20 Things I’ve Learned at Concerts

Thinking I’m 25 again last week, my wife and I went to see concerts on back to back nights. A Perfect Circle and Soundgarden. Very different vibes at both shows (obviously), but I realized that over the years no matter what band it was I saw there were a number of “truths” I’ve experienced again and again.

1 – The “I Pre-Gamed Way Too Hard” Category

You should do what inspires you by singing (shouting along), swaying in place, jumping in the pit, or even dancing like no one is looking. It’s one thing to “Feel the Flow”, and it’s another to “flow” right into your neighbors. Especially if they are not currently anywhere near a pit… and you’re just drunk or high or both.


2 – The Hazards Of Having Seats On The End Of The Row

Look, I get it. This is your first night out in forever. The kids are up your ass all the time, the boss is up your ass the rest of the time, and you just need a night out. So you and a couple of friends head to the show, grab a beer and settle in for-

Excuse me.

Right, gotta get a refill. I understand. Especially since you’re getting one for your buddies as well-

What’s that? You’re only getting one for you? And as soon as you get back and I’m back engrossed in this song, your buddy is going to tap me and try to get by.

OK… but that guy is going to come back with a beer for your other friend right? No? Just one for him? And you’re saying he’ll interrupt my favorite song, clearly seeing that I’m REALLY belting out the song, thus completely pulling me out of the moment?

Yeah, no worries.



3 – The Guys Who Think They Are Literally Anywhere Else Other Than The Concert

You know who I’m talking about. These assholes are standing 5 feet away from you carrying on the deepest, truest conversation anyone has ever had before. They are totally engrossed in just being there for each other, no matter what is going on with the band.

Good of you to spend $70 each to do something you could have done at Waffle House.


4 – Everything Happening On My Phone Right Now Is Way More Interesting Than Live Music

Obviously this has only been an issue since the turn of the century or so. I mean, how in the world did old Grandpa ever get by without checking their Twitter/Facebook/Whatever feeds?

Again, Great use of your money. Next time you give me half, and we’ll go outside, and I’ll kick you in the balls, and we’ll call it a day.


5 – Oh, You Didn’t Know? I Am A Famous Director

You know what is awesome? When you see a show and then later own it. It allows you to truly relive the experience and listen to it over and over again.

You know what is NOT awesome? When you have your phone up in a way that I can’t see the show in front of me. All because you have to have a really poor quality video of the whole concert apparently.


6 -I Like To Swim, Into The Mosh

No matter what the band, if the music is heavy enough, and there is room to be had – it is very probable a Pit will be formed. With the appearance of that natural phenomenon comes another absolute:

There will always be some asshole who thinks the Mosh Pit is a way to try and hurt someone.

You know the guy. He’s the one who made sure to go out and buy steel toed boots “just because” and now he’s trying to destroy your kneecap.

The worst part is he probably isn’t even a fan of the band at all.


7 – Wait… Wait… Wait… What’s Happening!?!

No matter how far away you position yourself from where you THINK the Pit is going to form, you will be completely wrong. It is an unpredictable beast set to engulf you in its wake.

You have been warned.


8 – Sometimes Being Tall Sucks, This Is One Of Those Times

If you are tall you will be asked to help everyone up to start crowd surfing. Work out in the weeks leading up to the show otherwise you risk the chance of looking like a complete dick when the person can’t get two feet off the ground.


9 – Always Looking For An Opportunity

That said, if you are a woman and want to crowd surf then ask away. I don’t know of anyone who has refused to help a female “up”. However, you must steel yourself against the hundreds of sweaty hands which will grab you all over.

And I mean ALL OVER.

10 – Whelp, That’s It. Go On And Save Yourself!

When someone goes down in the Pit you’d think that’s the end for you. There are dozens of feet prepared to curb stomp you into oblivion, but that generally doesn’t happen. There is always 5+ people will immediately move to help you up.

Except for the asshole looking to hurt you – stay away from that guy.


11 – I Wish They’d Played Only Songs No One Knew

You know the person. They want to make sure you know the third song in the set was actually a B-side from their original pressing of the second album only available in Germany.

But you know a girl, so you’ve had it forever.


12 – Why Won’t They Just Let Us In? That’s The Rule! They Go, Then I Go, Then…

No matter how state of the art the venue is – getting out of the parking lot is still going to suck.


