It was a cold Monday night -- a school night -- in Western Massachusetts, I was 13 years old, and one of my favorite bands was playing about an hour away. They'd been even closer to home Saturday night, but my dad was traveling on business that weekend, so when Monday rolled around we piled into the car for the journey ahead. When we arrived, he surprised me with 10th row center tickets: our original seats had been much worse, but he'd called the venue that morning to see if anyone had turned in better seats, and they had (a trick that, sadly, rarely if ever works nowadays). The opening act was a loud girl group with the bass turned way up, so I stuffed some tissue in my ears and my dad wandered around the outskirts of the arena, buying me a poster in the meantime. But when the headliner finally took the stage, I was entranced.
There's something so special, so unique, about that first real "concert" experience that it's difficult to describe. It's a connection to music that you can't get from an album or a video, a feeling so powerful that a part of you is convinced the act is aiming all the sound and emotion of the set list right at you. On several occasions, I've taken friends to their first shows of adulthood (or near-adulthood), and I can recognize the looks of their faces as the one I must have had on my own that frigid April night many years ago.
With the holiday season upon us, it's important to note that sometimes the best gift of all is an experience. Concert ticket prices are on the rise for arena tours, but there are still plenty of smaller, local venues where you can see incredible music and give a family member or friend of any age a night to remember. Don't think one night of fun is as valuable as something physical? You don't have to take my word for it -- check out these stories from a few fabulous females who happen to be incredible music writers.
Jade Blackmore, age 15, Rolling Stones:
"I ended up going to the concert with the 25-year-old sister of one of my brother's friends. I had a blast at the concert-finally, someone who liked the same music as I did. The next day when I told my girlfriends about the penis-shaped balloon Mick rode on during Star, Star, they were absolutely shocked. Also, looking back, I remember feeling truly liberated by the experience. It was the first time I had gone to an event with someone outside of my family and usual circle of childhood friends. I was finally a grown-up."
Daphne Carr, 6th Grade, New Kids on the Block:
"It was at Blossom, the summer home of the Cleveland Symphony. I'd been there a few times to see the symphony, because I was an aspiring cellist. From the grass area I was blown away by the fact that this place where the beautiful, quiet symphony and reserved guests was filled by a sold-out crowd of kids and parents. I don't know why, but screaming really was the first reaction everyone had when the group came out on stage. I remember thinking it was pretty weird, but I got caught up and screamed a bit too. All in all, I think the concert really burnt me out on liking them, because I had to put so much energy into waiting and didn't really enjoy the music of the concert that much. What did inspire me was the venue--knowing that classical and pop music could be in the same place made my choice to be a cellist seem a little less uncool."
Natalie Zina Walschots, Age 13, Our Lady Peace (and later in life, with several metal bands):
"I went with my first high school boyfriend, who hated every moment of being there and everything about the concert experience: the crowd, the volume, the energy, the music itself. I loved it. Afterwards, though, the magic of the event evaporated; I felt a little ashamed at how much the live music experience had swept me up. My really transformative live music experience happened in November 2008. Three of my friends invited me out to a metal show at a warehouse in the middle of nowhere, and I went to humor them. It was a bill composed of Ontario black metal bands; one vocalist wore a ridiculous stuffed wolf on his head, and I was exposed to corpse paint for the first time. I loved it. I loved every, sweaty, ear-demolishing moment of it. Now, the feeling of being disembodied, taken over by lie music, was transformative instead of shameful."
Katie Hasty, Age 11, Bryan Adams:
"My brother and I had seats and a chaperone, but at some point the flood gates just kind of opened up and all these fans just bum-rushed toward the stage and I joined them in this big hormonal mass. I heard girls screaming "I love you Bryan!" so I found myself, too, screaming "I love you Bryan!" with the distinct feeling that I did not, in fact, love Bryan. I just got caught up. Great hair, though."
Jesse Sposato, 8th Grade, Aerosmith:
"They were my favorite band, and the show was amazing. I wasn't allowed to go to concerts alone yet, so my best friend and I went with our moms, but they sat a few rows behind us and we pretended not to know them. Aside from my half shirt, what sticks out most about the concert was people holding up their lighters and waving them around in the air. I had never seen that before, and it blew my mind. I happen to have a lighter in my pocket too -- I was right in the middle of my short-lived pyro phase (do girls talk about this enough?) -- and I was so elated to have the chance to use it along with the rest of the crowd at my very first rock concert!"
What was your first concert experience like? Share your experiences in the comments section below, and this Christmas, consider giving the gift of live music!