Live Music is Better – Plan for Concerts When You Travel
We’ve been going to concerts since our early teens. For us, live music has been a constant joy. There’s an energy, an excitement that can’t be duplicated listening at home.
Remember Your First Concert?
Over the years, we’ve seen hundreds of concerts ranging from Miles Davis, Prince, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen to lesser-known acts such as The Scud Mountain Boys, Mink de Ville and Lambchop.
My first live music recollection is of an afternoon matinee of blues legends Buddy Guy and Junior Wells playing at a summer exhibition. I didn’t know about Chicago blues – after all I was just a kid of 14. It wasn’t like anything I’d heard on pop radio. It definitely wasn’t teenybopper time anymore. It was an awakening. I started paying attention to concert listings and ticket sale dates.
Most Music Fans Have “Big Ears”
We like to say we have big ears. That means we’ll listen to nearly everything from classical music in a Parisian church, a very “out there” Ornette Coleman jazz show in a dank club, or five hours of Einstein On The Beach, a mind-bending modern opera by Philip Glass.
How can you discover something new if you don’t try? Whether it’s pop, rock, jazz, blues, soul, gospel, zydeco, folk, classical, opera… if it’s good, we’re there.
And that’s the point – if you enjoy live music, it takes just a little bit of effort to plan ahead to get good tickets while you’re travelling.
One More Way to Live Like a Local
Do it for the love of live music of course, but also if you want to “live like locals”. Now you’re on their turf at an event that’s definitely not just for tourists.
A live music concert is ideal to plan your whole day around. Real groupies will show up at the venue early, for a chance to hear the sound check and maybe even meet the musicians. But mostly, it’s dinner and drinks, the show, and perhaps a club afterwards if your stamina holds up. Late night, or early morning, can be a great time to walk back home through a city and experience it winding down.
Get Into the Groove With the Audience
Around the world, audiences have their own way of reacting to live music performances. Every town has its own vibe and it will be different than your hometown. Toronto, for example, is known for polite (asleep?) audiences. But if you see Lucinda Williams in a small hall in Oxford, Mississippi, you’re on her stomping grounds in the south, and college girls in the audience will be hooting and shouting her lyrics back at her. How do those kids know Lucinda’s songs?
Go to a big Springsteen show in Milan or Barcelona, and the roar of the crowd, the soccer chant style cheering, becomes part of the show. It’s electric!
And if you’re seeing the Jamaican dancehall legend Sizzla on the beach in Negril, just know that if it says doors at 9 p.m., he won’t be on until well after 1 a.m., and ganja clouds will be thick. Plan your sleeping schedule accordingly.
Friends With Musical Benefits
Ticketed events are also where overseas “friends with musical benefits” come into play. I have many online music friends around the world.
What that means in real life, is that when I visit Berlin, I can ask my Berlin friends what’s playing and what shows they’ve got coming up. Then I’ll either buy my tickets online or ask them to pick up tickets for us (which of course I pay for, and buy them dinner and / or drinks before the show). It’s a great way to meet your online friends and get insider tips. Who but a local like my friend Frank knows you can drink at the very cool Ramones museum / bar in Berlin?
A few years ago we saw The Band of Heathens at the small hall in the Paradiso in Amsterdam. We met our Dutch friend Roel, hung out on our houseboat rental, had dinner and went to the show. Roel has been to the Paradiso many times, but for me, this is a legendary bucket list venue. The Paradiso also has a larger concert hall, which I wanted to see. Roel knew the back staircases, and right after our show, lead us to the top of balcony in the big room. They were setting up for a show the next night. For me, I was just happy to be there.
Watch For Posters And Signs
Sometimes, you can luck out and see great music spontaneously. In Paris, you’ll notice bright fluorescent posters on construction hoardings generally for classical or gospel shows in churches.
You may also find that some of the smaller clubs have tickets at the door. But in my experience, most shows by well-known artists sell out ahead of time, and unless you’re willing to pay a markup either on a reseller website or to a scalper, you won’t get in. So, plan ahead.
Make Use of the Will Call Window
Generally, I don’t want to be responsible for printing my own tickets or having them sent to me. Whenever possible, I choose to pick them up at the venue box office “will call” window. I keep my email receipt handy on my phone and bring ID and the credit card I used to buy the tickets.
Live Music is Good For Your Health Too!
A recent study from the Faculty of Health and the Faculty of Arts and Education at Deakin University, Australia confirmed what we already know about going to concerts, especially with friends. Here are two excerpts:
“The findings revealed that engaging with music by dancing or attending musical events was associated with higher subjective wellbeing than for those who did not engage with music in these forms.”
“A key factor contributing to the positive outcomes for wellbeing associated with music is the social component of music engagement. While research has indicated that engaging with music alone may improve physical health and emotional wellbeing, other research has shown that engaging with music in the company of others is associated with stronger positive experiences.”
Popular Sites for Concert Listings
There are many local sites you can find just by searching “concert listings (name of city or country)”, but these are the big three:
Planning a trip? Hit these sites first and get ready for an evening of music.