13 – Hey, I Know That You Didn’t Buy A Shirt Inside

Not saying you should give money to the bootleg t-shirt vendors… you want to support the band you came to see.

But I will say my Metallica shirt from 1994 might have been the best $10 I’ve ever spent.


14 – Philosophy According To The Band

Weed is the reason for sperm… according to Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle, Pusifer).

Make of that what you will.

15 – Your Tiger Style Is No Match For My Miller Style!

There is clearly a martial art style waiting to get invented. It would be based strictly on being able to navigate a concert without spilling your beer. I mean, I’m not a drinker, and it’s damn impressive.


16 – My Pyrotechnics Never Burned Anyone!

Strobe lights are annoying most of the time.

Seriously. Less is more in their usage.


17 – Yes, That Is My Tent Set Up Over There. No, I Don’t Have Anything Better To Do.

Hey, look at you. You stood in line for hours beforehand all in the hopes of getting right up front when the doors open. And you did it!

Your punishment for standing right at the barrier is being crushed by the mass of people behind you.

Hope it was worth it!

18 – Dance Puppets! Dance!

I get it. You have played for the last hour or possibly hour and a half. You are parched. The drummer is about to pass out from exhaustion. The guitarist is destroying his fingers with every note he plays. The bassist has vibrated his body so he is in an alternate reality.

You clearly need a couple of minutes to compose yourself before you finish melting my face off with this concert.

Just don’t make us beg. Don’t make us clap like well trained seals for you to come back out. We want you to play more songs, otherwise we wouldn’t still be here.

Encores are weird.


19 – I Will Not Be Trapped With The Rest of You!

Who the hell are the people leaving the show early? Who are they? Why did they spend the money? Why did they come at all? What is going on anywhere else that should make you think:

Yeah, this was a pretty good show. But you know what would make it even better? Leaving before the band does!

I just don’t get it.


20 – Without Fail

There is always going to be some asshole who shouts out “Play some Skynyrd!” If you’re lucky, the band will oblige him for a few seconds.

But only for a few seconds.



John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

A Tale of Two Concerts

So there are two big concert experiences (with regards to song choices):

One is play only your hits. Maybe you sprinkle in some of the old stuff, the deep tracks, but you’re playing the big songs and the newest songs from your latest album in order to support it.

The other option is when maybe this is a tour where you don’t have a new album to support. Maybe you don’t have to be beholden to a strict set list. Or perhaps you are working on a new album, but nowhere near close enough on most of the songs.

This is a case where the catalog really opens up and you can truly reach back and plat those songs older fans haven’t heard in a long time and newer fans have never heard in concert.

Last week I got a taste of both…

An aside – With Pearl Jam being my favorite band, the idea of a unique set list is not strange. In fact, with their shows I’m normally the asshole who wants to hear some random track 10 from one of the lesser known albums. I want the deep cuts more prominently than the more casual fan is not going to have heard or understand.

Night One: A Perfect Circle

This is a band situated firmly in my top 5 bands, but it’s been 13 years since I’ve been to see A Perfect Circle. Life, tour dates, and them not really existing for a good portion of a decade were all contributing factors. That time they were indoors, with people hanging from the ceiling, and other oddities that are somewhat commonplace when you’re dealing with a Maynard related band.

This time around they were at the Verizon Amphitheater in Alpharetta, Georgia, where after having been to only two shows, is fast becoming a household favorite. Great sound, relatively easy to get into the venue (getting out is a little more sketchy, but so is just about every other venue I’ve ever been to), and there is just something about an outdoor show as the sun goes down.

We arrived in time to hear one song from the opening band… which I didn’t catch the name of. I normally don’t mind trying to get in a little early just to catch those bands. So many shows over the years have introduced me to some solid music.

Our seats were about 7 rows behind the general admission orchestra area (which was probably about 10 rows deep if full). Around us were a handful of empty seats… probably another symptom of not putting out music in so long. Strangely, we were told repetitively that the band did not want any pictures taken. In 2004, that might have been something you could control with cameras not installed in every phone (maybe? I honestly can’t remember), but in 2017 you can’t really put that genie back in the bottle. Still, ushers did stop a few people, and I’ve read about others being asked to leave.

We’re rule followers, so no worries there.

