I was talking with some friends the other night about the first concerts we each attended, and how much my personal musical journey has grown and changed, and yet has not, since the early days.
My first concert was one I was lucky to attend; I saw Simon & Garfunkel at the Akron Rubber Bowl. I was 13. I went with my Mom and sister, and we had a great time. I remember someone from the local news interviewing me on the way in as they were surprised to see such a young fan. To be fair, I didn’t know much of their music, I was just kind of along for the ride, but I dropped the names of the one or two songs I knew to the reporter to look cool, though I’m sure I looked like a giant dork. My sister taught me that day about what concerts are like – a lot of drunk people walking on your blanket, ready to start an argument with you or anyone else who doesn’t like it, and who might burn you with their cig if you aren’t watching what they are doing most of the time. They’re not the best place to get trashed unless you want something bad to happen to you or your shit, and are best attended if you arrive early and leave early.
I worked in the concert industry as a security guard for many years at venues all over Northeastern Ohio and those tenets remained true through the years, and are still true today, though I go a lot less frequently. I did get to see the fantastic Buddy Guy last week in Akron, who, at 76, has more life, musical talent, energy and chutzpah in him than most musicians I have seen play over the last 10 years put together.
I remember coming to Cleveland for concerts when I was still underage. The Cure at Public Hall, and me and a handful of friends sprinting away from security to get to the backstage area after the concert. I met Boris, the drummer, who seemed aloof but generally a nice guy. When I saw the Psychedelic Furs, I managed to move myself up into the front row where I grabbed Richard Butler’s leg whenever he got close enough for me to reach it.
When my sister got to college, I would come up to visit her occasionally and we would go to concerts with a group of her friends. I remember a particularly nasty Beach Boys concert where we all drank some horrible purple liquid. I remember going to see U2 way, way before they were super famous, during the Unforgettable Fire tour, and my boyfriend at the time leaving me to go dance in the aisles. I had a horrible flu and a 102 fever and I spent a lot of the concert in the bathroom where it was nice and cold.
What I learned, saw and experienced working for the security company I worked for all those years could be a book. I would add from my own years of experience that if it’s an indoor venue, make a mental note of where the closest exits are on either side of you in case you have to get to them quickly or in the dark. And if you see the ushers leaving because it’s getting late and they’ve been dismissed, that’s your cue to go too. But my sister’s advice rings true to this day – get there early and leave early, and don’t drink too much. Which could also apply to the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Be safe out there, everyone.