I am the kind of person who is obsessed with music--and I think that in some shape or form we all kind of are--but more specifically, live music. Normally I try to see one concert a month, and sometimes that's difficult, as bands typically tour heavy in the summer, but not so much around December and January. Somehow, I still try to find a way to fit one in. And sometimes that means not knowing exactly who the band is.
That probably sounds crazy to a lot of people. Actually, a few months ago I asked a friend to go to a concert with me, but she said no on two premises: one, it was on a Thursday and she had class the next day (which, okay, is reasonable), and two, she only kind of knew one band out of the three playing. She knew that I didn't know any of the three, and yet I was bent on going--and I did go, by myself. And that was the best decision I had made in a long while.
I urge all of you to go see a concert where you really don't know the band (or bands) playing. Here's why:
1. Broaden Horizons
If we're talking being really bold here and seeing a band you've never even heard of, then this one is quite obvious. If you have zero idea who a band is at all going into the show, you're going to come out with at least some idea, good or bad. Whether that will be a new genre you never thought you'd listen to, or just a different sound to a genre you already did. Even if you come out not liking the music, that's an experience no one is going to be able to take back from you.
And if you do go to a show with only an idea of who a band is, chances are they're still slightly outside the realm of music you typically hold yourself to. There's a slightly better chance that you'll come out enjoying yourself, but even if you don't, at least you gave it a shot, right?
Nothing really makes-or-breaks a band like their liveshow. I've had experiences where I really loved a band when I streamed their music, but when it came to the actual show, it was a little disappointing, and afterwards, I found I couldn't really enjoy their music as much as I had before. I mean what sucks the energy out of the music more than just all members of the band standing their doing exactly what they need to (i.e. play their instruments) and then walk off the stage. No fan interaction, no running around, no nothing. If I wanted that, I'd go see an orchestra performance. On the flip side, I've had an incredible experience at a concert that made the band's music much more enjoyable to listen to--they're actually one of my three favorite bands of all time now because of it.
My point is, when you've listened to an artist for a while beforehand, even if it's just a month or so, there's a lot of expectations on the show itself, and sometimes it's easy for a band to fall short of those expectations. When you don't know the band playing, there's no expectation to hold up. There's no thoughts in your head telling you how good they should be. And if you love them, streaming their music will always carry that weight of the concert.
3. We All Do It Anyways
Chances are when you buy tickets to see a band play live, you don't know who the opening band is. And maybe you don't walk out of the show totally in love with the opener. Chances are you probably won't, and probably won't go out of your way to see them again. But that's because you didn't go to that concert for them, you go for the band they're opening for. Your memories of the show will be full of the band you knew, the band that you wanted to see. So when you take the bigger band out of the equation, you find that there's nothing overshadowing the band that you don't know, and that means you're going to walk away remembering exactly who they are.
4. But Concerts Are Expensive!
Yes, concerts can be pretty pricey, I can't lie about that one. And yes, streaming is totally free. I have two things to say to this.
One, there's absolutely no experience with streaming. The only sense that's used is hearing. And chances are you aren't devoting every part of your brain to listening to music you've never heard before. Chances are you're going to be doing something else while you're doing that and then you won't remember what you had listened to, or know if you liked it or not. When you see a band live, you're fully immersed in it. Every sense is devoted to this one experience. You are totally focused on what's going on around you at the venue, and I promise you, those are memories that won't fade as quickly as remembering what you streamed yesterday.
Two, the music industry is a hard place to earn money. Streaming has surpassed digital downloads and physical purchases of music, and artists make less per stream than they would per download. So there's two ways to go about this. If you really liked the band, you're supporting the artist in a much stronger way than you could any other way. The live sector of the music industry is a huge profit maker, a trend that's fairly new to the industry. Artists make almost half of their profits from touring, and by going to the show, you're supporting that. And if you don't really like the band, well, even if you then think it's a waste of money, just remember that you're still supporting someone's dream. Maybe you don't like what they're putting out, but it's still some human being who is trying to make a living off their dream--wouldn't we all like a little support in our search to live out our dream?
5. Won't It Be Awkward?
The answer to this question is quite simply "no," but if you're as stubborn as I am, you're probably going to need some more information.
Right now, just picture what the last concert you went to looked like. If you're thinking of an arena show with tens of thousands of people, then I can promise you that you will be surrounded by thousands of people who know the band and are super excited for the show. Worried you'll be the only one who doesn't know anything? To be honest, you probably won't be; someone else probably dragged along someone so they wouldn't be alone. And the energy in arena shows are impossible to sit in and feel awkward. You feel so involved in what's going on, even if you're sitting all the way across the arena from the stage. You soak in the energy from everyone around you, so much so, that you're still going to be amped when that band or artist walk on stage, whether or not you know any of their songs.
If you're thinking of a smaller venue, anywhere from a hundred people to a little over a thousand, then my suggestion is to totally throw the question of the awkwardness out the window. You're surrounded on every side by people who are going to be screaming the lyrics back, jumping up and down, getting really into the music. Sure, it might be weird at first, but it's weirder if you just stand there. The energy from the band and the crowd is second to none and impossible to ignore. There's no standing still when the crowd is energized and moving all around.
It's always a good idea to step out of your comfort zone, and going to see a band you've never heard before is the perfect way to do that.