The show itself was amazing. APC is one of those bands where I don’t have tracks I skip. As to their set list, I use my wife as the go-by, and she commented after the show she was surprised by how many songs she recognized. Overall, they played their hits, a couple of covers (John Lennon’s Imagine making an appearance – an always welcomed addition), and even sprinkled in a pair of new songs.

The only odd thing about the new songs was the placement of one of them to close out the show. Normally I’d think you’d want something to bring down the house – a song everyone knows and has been waiting for. Instead, we get a song that maybe a handful know and the rest just get to experience. Just an odd choice.

Though, I do think once I get to hear it enough, I have no doubt it will be a quality track to use in that capacity. It certainly had that feel.

Night Two: Soundgarden

Lollapalooza 1996 is the last time I’ve seen Soundgarden. Again, helped by the dissolution of the band for over a decade, I missed the tour they did with King Animal back in 2012/2013. And I might have missed this one had it not been for the venue.

The Fox Theater brings an assortment of memories for me beginning with seeing Top Gun there with my parents and being astounded by the audience interaction with the film. Catcalls during any of the numerous guys with their shirts off scenes, cheers whenever Tom Cruise did anything great, and more clapping when the movie ended. The Theater is topped off by seeing Pearl Jam back in 1994, which I’ve talked about here.

Yet, I’ve only seen one other band at The Fox and it happens to be Soundgarden over 20 years ago. Now here was a chance to see them again in the same venue… a no brainer.

We actually arrived early enough to see The Pretty Reckless open. Given XM Radio and the Octane channel, I recognized a couple of songs. Courtney mentioned actually wanting to download some of their stuff. I’ll be interested to see how the album fills out past the release songs.

As to Soundgarden, you couldn’t ask for a more different pair of shows. Where APC’s light effects were more colors and mood based, Soundgarden is a rock band with their influences spanning from arena rock bands to DIY punk rockers – so the lights were an assault at various times throughout the show. But the biggest difference was the song choice.

Apparently, their 1st full album was rereleased in the last couple of months. It makes for a perfect excuse to dust off those old school songs. And I gotta think if you are a fan from waaaay back in the day, your song bucket list managed to get a lot shorter as they opened with 3 straight songs from that era. Which is great… except I don’t own that record. I start with Badmotorfinger and continue from there.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the hell out of the show. They pretty much hit upon everything I’d have expected them to play, but it was a little unexpected.

Though there is nothing like hearing Fell on Black Days live. It’s my favorite song of theirs no matter what form it takes.


Two bands. Over 4 hours of live music. Great venues.

Extremely tired come Thursday morning.

Worth it.


John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

I like to swim… into the mosh…

Tonight I’ll be on my way to see Breaking Benjamin in concert for the second time ever… the first being about a decade ago when they randomly opened for Evanescence. In fact, had they not switched the order of who was coming on first (I believe 3 Days Grace was supposed to be the second band of the night, but had to go on first for some reason) I would have never even seen them.

I love concerts. I love going and watching people, and sometimes seeing old friends from concerts long passed. When I was younger I loved jumping in the midst of the craziness and feel the beat rip through us.

With this impending concert adventure, I’m reminded of a few of my favorite shows:


Korn with Helmet and Limp Bizkit – Athens, Georgia 1997

I think I saw Korn 6 times for their first album. I swear every 2 months they came through Atlanta… first playing a small club, then the next larger one, and then the next one, and so on. But this show was a chance to not only see them, but to see Helmet – who were one of my top 10 bands at that time. A band I’d managed to miss previously  because of misplaced tickets.

But the biggest reason I remember this show is for the opening band – Limp Bizkit. I couldn’t tell you much about their show. The songs didn’t wow, but I didn’t dislike them either.

And then they launched into Faith… and we laughed… and then they started screaming the lyrics and we stopped laughing.

After the show, Fred Durst (and probably others) were outside the venue handing out their sampler tapes to anyone who would take them. On my next trip to Richmond we wore that tape out (all 2 songs of it). By the time they put their cd out, we were ready.

The Misfits – Dragon Con, Atlanta, Georgia 2000

This one gets a mention only because it has two events that I’ve never seen before happen during a concert.

For those that don’t know, the Misfits are a punk band from the late 70s-early 80s (originally fronted by Glenn Danzig) which reformed in the late 90s. I’ve liked them since before I knew what punk music really meant (not that I’m 100% on that even today). So getting a chance to randomly see them at Dragon Con of all places was too good to pass up.

