Emils Solmanis

getting old: quality over quantity

I've recently been thinking about how I go to much fewer gigs these days. I used to go to maybe even two a week. Now that number has gone down to something around 6-12 a year.

It's definitely not for the lack of good bands playing. In London you can find good stuff probably every day if you want to, and many of the cats here have written previously about finding live gigs and getting tickets to them.

a basementful of smoked sardines

Having thought about this for a while I quickly came to the conclusion that even if I go to fewer gigs, I probably still spend the same combined amount of money on them. I realised that I've shifted my live music much further to the quality end of the spectrum.

For a music junkie like me, gigs take time. You need to get in the mindset of it, listen to the band on Spotify for a bit, decide if this is a black T-shirt kind of gig…

… or black tie optional kind of gig. All this takes mental effort and, more importantly, time. So I've slowly drifted to doing my research, mostly going to the big stuff, many times paying for "VIP" packages.

Some of the recent examples include

  • an evening with Machine Head. It was a whole 3 hours of unadulterated, pure Machine Head. Literally, they played for 3 straight hours. Wouldn't wanna be that guitarist. No warmup band, no other nonsense like that. Pure awesome, and mad respect for them actually being able to do a whole tour like that.
  • an evening with Primus. Again, some 3 hours of Primus in 2 acts, including 1.5 hours of a pretty crazy Willy Wonka themed show.
  • just recently I paid for the "VIP" pack for an Apocalyptica gig next year, includes meet & greet with the band, the new album and some merch
  • paying for the VIP package of Bloodstock. It includes 1) a bar with some 100+ ales on tap and no queues, 2) a clean (by festival standards) loo with virtually no queues and 3) separate showers for a smaller camp ground. Made festivaling so much more enjoyable.

I got the VIP treatment for free last year (ask me over a pint), but it was totally worth it, and since I don't go to that many gigs, I realised I'm perfectly OK paying for it this year – it's basically the price of another ticket. Considering the full expenses for a festival are ~ £130 for the base ticket, ~ £20 to get there, ~ £200 to stay buzzed and get food, and probably some £50 more for merch, another £130 on top all that to take away the really miserable parts of the experience hardly seems that much.

bottom line

This is by no means to be taken as me not liking or supporting new bands. I do still on occasion go see those. It's just that I find it increasingly harder to enjoy being crammed into a tiny venue with bad sound, it's a lose-lose scenario. I don't really get to hear the band that good and I also have to feel like crap, so I've subconsciously drifted to venues and experiences that avoid that.

I'm also well aware that I speak from a position of privilege. Being able to afford these things is by no means a given, and I certainly wouldn't have dreamt of it when I was much younger and hitch-hiking rides to festivals to save on the travel tickets.

Just goes to show that priorities change, and because I can afford it these days, I'd much rather just pay for the train ticket to the midlands now than try hitching a ride from London with a tent and sleeping bag on my back.

What about you, care to share your own experiences? Let us know in the comments!

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