's (Ringo turned 79 yesterday, Happy Birthday Ringo!) Go see the great classic acts now!
  •  But also, go see younger artists and current bands on the run. Mary Kit and I have enjoyed so many younger people making great music today. I'm not going to tell you who to see, that's your own taste and passion. Also, many young artists are on the rise and not filling up arenas, yet. Kacey Musgraves and Jason Isbell are two examples of people who have recent Grammy wins but are mainly filling up large theaters and concert halls. This is often the ideal time to see your new and current favorites in that more intimate setting.
The Benefits of a Live Show - 
  • Science Says Regularly Attending Concerts Makes You Happier - "An Australian study involving 1000 people has concluded that people who regularly go to concerts are happier with their lives overall than those who don't. Basically, the survey reports that people who went to any sort of communal musical event said they were pretty satisfied with their lot, on a bigger scale than those who didn't."  
  • If you are a younger person reading this blog, don't stop seeing concerts AD (After Debt) with your newer responsibilities with spouse, children, or mortgage, etc. 
  • Music keeps us young in mind and spirit. We have so many options to listen to recorded music today. My suggestion here is that you include going out and experiencing live music when you can, it just might save your life.
If you missed Part I of this blog series you can catch it here and read about the great generation of rock 'n' rollers born between 1940-1950 that not only remain relevant today, but you can still see live.

And like last week, no new playlist but just some of my all-time favs.

My 100 Songs

My Second 100 Songs