Tales From the Pit: [Part 2]
Did you all enjoy last weeks article about concerts. Were you all dying for more. Well to bad welcome to part 2 all.
So this week we are focusing on going to concerts on your own. For a sighted person this is a relatively simple concept. For a blindy not so much.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. So while I have never been to a concert on my own. Luckily I have a wealth of information at my disposal. Reenter Hector.
This article would be filled with guess work and lame suggestions. Lucky Hector here has been to concerts on his own so we can break down some ideas and hopefully convince the blind community to get on board and go see some live music.
What was your first concert experience on your own?
The funny thing here for me is that I should have had this experience about 6 years ago. I had tickets to a show but at the last minute the 2 friends I was going with bailed. So instead of going on my own I just sat home and wished I could have been at the show. But Hector has a different story. Take it away.
I will break down my first concert experience on my own into three different ones, as I feel that these three were completely different beasts. My first experience on my own was Carrie Underwood on her LA date for her Blown Away Tour in 2012. (Bonus points for another solo adventure just a few days later seeing Brad Paisley on his LA date for his tour that year.) I was in my first month of college and feeling adventurous when it came to independence, with my first experiences on my own being just a few days apart and both at venues I had never been to before with capacities at around 20,000. It would be several years until I attended a concert at a less than 10,000 capacity venue on my own, and that wound up being a battle of the bands event hosted by a local radio station. Finally, my first concert experience on my own seeing a metal band was Epica with support from The Agonist, Arkona, and Fleshgod Apocalypse on their North American Principle tour.
So there you have small or large we can do it. And for once that isn’t a sex joke.
But while this is all well and good I guess at least for me I would have some concerns.
What advice would you give to other blindies wanting to attend concerts on there own?
Obviously again I don’t have much to say here. I mean what can I say I haven’t ever done it. But in putting together this article Hector has actually made me want to try going on my own. But that will have to wait for now. For now Hector take us through what advice you we give to blind people wanting to attend concerts on there own.
There’s some tips specific to certain types of events, but first some essentials. Before you go, eat and drink lightly. You want to get enough so that you won’t feel too hungry throughout the night if the venue you’re going to doesn’t sell food, but not enough that you’ll be stuck with trying to find a restroom in an unfamiliar place. Pack some water, earplugs, and of course your tickets, and if the venue allows food in, a small snack. I have a small backpack I carry this in if I know I’ll be seated for the show, and a hoodie with large enough pockets to fit this in if I know I’ll be standing. If it gets hot, it’s easy enough to just carry it over my arm. Earplugs are self explanatory; you’re already blind, don’t be stupid and go deaf. Even if it’s a smaller show where you don’t expect music to be too loud, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Even an acoustic show can turn painful if mixed poorly. You can get cheap disposable ones for not too much money, some nicer ones that come in a container you can attach to your cane or keys with a ring, or some custom fitted ones if you enjoy music enough that you want a better listening experience than that of the usual muffling by generic earplugs. Most venues usually don’t allow water, but I’ve found security to be generally understanding about letting it in when it’s someone who can’t look around for the nearest bar or concessions stand. Finally, never let go of your ticket. It’s not only your ticket in, but your ticket back to your seat if you need to get up at larger venues and you need to ask for help from an usher to find your section again, since your seat and section numbers will be printed on the ticket. I’ve also found that having someone sighted fold a print at home ticket helps, since it may be hard to scan if it is folded along the barcode.
Most of the advice I can offer for venue specific issues boils down to speak up, don’t be shy, and do your research. Medium to larger venues tend to have someone on hand, and if it’s a larger venue sometimes even a whole department, dedicated to accessibility. At amphitheatres, arenas, and stadiums, walking up to the person at the entrance and politely asking “Can I please have someone guide me to my seat?” has never failed me. A scan of my ticket and a quick call over their radios, and I’m in my seat in no time. Likewise for getting back out after the show, or if you get friendly with those around you, you usually get an offer to help you get out of the venue. If you speak to the person who helped you in, you can arrange to have someone come get you after the show as well. If all else fails, just stand up so you’re visible or walk around until you find an usher. I’m sure I don’t have to explain how quickly a blind person who appears unsure of their surroundings can draw some attention. Some larger venues even have “premium” or “VIP” sections for not a whole lot more than a regular ticket which provide a server to take food and drink orders, eliminating the need to get up to try and find a concessions stand. After all, why should us blindies be deprived of the opportunity to buy overpriced drinks and food? I’ve even been to a venue where they had someone that would come sell merch in these sections. Finally, when it comes to these larger venues, call or visit online ahead of time to see if they have a dedicated pickup location for paratransit or ride-sharing services to make your trip back home go as smoothly as possible.
