We all know how much fun shows can be. You’re watching a band you love play music that’s the soundtrack to your life, surrounded by people feeling all the same things you are. But what differentiates your average show experience from the one that sticks with you for years—or for the rest of your life even? What can you do to make a show more than just a show?
1. Leave your comfort zone
If your comfort zone is only going to a show if you have a friend to join you, talking to no one else but that friend, and doing nothing but standing in one spot the entire night, then my number one recommendation is to be prepared to leave that comfort zone immediately. Meet new people. Some of my closest friends are people I met at shows I went to by myself. More often than not, they want to meet you too.
2. Appreciate the line
I sometimes joke that the line to get into the venue is half the fun. The line is your best chance to make connections with new people, especially if you’ve camped out for an hour or longer. My longest line waiting experience was 23 hours, and surviving it just made the show that much more memorable. You don’t have to be that crazy, though. Four hours early once got me coffee with two members of the band, and an hour early has given me some amazing friends from all parts of the country who I still keep in contact with.
Of course there are other reasons to join the line, as well. If you want barricade, it’s almost required that you arrive before doors open. Getting there early can mean buying merch before it all sells out or downing a beer or two before the band goes on. It’s also great to be there for the opening bands—who knows, you might even find a new favorite.
3. Themed cookies
If you have any baking prowess, an easy way to make friends and appreciate your time spent in line is to bake themed cookies in honor of the band. Everyone else in line will automatically be your best friend, and you’ll also have cookies. It’s a win-win. Who doesn’t love cookies? If the band happens to come by, they’ll love you forever too and remember that you fed them.
4. Jump on stage
If the venue is small enough or there’s no barricade, jumping around on stage like a crazy person can be a lot of fun. It’s more fun if you have friends willing to make idiots of themselves on stage with you, but that’s besides the point. Even if security forcibly drags you offstage while you’re reaching for the guitarist mid-song, it makes for a great story later and is highly entertaining for your friends in the crowd witnessing it. And speaking from my own personal experience: you hardly even notice the crowd while you’re up there. Let loose and enjoy the moment.
If you’re a bigger dude and the audience is mostly young, small females, I’m going to ask that you go ahead and skip to number 7. Knowing the crowd will actually catch you rather than getting crushed to death is super important before throwing yourself off a stage. It’s also important to make sure they’re paying enough attention. A crowd on their phones is not a crowd you want to stagedive into, I promise.
But if you managed to make it onstage without being dragged off and the crowd is prepared to catch you, then what better way to reinsert yourself into the pit than to jump?
So you’re at a show with a barricade, and you’re nowhere near it. You can hardly see the band from how far back you are because you ignored my advice and got there during the second or third opening band. Easy solution to make the night fun? Find a group of dudes and ask if they’ll lift you up to crowdsurf. Or if you’re me, random dudes might ask if they can throw you because you’re so small and they swear it’ll be fun. Listen to those random dudes. It will be fun.
Be wary of the fact that people might drop you along the way and you’re bound to kick someone in the head at some point. But being on top of the crowd is worth it.
This is kinda a given, but I’m willing to bet there are many of you who avoid mosh pits like the plague. You can’t live your life in fear. This goes for shows too. At least once, join that circle pit. Let people shove you around. Throw some ‘bows. Skank in entirely too close proximity to other people. Accidentally kick someone in the shin. Or not accidentally. A mosh pit is the perfect excuse to kick that guy who asked for nudes after the last time you saw him at a show.
Not just dancing on your own—I mean grab a partner and dance. If you’ve never seen waltz-moshing before, I highly recommend it. You have a new friend to dance and sing with, and also to use as protection for when you inevitably crash into all the other waltz-moshing pairs on the floor. Bonus points if a dogpile ensues. You’re doing it right.
Making a sign for a show serves a few different purposes: it can get the band to acknowledge you in a large venue, it can get you pulled onstage (“I sing Misery Business” or “I play Knowledge on bass” for instance), and it’s a fun pre-show art project that you can hang on your wall post-show with all these new memories of the night attached to it.
10. Coordinated audience participation
Crouch during a quiet part of a song and jump up when it gets loud again. Meow along to hums in a song. Build a human pyramid during a song. Waltz. Do ballet. Do something. Coordinate with a group of fans to get the whole audience excited about a certain ritual for a certain song. There’s not much better than feeling like you, as a member of the crowd, are truly a part of that song, and a crucial part at that.
11. Dress the part
Many people are adamant about NOT wearing a band’s merch to their shows. While I see this as more a point of personal preference, that’s not what I’m talking about here.
Is there a song the audience will meow along with? How about cat ears or cat masks? Would custom sunglasses be appropriate? Or capes? Does the band have a certain aesthetic different from the way you normally dress? Maybe you just need an excuse to wear that tutu you made in college and only ever wore to Disney once. Planning fun outfits and playing dress-up adds an extra little something, and it’s easy to do.
It’s also important to note shoe choice. Never wear flip flops or sandals in the pit unless you’re prepared to leave the venue barefoot. 0/10 would not recommend.
Pass out balloons to people in line before the show and instruct them to wait to blow them up until right before the headliner comes on, then throw them in the air during the first song. If people can cooperate, it’s a fun and easy way to get audience participation, and it looks pretty sweet. Will security hate you? Yes. Yes, they will. But it only gets worse with #13-15.
There’s nothing quite like timing the perfect moment for a confetti explosion during the last song of the night. It’s a magical thing when no one, band included, is expecting it. It’s a guaranteed way to make the crowd go wild, and you had a hand in it.
Note: confetti sticks work best, ideally long ones that can shoot up to ten feet in the air. Let’s just say I bought the wrong kind once. One exploded in a friend’s pocket, and many that were passed out throughout the crowd turned out to be duds.
One of my proudest life achievements to date involved 24 glitter bombs and a final encore.
I ran from my spot at the stage (no barricade this show) through the pit handing people glitter to throw (although I’d given at least 2/3rds of my stash to friends before entering the venue) and throwing it myself. Everywhere. The mosh pit became like a giant slip-n-slide. A glittery slip-n-slide. Aside from one friend who refused to hug me after the fact, it was a huge success and everyone seemed to enjoy the mess. Even just running through the crowd on a mission upped my adrenaline by a lot. 10/10 would recommend. I trailed glitter everywhere I went for about a week and couldn’t get it all out of my hair for at least three. #glittergate2015 #neverforget #worthit
15. Take the mess a step further
Halloween show? Fake blood. Please get a kind that won’t stain, though. Ruining someone’s clothes and ultimately their night is not worth it. And for people who don’t want to be covered with fake blood (even if it’s temporary)? It turns into a nice game of run-away-from-the-girl-with-the-fake-blood.
You can also take a page out of Isocracy’s book (or… Larry Livermore’s book that talks about Isocracy) and use random messy things like flour, silly string, or police tape. Because why not? Note: do not aim for the band, please. Crowd only.
Do you have any other tips worth sharing? What’s the craziest thing you’ve done at a show? Let us know in the comments below or shoot us an email! And be sure to check back next week for Part II: How to Get Away with the Mess. Smuggling is an art form.