To Be Awkwardly Early? Or Fashionably Late?

Yes, this is the Gigs Out West background.
(We’ll talk about that site later in the week.)
Because I go to a lot of gigs, I’m often faced by a one particular dilemma: do I let myself arrive early (i.e. the time advertised as when doors open), or do I try to arrive fashionably late? There are benefits and downsides to each side of the coin, and each gig-goer has their own preference, so I’ve made a list of positives and negatives, because when you’re doing a blog a day, you have to follow through on every little idea you have, and this one has a surprising amount of flesh to it.

My conclusions are as follows…

Being Early

Pros:

  • If you get to the venue as soon as doors open, you know for certain that you are not going to miss anything you have come to see. This is especially important if you have paid for a ticket for said show, because most people who go to gigs regularly are relatively poor and therefore want to squeeze every last bit out value out of every last dollar. Being early means that there is no way you are going to get the most time-wise out of your precious investment.
  • If you’re going with friends, it gives you extra time to chat and mingle beforehand, which comes in particularly handy if you end up wanting to hook up with the cute bass player after the show. Get your social obligations out of the way up front, and then you won’t feel like a total piker if you have to leave as soon as the lights come up.
     
  • Occasionally, turning up early has unexpected pleasant results: you might catch an artist as they’re strolling in and get to say g’day, you might stumble in and find the headliner doing sound check (and get an idea of some of the tunes they might play later on), you could end up living out your roadie dreams and helping the guys bump in the set. All of these things have randomly happened to me at various points in my gigging experience, and it has always made turning up before everyone else completely worthwhile.
  • You’re not rushing to get there on time. Never underestimate how big of a plus this is. Getting to a gig flustered and not knowing what you may have missed is awful, so leaving plenty of room for error is a fast-track to having a more relaxed, more enjoyable time out.
     
  • The lines will almost always be a lot shorter than later on in the night, and even if they’re not, you won’t be stuck in one as the band you came to see starts the first song of their set. You will also potentially meet new friends via the ‘line buddies’ phenomenon. Get each other’s numbers and BAM! Instant gig-going partners. 

Cons:

  • You will almost inevitably be there by yourself for a significantly period of time, which means you will probably have to take a book or a device of some kind to keep you occupied. If you don’t have enough storage in your bag/pockets for one of these things, you may want to invent a game that will help you pass the time. I have always found counting the bricks in a wall or the tiles on a ceiling or bathroom floor to be a great way to achieve this. Not only does it kill time, it also helps you practice basic maths. However, it will inevitably make you look and feel like a massive dweeb.
     
  • If you tend to drink when you go out, being at an event early can sometimes lead to… well, early drinks. You might only have planned to have one or two during the course of the night, but if you arrive early and have time to kill, money to burn and a bit of a thirst, you can lose all three (and your chances of remembering the night clearly) very quickly. Unfortunately, I speak from experience. Don’t be that person sitting in the toilets, trying to stop the room spinning, while the band you came to see is playing a spectacular set out in the main room.
     
  • You’ve gone to see the headline act, but you’ve never heard the supports. Never the less, you end up there early, in time to catch the first two bands. And they are both AWFUL. Suddenly you wish you had ignored the time on the poster and just worked out when the band you actually wanted to catch would hit the stage.
     
  • At smaller gigs, arriving early often means that there is nobody there to collect tickets/cover charge. This often means you will have to chase somebody down in order to get the stamp or secret pen mark that will get you back in after you’ve ducked out for a drink or a toilet break. It sounds like a little thing, but depending on how long it takes, it can be a major pain the neck.

Arriving Fashionably Late

Pros:

  • You will arrive and your friends will already be there. Congratulations! You just avoided hanging around like a berk all on your own. (That said, there is a con involved in this. See below.)
     
  • If you are going to a gig on your own and arrive just before the headliner, everyone is already in the mood for a good time – all you have to do is jump on the bandwagon of fun! Sometimes it can be really hard walking into a gig where the atmosphere is yet to kick in; it leaves everyone sort of confused as to who is going to start things off. (Unfortunately, nobody really likes to be the first to take to the dance floor. Even more tragically, as I get older, this includes me.) Arrive a little later in proceedings and you won’t have to worry about who will be the first to get the party started, because it’s already kicking!
     
  • More time for pre-drinking, if you’re that way inclined, which means you spend less money at the bar. And more money in your pocket means you can afford to go to more gigs!
     
  • If you’re a jerk who doesn’t want to pay the cover charge, sometimes you can sneak in for a little less than full price if you’ve missed most of the show. However, doing this robs the band that you have come to see of cash, so only do this if you are a complete and utter shitbag.
      
  • Arrive later, and you’ll be less tired by the end. That means you’ll have more energy to hang out at the stage door or at the merch desk, waiting to chat to the band, you might end up helping pack up (more fun than it sounds when you’re not actually a muso), or just to kick on to your favourite pub or after party. Your feet will also be significantly less sore from standing in one spot all night.

Cons:

  • While being early can sometimes mean you have to endure awful support acts, it can also mean that you’ll miss out on some magnificent new finds. Some of the best acts I’ve seen have been the ones that came on before the headliner: The Jezabels, Bluejuice, Benjalu, The Fumes, Claude Hay… They’re all artists that made bigger impressions on me than whoever it was they were supporting. Being fashionably late will rob you of the chance to jump on that train before it leaves the station, and let’s be honest, what music fan DOESN’T take at least a little bit of pride in reminding people that, “I saw them live way before they were famous.” (Plus, I will never forgive myself for missing Andy Bull opening for Clare Bowditch back in 2010. That would have been absolutely magical, and I missed it because I didn’t know how to read Sydney bus timetables. Don’t get in the same regret boat as me.)
     
  • Have you ever tried to find your friends in a room full of fellow music lovers? It is an absolute nightmare, and if you try to push through said room full of people, you will piss off a lot of your fellow punters. Nobody likes those folks who elbow their way through the crowd, pushing in front of those who have rightfully claimed their spots hours ago, using the old “but my friend’s just over there!” excuse. Seriously, I’m 90% certain there is a special ring of hell for people who do that.
  • You know how sometimes tickets sell out and venues reach capacity? Turning up late and being told you can’t come in sucks balls, so if you’re going to be a little bit tardy, I sure as hell hope you pre-booked.
     
  • You risk missing exactly what you came to see. That’s right – you could get caught in traffic, stuck in a line, get a really shitty spot behind a ridiculously tall person or any number of other things and end up missing most of the band that you’ve come out to see. Almost all of these things can be avoided by not being late.

*****

Summing up, being early offers a lot of opportunities, but being late also has its benefits. However, some of those benefits can only be achieved by being a complete turd, so maybe don’t do that.

Basically, turning up to a gig when the doors open is a nice thing to do. It shows the bands playing that you care, it gives the venue a chance to make a buck off the few extra drinks you might consume, and you never know what will happen before the curtain rises. Sure, you might end up sitting at the bar drawing doodles on a napkin while you wait for something to happen, but that is significantly better than missing out on a good time just because you were afraid of people thinking you were “too keen”.

So next time you go to a concert, step outside the comfort zone and rock up early. You never know what might happen, and it’s way better than kicking yourself for missing a killer set.

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One thought on “To Be Awkwardly Early? Or Fashionably Late?

  1. I'm generally in the 'early' category. It's all about getting a prime position! If it's a band I absolutely love, I'll line up in order to secure a place on the barrier.

    There are a couple of venues in Melb that have a few seats on the balcony at GA gigs, so at those places I like to get there early enough to snag one of those.

    Like

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