Art by Indi Cummings

Emma Garcia

22 October 2023
My first memory of being at a concert was in 2011 during Katy Perry’s California Dreams tour. My uncle worked for the arena's production company and got my mom, brother, and me floor seats to the show. At eight years old, I experienced a night filled with performances of “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls”, paired with an optimal view of her iconic candy covered bra. At one point, Katy called for a few audience members to join her in singing and dancing on stage. I was one of the lucky few to be within her proximity. Relaying the memory now, it sounds more like a fever dream than a real event; regardless, I was returned to my mom and brother as a girl whose life had been changed forever.

Needless to say, the bar for concerts was set extremely high— thank you, Katy! I credit this night for igniting a very fulfilling and expensive vice of mine, and one that has fostered some of my greatest memories (and a few minor duds). After that night in 2011, it became an impulse of mine to say yes to every show that remotely piqued my interest. I have (gratefully) lost count of how many concerts I’ve been to since.

It’s incredibly interesting to examine how “concert culture” has evolved in the last few years,  from securing tickets to concert etiquette. Ticket buying for larger artists has instead become a ticket sale fiasco; look at Taylor Swift’s The Era’s Tour. In order to buy tickets for the tour, fans were subjected to a very trying process. They were asked to sign up for a specific tour date and were then either granted or denied an access code that allowed them to join the sale. This was termed by Ticketmaster as becoming a “verified fan”— a process put in place to prevent bots from buying and reselling tickets. However, very few fans were able to actually make it into the queue before the tickets were snatched up by scalpers and bots. The resale prices of tickets for this tour and for superstar artists like Beyoncé or Olivia Rodrigo are outrageous, forcing loyal fans to jump through hoops to get the opportunity to see their favorite artist.
While the previously mentioned is an intense example, it’s a great illustration of what an anxiety-inducing monstrosity ticket buying has become. Getting a seat at a concert has become a beast you have to conquer, a battle between your fingers and the checkout button; one that you need to win because the F.O.M.O. would absolutely eat you alive. While knowing all of the trouble ticket buying brings, fans still choose to participate in this dance.


The reason lies in the concert-going experience— something that cannot be easily replicated. Excitement is folded into every corner and crease of the process, starting with the satisfaction of purchasing tickets and stretching into the high that lingers long after the show has ended. There’s a heightened level of anticipation in all of the mundane: picking out an outfit, getting ready with your friends, the pregame before the show, and especially the endless waiting in lines. Finally being allowed into the venue after waiting outside for what feels like a lifetime is comparable to the tribute entering The Hunger Games arena. An instinct takes over the crowd; it is a fight to get to the front, everyone preparing to stand their ground for as long as it takes to secure their view.
This ritual feels almost animalistic. You instinctually fight to keep your group together while trying to find as much comfort as possible in a tight space— it is not for the weak. A concert goer will encounter people who push, those who lie about meeting their friends at the front, a stranger’s drink spilled onto them, and much worse. There is so much frustration that comes with being in a crowd of people who either don’t know concert etiquette or deliberately choose to ignore it.

Over my years of concert-going, I have learned that a lot of what you remember from a show is the part before the performance actually begins. Being surrounded by strangers who are all so eager to see their favorite artist typically attracts weird behavior. And while not all crowds are the same, I always encounter a handful of obnoxious fans.

Out of all the shows I’ve attended during my life, one of the most memorable was a show at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. In the summer of 2022, I had the pleasure of seeing Lorde during her Solar Power tour. This was my second time seeing Lorde live, the first being in 2018. Then, Lorde came to my hometown of Sacramento and played in a much larger arena, one more appropriate for the size of her following. The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is a lot smaller of a venue in comparison, and having general admission tickets, I knew I was entering a pit of discomfort.

At this particular show, the crowd was composed of all kinds of fans who didn’t abide by general concert etiquette. Because of the venue’s size, everyone with general admission tickets flooded the floor space, packed like sardines in the middle of summer. On every side, I was surrounded by groups of friends who arrogantly banded together with no regard to those they were displacing. At every concert, there’s always a couple that subjects everyone around them to a view of them making out during the set. This show was no exception. I think that some of the current lack of concert etiquette can be attributed to COVID with many young adults not having the experience of being in crowds, but sometimes it is just because people are oblivious.

There is a phenomenon that I encounter at every show where I find a spot that grants me a clear view of the stage, usually between the heads of two people or a sliver between shoulders. That view disappears when someone decides to shift slightly, sending a rippling effect of movement that washes away my hopes of seeing anything at all. One redeeming thought that keeps hope alive in crowds like this is the universal understanding that once the show begins, everyone will move forward. This also means that you’ll be even closer to the sweaty strangers standing next to you, but anything goes to get within reach of the barricade.

Even after all the discomfort, I still continue to attend concerts. Because once the lights in the venue dim and everyone around you starts to cheer, your favorite artist emerges  on the stage like a divine being — and all of what you’ve been put through washes away. Hearing your favorite song live is unlike any other feeling. A song that you’ve played countless times, one that you tie to places and memories, is being performed in front of you. Your only job is to listen and sing along. It feels almost religious to have such a clear view of someone you’ve idolized; it’s overwhelming and emotional and intimate. Concerts are an opportunity to spend a night with an album you love within the company of the artist who created it, in a room full of people who appreciate it just as much as you do. For the short time you are in that venue, nothing else really matters. All you have to do is to soak it in and hope you can remember those moments for the rest of your life. I will always say yes to that opportunity.