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Why I prefer smaller shows to big concerts

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I absolutely love music. And, ever since I went to my first concert in 2015 (which was Train, in case you were curious), I became a lifelong live music devotee. Whenever I can, I’m jonesing for some concert tickets to see my favorite band. Prior to my time in university, the only concerts I went to were big stadium shows with Groupon seats — which, I feel inclined to add, were always in shockingly good parts of the stadium in terms of stage visibility. Once I got to college, however, the bands I was most into only ever played smaller venues, introducing me to an entirely new world of live music… the show. Here are a few reasons why I think more people should be aware of the benefits of the smaller band/music scene — noting the irony that making a smaller band bigger increases the likelihood of them touring in those big stadiums someday.

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Proximity to the stage

Listen, I’m an arena fan as much as the next person. I’ve had the joy of seeing Fall Out Boy, Ghost, and Volbeat at the Honda Center, Panic! At The Disco at the Forum, and numerous country artists at the open-air amphitheater in Chula Vista whose name constantly changes. But if you’re like me, the cheapest seats you can get for arena shows are probably going to be relatively far from the stage. Although a concert is all about live music appreciation, getting to be near the stage is pretty special. 

This is the benefit that smaller shows offer; the venues for smaller shows are often biased towards standing-room, which means that if you’re early or get on the right side of the stage, you can get relatively up-close and personal with the artists on stage. Getting super close to your favorite artists and screaming along to the lyrics is a really special experience.

Cost of the tickets

On a related note, when you get into smaller bands and the smaller show scene, the price for tickets goes way down. Even though Live Nation and Ticketmaster have been known to (and, it seems, still) tack on fees, going through my bank statements I can confidently state that for the base ticket price, I have never had to pay more than $50 for a ticket to a small show -– in some cases, the cost of two tickets has been less than that price. If you love live music but want or need to enjoy it on more of a budget, smaller shows might be just right for your wallet.

Meeting bands after the show

Big concerts sometimes feature meet-and-greets with the band… if you pay a lot for the VIP privilege of doing so. While this gives superfans an amazing opportunity, VIP tickets for big artists can be astronomically pricey. In the smaller show world, VIP doesn’t always cost too much if you’re wanting to meet the headlining band one-on-one and can shell out just a bit extra. But, you also get the chance at many small shows to meet the bands — typically the openers — for free at the merch table. And if you get that chance, my god, do it. I will forever regret not walking up and shaking hands with the lead singer of Prince Daddy and the Hyena when I had the chance, or saying hi to the lead singer of Foxing when he walked around the crowd after a show. Be respectful, and be normal, but if you want to get the excitement of talking with an amazing up-and-coming (or even established!) artist, small shows are the place to be.

The crowd experience

Let’s be honest, if you’re at a small show — be it a house show, a local theater venue, or even a slightly large municipal auditorium — the band you’re seeing is likely part of a subculture, be it emo, goth, pop-punk, etc. Most of the people at the show, as a result, know the etiquette of how to behave in that certain kind of crowd. Despite the aggression of hardcore and pop-punk shows, someone always picks you up if you fall in the pit, or shines a flashlight if you drop a personal belonging. 

People are often happy to talk with you too, which is lovely if you’re by yourself at a show. Something as simple as complimenting someone’s outfit can spark a conversation to keep you connected to the crowd between sets. Being in a proper crowd offers a kind of connection and life that I haven’t been able to match at stadium shows.

Mosh pits, mosh pits, mosh pits

Which brings me to what is possibly my favorite thing about small shows — the pit! The physicality of small shows is an absolute delight — if you’re at a show where it’s acceptable to start up a circle or push pit

If you don’t mind getting sweaty and knocked around (and, I must add, a little bruised), the mosh pit is the perfect place to get the euphoria of a crowd and the music in one. It’s a fantastic way to express yourself — I mean, where else is it perfectly acceptable to bodyslam another person just for fun? That kind of connection and burst of energy is something that even the coolest stadium show cannot provide, out of safety and the fact that the stage is often so high. But with small shows, you can go absolutely ham. Crowdsurf, dance, and look out for the others around you — and maybe grab a shirt from the merch table on the way out. The one you come in will be drenched in sweat, guaranteed.

If you’ve never been to a small show of any kind, for a band of any size, I encourage you to go out to one the next chance you get. Small venues, small bands, and small shows are a way to enjoy music that I’m so happy I got into. From more affordable tickets to the fact that you get to support up-and-coming bands, to getting a really lovely crowd experience at many shows, I cannot recommend going to them highly enough. Bring a friend (this is especially fun if they have no idea what band you’re going to see) or go on your own — the experience will hopefully be amazing all the same.

Evelyn Homan

UC Riverside '24

Hiya! I'm Evelyn, and I'm a fourth-year English & Creative Writing double major, as well as an Honors student researching independent studying in the 21st century. I love literature, midwest emo and goth rock, alternative fashion, and talking. A lot.