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Gracie Abrams at her Toronto show at HISTORY on March 9, 2023.
Gracie Abrams at her Toronto show at HISTORY on March 9, 2023.
Original photo by Samira Balsara
Life > Experiences

You can still have fun at concerts even if you don’t know the songs

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

I have loved concerts since I went to my very first one. 

If I don’t count seeing My Little Pony Live: The World’s Biggest Tea Party as a three-year-old in 2005, my first concert was Taylor Swift’s The Red Tour at Toronto’s Rogers Centre when I was 11. 

As a tween preparing for my first concert, I took it very seriously. My best friend and I made glittery signs on neon-coloured Bristol boards and ordered cheap, fake Taylor Swift t-shirts from a suspicious website. I had memorized every one of her songs months before, and we waited until the lights went down to crack our glowstick bracelets. 

Taylor Swift at her Toronto show at Rogers Centre on June 15, 2013. Taken on a Samsung Galaxy Ace 2E, my first cellphone.
Original photo by Cassie Argao

I would say our hard work paid off. It is an indescribable feeling to be one of 50,000 ridiculous-looking people singing the same lyrics at the same time.

My anticipation before the concert swelled to a new high every time I heard “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” on the radio or when my t-shirt with a Taylor Swift look-alike on the front arrived in the mail. 

That is still my favourite way to enjoy and experience a concert:

  1. Buy a ticket when an artist I love is coming to town
  1. Obsess over the lyrics and album for weeks leading up to the date
  1. Scream the words for the entire concert and go home with a hoarse voice 

So for the next few concerts of my young life, that is exactly what I did. My brain before the big day would turn into an encyclopedia of song lyrics and artist trivia. I could guarantee I would not stop singing for the duration of the concert. 

Then one day, my brother asked me if I wanted to go to Lorde’s Melodrama World Tour

Like most teenagers in 2018, I had heard of Lorde’s big hits like “Royals” and “Team,” but I had never listened to the album Melodrama. Still, I agreed to go and had every intention of following my usual concert-going routine. 

But as we got closer and closer to the concert date, I found myself putting off listening to the album out of pure laziness. Before I knew it, Lorde was in Toronto, and I was going to the then-named Air Canada Centre blind. 

Lorde at her Toronto show at the then Air Canada Centre on March 29, 2018.
Original photo by Cassie Argao

I thought I would immediately regret my procrastination as soon as a song I couldn’t sing along to started, but I found myself at the end of the concert having had an excellent time.

Because I wasn’t distracted by my own screaming voice in my head, I could actually fully absorb Lorde’s vocals, and the spectacle of 20,000 people focused on one spot and singing in unison. I didn’t have a lesser experience because I didn’t know the music — I just had a different one.

Now, Melodrama is one of my favourite albums of all time.

It’s now a trend for me to go to a concert of an artist I don’t know and then add their music to my playlists after. It’s like the concert is the sales pitch for the songs. 

Last year, the same friend who was with me at The Red Tour asked me if I wanted to see The 1975 At Their Very Best tour at Scotiabank Arena. The tickets were cheap, so I said yes. I knew less about The 1975 and their songs than I did about Lorde. 

The concert was crazy, and I, again, had a completely different concert-going experience than I was used to. Afterwards, I learned that their frontman, Matty Healy, is known for his chaotic and theatrical on-stage antics, such as eating raw meat and doing shirtless pushups. 

The 1975 Toronto show at Scotiabank Arena on December 12, 2022.
Original photo by Cassie Argao

At the concert, I was a very surprised spectator.

I think the entertainment I got from the Matty-Healy-shock-factor, mixed with the excellent live music, made it one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, despite not knowing a single song. I was pleasantly surprised by their classic rock instrumentation and the boy-band-heartbreaker-style love songs I instantly saved after the show. 

So once again, I went into a concert blind and emerged as a fan.

I recently went to see Gracie Abrams at HISTORY in Toronto for her The Good Riddance Tour. I went with two of my childhood best friends who both happen to love Gracie Abrams. Now being a seasoned concert-goer of artists I don’t always listen to, I was expecting again to be pleasantly surprised.

And I was — Gracie Abrams is an excellent live performer. But what I enjoyed more was watching my friends go crazy at a show. Once again, I had another completely different but amazing concert experience. This time I found myself watching my friends.

Gracie Abrams at her Toronto show at HISTORY on March 9, 2023.
Original photo by Samira Balsara

Watching them dance and scream to Gracie Abrams’ heartbreak anthems is, I suppose, what I looked like at The Red Tour, sans glow sticks and crappy t-shirts. It is a completely different experience to be a spectator of that kind of joy versus the star of it. But it was just as fun. It was like watching someone open a really good birthday present. 

I bet in ten years’ time, the thing I will remember from the Gracie Abrams tour won’t be how she sounded but how my friends did.

So the next time a friend asks you to go to a concert of an artist you don’t know, say yes. I can promise you; it will be worth it. 

Cassie Argao

Toronto MU '23

Cassie Argao is a fourth-year journalism student at Toronto Metropolitan University. She has aspirations of working in television news production or sports reporting. When she's not writing or editing, she's watching a Blue Jays game or walking her dog.