Concerts: Taking back Saturday night

Ally Taylor

Let’s face it: going to a concert is a hassle. After shelling out a large sum of money to the band, its manager, Ticketmaster, the concert venue, the parking attendants, the merchandise booth and whoever else might feel like taking advantage of your opened wallet, you can bet whatever’s left in the dusty corners of your bank account that you’ll want to make the most of the night. Keep in mind, you’re going to have to pretend to enjoy sticky floors, crowds, that annoying couple that won’t stop making out in front of you, traffic trying to get out of the parking lot and the inability to hear for three days afterwards.

While half of Villanova’s student population would prefer to stay home and watch the band’s live DVD, saving money and sanity, the other half lives off of concert adrenaline. So what makes the concert experience worth the ticket price?

“It’s an entirely different experience to see them in person,” concert junkie Andrew McGann said.

For some people, the audience is the key factor in a good live experience. Junior Mindy Brown prefers smaller venues like the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia because they always sell out and guarantee a close crowd, while others favor larger venues with lawn seating where listeners can spread out blankets, relax and enjoy great music.

Of course, different bands require different venues to achieve the perfect atmosphere. Big name bands like Billy Joel and Dave Matthews Band generate enough excitement simply from their popularity that they can afford to spend the money to put together an entertaining show in larger arenas. For the fans, this sometimes means having to endure cumbersome armrests.

Other bands, like The Strokes, create a more energetic atmosphere performing in front of general admission crowds. Brown remembers seeing them at the Tower Theatre in Upper Darby, a seated venue, and being disappointed with the lack of vigor.

However, seeing a high-energy band like Franz Ferdinand when the Tower Theatre designated a general admission section encouraged people to get up, dance and get into the music. Plus the audience was so close to the band, a crazed fan could reach out and touch their feet (as if that wasn’t borderline stalker conduct).

While the band, venue and audience play huge roles in creating a great live show (I’m reminded of that annoying couple who can’t keep their hands off each other), it isn’t always about listening to a band play the songs you could listen to on their CD. Previously unreleased songs, acoustic versions, covers, choreographed routines, dialogue and special guest appearances can turn a good show into an amazing experience.

“One of the coolest things about seeing a band live is when they spontaneously go into a cover and it’s not something you expect,” McGann says regarding his favorite part about shows. Some of his favorite covers include Howie Day singing Coldplay’s “Don’t Panic,” Yonder Mountain String Band singing Ozzy Osborne’s “Crazy Train” and Keller Williams with Martin Sexton singing Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman.”

Bare Naked Ladies choreographed an entire dance routine with shopping carts while “Shopping” played in the background for their show at the Wachovia Center. Admittedly, they weren’t playing their instruments or singing while prancing around, but how often are you going to see Steven Page glide across stage riding a shopping cart?

Or how about Beck, who did a solo acoustic set while the back-up band set up a table on stage and ate Chinese food, only to join back in with a percussion soli performed on their dinnerware? Silverware became drumsticks banging on plates and glasses for snares and cymbals. That will not be on his next CD.

“It’s spontaneous moments like that that blow you away the most,” McGann said about the peculiar percussion performance. “That’s the greatest thing about concerts.”

No matter which genre of music you’re into, there’s a great concert experience just waiting to change your life, or at least how you spend your Saturday nights. Sing along to a Top 10 act like Coldplay, let loose with a jam band like Moe or rock out to a punk band like Zebrahead.

For those of you who would prefer to stay home, I hear there’s a movie special on Lifetime this weekend, but for those of you who need your adrenaline fix, the Take Action Tour is in town. I’ll see you at the show.