I have tickets to a concert I have been looking forward to for months, and the excitement builds until I get there are realize something that is so easy to forget: standing room only concerts are painful — and by that I mean physically draining and if you have various foot ailments (yes I have the feet of an elderly man) actually painful.
Doors are at 7 p.m. so we get in line at 6 p.m. just to be on the safe side. This implies an hour of standing before we have even entered into the venue, although at this point sitting is possible — so long as the hipster behind us who shuffling ever closer doesn’t decide to take our spot entirely — and one can leave for supplies (penny candy and coffee) or bathroom brakes.
At five after 7 p.m. the doors actually open and the line begins to meander forward. We collect our coats off the ground and get ready to go in. The first stop is the coat check (usually skippable except on nights when it is raining or below 20*C). The line is relatively short now but will be enormous on the way out
Then the night begins for real. We wisely skip the merch table — I am no longer in junior high, no longer feel a need to buy/wear band t-shirts everyday, and don’t want to spend money there — and head straight to scoping out spots. We are rewarded for our earliness with fourth row back standing spots and some lovely people watching.
Then it is 8:00 p.m. and we have been standing here for almost an hour and no opening act has appeared. My feet hurt and the crowd glances out expectantly waiting for something to happen to allow us to forget about our unhappy jam packed bodies and enjoy some music. Every time someone walks across the stage a few cheers ring out and then another random song plays out on the speakers announcing that the opening act will not appear just yet. Eventually our patience pays off and they emerge — and in good cases they are excellent and worth the wait, otherwise you stay for fear of losing your spot.
Then there is another break. This one always feels longer. After ten to twenty minutes sound check occurs and wraps up quickly then there is more waiting. Conversation trails off as impatience takes hold. The crowd is looking for something to chant to encourage them to come out already and I yield the suggestion of “my feet hurt, my feet hurt”. Occasionally somebody scurries along the edge of the stage but they are just tuning and leave quickly.
Sooner or later the band emerges and the wait is finally paying off. This is the time to fortify your position. People — usually those who did not arrive as early as you did or those who went to the merch both or bathroom during the brake — begin to push forward and to try to stand in front of you. There is no way this is going to happen. Elbows are deployed to maximize the space you take up and discourage encroachment. Chatty Cathies and pushers are shot angry glares. The group of high school students behind you can be heard plotting their move. At the same time you pay attention for any openings that you may be able to fit into. You vibe the tall person in front of you in the hope that they will move.
Eventually things settle down. The high school kids stay put, my elbow does its job, and the tall guy shifts slightly to the left. A space opens up in front of me and I end up with a delightful view of the stage. I still can’t help but wonder if all this is worth it. I have been standing for four and a half hours by the time the show is over and we shuffle over to the coat check. Standing room only is something that you deal with but it never makes a show better. I would prefer a venue with assigned seating eliminating the waiting, pushing, and inability to leave you spot leaving music as the one and only focus.