My roommate, Scott, accompanied me down to whatever room it was they were playing. And a decent crowd had formed. Now, this type of music is far from Scott’s scene (he likes the Lilith Fair types), but he settled in the back of the room, eager to rest his feet from the full day of walking one does at Dragon Con.

After a few songs, I take a glance back and see my good friend, head thrown back, mouth slightly open… asleep in the chair. While this angry, fast, loud music is pumping through the speakers… there he is sleeping.

Sadly, the other thing I remember about this concert is watching a girl crowd surf for a few minutes and then crash down to the floor more or less on her head. A few seconds later she’s twitching… having a seizure. Luckily most concert goers are good about not trampling someone on the ground and her friends managed to get her out of there.

Pantera – Lakewood Amphitheater, Atlanta, Georgia 1994

We had row 9 or 13 for this show, no lawn tickets for us. And I know what you are thinking – a Pantera show that you have seats for, how on earth would that be any good. And if I hadn’t been there I would have agreed with you. I don’t know why it worked so well. I think Phil (the lead singer) was in a good mood as he talked to the audience after every other song… but not just the BS singer do, I felt like he was eager to share his stories.

And while we couldn’t get into the pit back on the lawn, that might have been for the best. I’ve been in a Slayer pit before and barely survived… I might not have made it out of a Pantera one.


Pearl Jam – Fox Theater (2nd Night – The Radio Broadcast), Atlanta, Georgia 1994

Somehow we managed to get tickets to this concert. Impossible to believe nowadays, my friend Lee – who happened to work an intership or something which allowed him to leave school early – contacted me as soon as I got home. Told me that the tickets were on sale, and I needed to get my ass to Turtles to stand in line.

Somehow I made it to the line, and then magically it sold out… two people after me.

To see this show at the Fox, to be one of the lucky ones who got to see it unfold was a thing I’ll never forget. And even though people offered Courtney and I hundreds to buy our tickets – I never regret seeing them. And since the show was broadcast, it was the first concert I got to relive back at home keeping my memories much more vivid and crisp than they might be now.

Sadly, we did not see the entire concert. When Pearl Jam finished their last song, the house lights went up and slowly we all started to file out of the building. Courtney and I had ridden with Chad and Lee, so after about 10 minutes of waiting in the car, they finally showed up.

“Wow that last song was great. I can’t believe they played Indifference.”

“Uhm, they didn’t play Indifference.”

“Sure they did. With the house lights on. <sees the look on my face> “Did you leave before they played it?”



Lollapalooza – Lakewood Amphitheater, Atlanta, Georgia 1993

I consider this my first concert even if it isn’t. I’d attended a couple of “Oldies” concerts with the parents throughout the years, I’d managed to see Janet Jackson (I think it was the Rhythm Nation Tour), but this was my baptism by fire.

I didn’t know any of the bands. I didn’t even have a ticket prior to maybe 2 days before the event as one of my Kroger workmates had an extra ticket. I didn’t know any of the bands who were playing (I was only beginning to learn exactly what Grunge was). But it was a concert and I actually had the day off, so Rebecca and I climbed into my Sunbird and off we went into Atlanta.

Now in the days before GPS and phones that yell the directions at you, we were forced to use heresay and sonar or something to find these places. Somehow we missed the exit (it actually says Lakewood, so to this day I’m unsure how that happened). We drove for about 30 minutes, and were soon far south of Atlanta. It was at this point we decided we MIGHT have missed the turn, stopped and tried to get some directions, and finally made it to the show for the last 2-3 songs in Pearl Jam’s set. And while I wasn’t destined to really hear them for another couple of months when Chad left his cd at my house… I do wonder what might have happened if we’d got there earlier.

As the day progressed, we hung out on the lawn area, soaking up the sights and sounds of these bands I still didn’t know, but I didn’t care. The sun began to set, and darkness rolled in, and a band named Ministry took the stage.

Within seconds the entire lawn area began a mad scramble to their feet. Bodies pushed against each other. Men and women shoved each other. Still others were hoisted upward. The mosh pit breathed as a creature unlike any I’d ever seen before. And while Rebecca abandoned all “sense’ and dove right in, I took a few steps back trying to figure it out.

My first mosh pit was one I never actually got into… but there would be many, many more.




John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.