For large venues make sure you ask what entrance you came in through. That way when getting help at the end you can just say can you help me find east entrance.
Finally, for smaller venues, your fellow concert goers are your best friend. With smaller venues come less staff, so aside from getting into the venue to find a spot, most of your help will come from those around you. Getting in, don’t be afraid to ask to get as close as possible for general admission events. For most metal shows, I’ve found it easy enough to still be in the pit but on the side instead of front and centre, but I would go back a tier or to the handicap section if there is one if I know it will be a very rough show. As much as I trust my fellow concert goers, I don’t expect them to look out for me. Just use common sense, because chances are, someone else won’t be using it. (I’ve literally had someone jump on me trying to stage dive when I was standing in the front row, cane clearly visible.)
Hannibal’s back. Blind people who are in to metal let me give this warning right now. Heavy metal shows can get nuts. so don’t just dive in with out knowing what you are getting in to. But I think that goes for any type of music. While I am advocating going to shows on your own, do listen to this advice and stay safe as well as smart.
What is it that you love about live music
I gave you my thoughts on what I loved about love music last week. So I thought I would give someone else the chance to give some thoughts. Hector?
It’s alive. Not sure I can put it much better than that. Music production has focused so much on building a performance as opposed to capturing one, so a good live band speaks to me as a fellow musician and lover of music on a level recorded music rarely does.
So just to finish up here did you have any final thoughts on this topic?
As an aspiring music industry professional in one of the biggest hubs for the music industry in the United States, I quickly learned how true the words I heard so often from my professors about networking really were. In any sector of the entertainment industry, so much comes down to who you know, and that involves being visible. I know this may not be the case for most people reading this, but there’s something to be learned from this. A professor once told me that, when networking, avoid being in pairs. He said this gives off the impression that you may be having a private conversation with the other person, making it less likely that others will approach you. Now, for someone who is part of a group of people who regularly need guidance or assistance, you can see how quickly this becomes an issue. I never really noticed this until I started going to concerts alone. When not with my brother who is my usual concert buddy, I regularly get approached by strangers or easily strike up conversations with those sitting or standing around me. Despite being someone who tends to be shy, I quickly learned to enjoy this, and because of this, going to concerts alone is just as fun for me as going with a friend. On a practical level, as a musician, it’s important for me to support my local music scene, and sometimes this means a last minute decision to check out a friend’s band on a free Saturday night. Or sometimes, it’s checking out a tour that’s coming through town, and I either can’t find anyone who is free that night or can’t afford a second ticket. I’ve gotten to support my friends and fellow musicians, and I’ve had tons of awesome experiences I probably wouldn’t have had if I’d gone with a friend or not gone at all. During my first concert alone, I got an unexpected but appreciated surprise, when the woman sitting next to me started describing to me the elaborate staging for the show which was new to someone like me who really only knew the straightforward productions of most metal shows. A few days after that at my second concert alone, a couple near me insisted I crash their date, and I spent the evening’s intermissions alternately hearing horror stories from the wife who was a middle school teacher, and having really interesting conversations with the husband who happened to work for a law firm that did a lot of disability rights advocacy work. In the time since I was asked to write this, I made a last minute decision to go check out Ashley McBride, a rising country star at one of the tiny historic venues here in LA which I had never visited, and got to witness a star being made literally front and centre. There’s a reason she was recently booked for a major arena tour, and opportunities like this will only become harder to come by. Put simply, some of my best memories came from live music, and take it from me, going it alone as someone who is totally blind isn’t as hard as it sounds. So go out there and see(or hear) for yourselves!
Honestly I don’t have much more to say on this topic.
I think we have covered it all.
Next week check out this space for the final article in this series all about music festivals.
Once again I want to thank Hector for all the help with these articles especially with this article. If you would like to know more about him, Read on for some interesting information.
Los Angeles based musician, blogger, and programmer. Loves ducks.
Here are a few links to check out more about him and his projects.