By Jonathan Hicks
I have been to nearly 400 concerts in my lifetime, with most of those trips occurring in the last 12 years. Just as in life, shows tend to be dynamic. Music, style, fashion and production have all changed over time. However, one rule I held true at age 18 still holds true today: If you have to drink to have a good time at a show, you shouldn’t be at that show.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with drinking. I have a great time at bars, and I have even been to a handful of shows in which I partook in a beer or two. However, even at a young age, live music was a beautiful and cathartic experience for me. Diluting my mind became tantamount to diluting that entire experience. Nights spent listening to live music are too few and far between—even for me—to waste them standing in line at the bar. In other words, just because I have a good time both going to concerts and drinking, that doesn’t mean I should do them both at the same time.
Last weekend, I went two nights in a row to see Bon Jovi at Soldier Field. The shows were enormous in scale, and an enormously good time. Perhaps not unexpectedly, heavy-drinking soccer moms trying (and failing) to relive their youth made for a spectacle nearly intense enough to distract me from the blaring amplifiers and laser lights. While the fans held up signs for the band pointing out how far they had traveled or what song they wanted to hear, part of me wished the band would hold up signs for the fans reminding them how much easier it is to sing and dance when you put down your drink. Even better, maybe the band should have just sung, “You give beer a bad name.”
Concerts have changed a lot since the time I began attending them. Tickets are no longer torn, they are simply scanned. Cigarette lighters have been replaced by cell phones. I still believe my original rule remains, however. So, if the only way you can have fun listening to music is to be buzzed, then let me offer a few ideas:
1) If you want to hear your favorite song, maybe you should simply go sit at a bar and stick some quarters into the jukebox. When you sing off key and spill your beer on someone, it will be more acceptable.
2) Listen to better music. Not to state the obvious, but maybe the reason you have to get drunk to listen to Jimmy Buffett or get high to listen to Dave Matthews is because they just aren’t very good.
3) Stop going to shows altogether. You don’t listen to the music. You start fights. You ruin the experience for others. You cannot relive your childhood. And trust me, you don’t look cooler.
I am fully aware how negative this sounds, but I want to reiterate that I am not anti-drinking. That said, I do believe that there is a time and a place for everything. While drinking at shows has become commonplace (if not expected), I am simply suggesting that maybe it shouldn’t be. You should feel free to have your “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” but for once, why don’t you try doing it without the beer? My guess is you’ll have an even better time, and you’ll certainly save a bunch of money.
Besides, if the only way to enjoy a musical experience is to be intoxicated, what does that say about the music? Maybe more importantly, what does that say about you?
From the Aug. 11-17, 2010 issue