It is key when going to a concert to know as little as possible about the music.
I will concede that my second favourite concert of all time was Stars, whose Set Yourself On Fire album I knew forwards and backwards. However, the best was Thunderheist, where my total pre-concert experience consisted of making up actions to the song “Jerk It” in my friend’s dorm room the previous evening. Their show was better than any mosh pit, indie act, or jam session I have attended, bar none.
The deciding factor at any live event is spontaneity. In a play it’s the interaction of audience and actors. Rocky Horror Picture Show is better in a theatre than in a living room: the dancing, costumes, and screaming are all part of a local cultural evolution.
The same is true of live music.
When someone goes to a concert with a favourite song they want to hear, their whole concert-going experience usually ends up hanging on whether that song gets played or not. If it is, particularly in the all-important encore, then they leave happy. If it isn’t, they will complain about the entire show, not having been energized by “their” song. That’s a loss. Because more than likely, it was a great set for anyone who either knew all the songs, had their song played, or didn’t know what they were getting into from the start.
The same goes for openers. It’s not too bad to know the main act in advance, since obviously they are what brings the crowd. If it’s a good band, and you’re familiar with them, there’s a good deal of excitement leading up to the show.
I recommend not even looking at who the openers are, much less researching their music.
Tonnes of small acts have poor quality samples on MySpace, and there’s a good chance that if you check out the band in advance, you won’t be impressed. That doesn’t mean they will suck live, but it does serve as a reason to show up late. The reverse is pretty bad too: when a band is good in studio but too green on stage to be any fun.
All of these problems can be avoided, rather simply, as follows.
Get a good view early enough to see this new, mysterious band. Check their style, instruments, and set up, especially if you are not prepared to get pushed around during the main act. A live show is a lot about the visual experience, and it will be easier to get a good feel for the stage when the band draws fewer die-hards.
Then, settle in. If they suck, well, more time to mingle and drink and make fun of them. If they rock, you have just had the fabulous experience of discovering a new band live. It’s a feeling that will wash over you, first as a slow wave of appreciation, then as a crash of excitement.
Then, for indie cred, when the band gets bigger you’ll be able to say with all honesty, “I saw them live, before they were big. They blew me away — great live performance.”
Not only will the hipsters be secretly shooting you daggers of jealousy, but the surprise of being truly entertained will leave you with a crystal clear memory of awesomeness.