There are two opposing views on being short at concerts. One side will simply complain, stating that they can never see over people, that concerts are for listening opposed to viewing, and that the masses are nothing short of overwhelming. The other side will suggest that if you’re nice, patient enough, and have luck with your surroundings, you have the gift of being able to see almost everything from the front, as nobody behind you has the right to complain. The truth is, I don’t fully agree with either one of these. I have experienced the plight and the benefits of being both a music lover and 5’1.
My parents took me to my first concerts as a child, which obviously has it’s own perks. From the cute demeanor of a toddler batting her eyelashes to the benefit of sitting on my parents’ shoulders, I always had a way to fully experience the show. But by middle school, when I started attending concerts with my friends, I quickly found myself on my tip toes, bobbing my head between people in front of me, attempting to see.
It became a game of confidence, I soon realized. It was somewhere around the series of 8th grade Wiltern gigs, where I ended up in the pit, that I began to play the game of the crowd. Being my normally introverted self, I would always resist my friends’ suggestions to push through, as I would lurk in the back, closing my eyes to listen. But what is the point of going to a show if you cannot see? You bought a ticket; you have the right to at least try.
So I began my experiments on ways to figure out this concert problem I was having, and it started first with my fear of social interactions. What I had to talk myself through was the simple fact that I was in a sea of strangers. The worst thing that could potentially occur would be someone not letting me move forward. And what I found, surely enough, is that people are willing to adapt more than you could imagine.
I first started with the sly move of snaking through a crowd, acting like I was trying to get to a friend who was in front. With my small stature and my head bowed, crowds didn’t seem to care. This was a victory and revolutionized my concert going experience. From then on, I saw almost every show in a spot where I could see, exaggerating my shortness so that people behind me couldn’t even tell I was “blocking” them.
The other lesson I soon learned was that it is more important to be able to see the performance than to be right up front. One time, I arrived at a First Aid Kit concert a little late and couldn’t see anything from the pit, as the crowds were packed sardine-like. Instead of making attempts throughout the night to see glimpses of the show between shoulders and heads, I made my way to the back of the theater, on a raised audience section, and had a perfect view of the whole stage. Sometimes, concerts, like the First Aid Kit show, have incredible production design that is meant to be seen in its entirety. It’s all about finding the right spot to be able to fully enjoy the show.
A new challenge arose once I began attending Outside Lands when I was 14. There is nothing more different than festival crowds and indoor venue crowds. The issue here is that at festivals, concertgoers passionately stake out their spot at stages, usually waiting for the headlining acts. And the issue in my scenario is that every year, my favorite bands have graced the stage afternoon time, such as Lake Street Dive, Wilco, Hiatus Kaiyote, etc. So opposed to using the “snaking” method, making myself small and attempting to not be noticed, it came time to have a legitimate social interaction.
Outside Lands became a bartering game. Often times, I’d find someone against the railing and strike up a deal: I stand in front of you and give you back your spot for the band you are waiting to see. And believe it or not, this worked constantly. Not only did I get to see every show from the front, but I got over my anxiety of upsetting a crowd member by blocking them.
Another tool that helped me at the festival was having a camera with me. When you have some piece of professional equipment, as long as you are allowed to bring it to the festival or you have a media pass, people part like the sea to let you take a photo. It also gives your character some legitimacy and stature (that you are lacking in actual height). Crowds instantly became nicer to me because I appeared, as I was, to be “working” at the festival.
In all, concert going has been a learning experience. My frequent outings to a variety of indoor and outdoor shows has gifted me with the tools and tricks of simply being able to see. And though every crowd is different, I’ve found you can always find a way to push through, when peeping through heads and not being able to see just doesn’t complete your concert experience.