Bob Hughes, aka "Robert In The Late Afternoon", owner and radio personality on KPRi, created a great list of recommendations for maximizing your enjoyment at concerts. You can read his entire list here. It got me thinking, though. I've been going to live music since a very young child, when my mom would load us in the car on Sundays and take us to Seaport Village for free shows. My earliest "concert" memory was seeing Andy Gibb at the Wild Animal Park before he died about a year later. I still remember his long blonde hair and red leather pants and asking my mom, "Is he a fox?".
Because of this upbringing, maximizing the music experience while minimizing the cost was always important to my family and has stayed with me. The less you spend, the more you can do, right? With all the free concerts in the park events, street fairs, and paid festivals like Street Scene and Warped Tour, the rules are never the same across the board, but I've learned a few things over the years and after the jump, I'll share some of my methods of surviving summer music.
Since Robert covered the basics, I'll add to his list instead of reiterating what he already covered.
1. Research- Every event usually has rules posted online about items you can bring and can't bring. For example, concerts in the park might allow beach chairs, while lawn seating at Cricket only allows for blankets or towels. Most venues now allow non-professional cameras. In the state of California, a professional camera is any camera with a removable lens. Most festivals also now allow for a sealed bottle of water. Read online and know the rules.
2. Pack- I feel I've become an expert in packing for festivals. For the ones that allow backpacks, here's a small list of what I never leave home without:
Sweatshirt, extra t-shirt, extra socks, flip flops, sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, an empty reusable water bottle, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, toilet paper. For all day events, I also tend to throw in a small windup flashlight (port-a-potties can be scary places at night), a toothbrush and travel toothpaste, and deodorant (because you never know...) This, of course, is in addition to the regular goods: cash (to avoid crazy ATM lines and fees), pocket camera, earplugs, gum. And at the risk of scorn from non-smokers, if you are a smoker, prepare accordingly. Few things are more annoying than people who bum smokes because they "only smoke when they drink". Remember that some concerts and venues are smoke free, specifically anything in a public park.
3. Dress comfortably- I know flip flops are the preferred footwear of at least 80% of San Diegans, but if you're 6th row at the main stage of Street Scene and I stomp your toes with my Doc Martens, don't cry to me about it. Generally speaking, however, unless the weather is abnormally hot or cold, you can be comfortable in pants, a t-shirt, and a hoodie. Think about the fact that you might be in the same clothes up to 10 or 12 hours (or overnight, if you get lucky ;) If you're a hot chick hoping to hook up and insist on wearing your cute little minidress and stilettos, be my guest, but the rest of us just look at you as the idiot you are. And when you say your shoes really are "comfy", we know you're lying.
4. Get information- The first thing I like to do at a festival is find out set times. I don't stick to a regimented schedule, per se, but there's nothing worse than waiting for an okay band and realizing you just missed your favorite band. Some shows release set times in advance of the show so it's worth printing out. Others, like Warped Tour, rotate headliners, so set times become available the day of the show on premises. I take a picture of the schedule and refer back to the photo throughout the day. In this modern world, some concerts even provide iPhone apps or Twitter feeds of set times. Use them.
5. Lay of the Land- This goes with the information part. Familiarize yourself with the stage layout, where bathrooms are, where food and drinks are available. This will save you a ton of time later, specifically at Street Scene, which can be a little confusing and gets harder to navigate once the sun sets.
6. Food- I always make sure I eat right before I go to a show to "lay the base". I'm all for street fair food, but some of those days get long. Learning from my almost 2 year old niece, I'm all about snacks- granola bars, goldfish crackers, string cheese...small nibbles that will tide you over until you settle in on a $9 polish sausage to wash down those $7 beers...and the small nibbles can usually slide past security.
7. Have fun- I never understand when people go to a concert/festival/street fair and look like they're being punished. Yes, you have to deal with parking, crowds, sometimes rude people, tired feet, and sometimes unpredictable weather. But when it comes to it, the music should rise above it all. I always swore I'd never go to Coachella because of the heat, the crowds, and believing I would be overwhelmed by the choices. When the opportunity presented itself this year, I went, and I enjoyed myself. And when I stopped enjoying myself, we left. No harm, no foul, but I got to enjoy what is probably the best concert performance of my life in Paul McCartney and that alone rises above any of the lowlights of the festival.
I'll leave my list there for now. You'll have to figure out the booze and camera smuggling and getting backstage stuff out on your own. I can't reveal all the secrets.