Go See Some Live Music this Weekend

This weekend I’ll be attending yet another live music event. As many of you know, it’s the Windy City Smokeout and I’m pumped to see some artists I’ve never seen before, like Sunny Sweeney and Stoney LaRue. While getting my shit packed for the trip back to sweet home Chicago, I stopped and thought about all the shows I’d be to in my life. I have to rack my brain to try to remember them all between the festivals, arenas, and small bar shows I’ve been to and all the different artists of different genres I’ve gotten to take in live.  As I think back to some of the earlier shows – my firsts concert ever was a System of a Down concert at the Allstate arena when I was in 7th grade – I think about all the different performance styles, the good and the bad.

On our podcast, we had an entire episode devoted to festivals vs bars, and we talked about the pros and cons of each but landed on that the feel of smaller venues is a better experience than the larger festivals. Larger shows while great in production value popularity level of the artist, there’s something missing in terms of connection to the music. When you are in a sea of people in an arena or amphitheater you only see the artists face when they are plastered on a jumbotron because they are physically 100 yards away, and think that takes something away from the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved many big time shows – one of my favorite events of all time was Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic that Steve and I attended in 2015 in the Austin 360 Amphitheater down in Texas. However, nothing beats getting to be 10 feet away from an artist playing a small venue.

What I’ve discovered in the last couple years since moving to Iowa is that even if you don’t know the artist ahead of time, there’s just something great about live music and it’ll be a great time anyway. I’ve found many artists whom I now regularly listen to where I had never heard of them until I decided to pay 15 bucks to attend their show. Artists who play smaller venues are also usually way more interactive with the crowd both during and after their sets.

There is a venue here in the Quad Cities where I’ve seen both Whitey Morgan and Cody Jinks. Whitey Morgan finished his set and let the crowd know he was going to the bar, put his guitar down, walked off stage and directly to the bar and started talking with people. Cody Jinks finished his set, went over to the merch booth and stayed there meeting people and signing things until every single person who wanted to come up to him had gotten the chance. Once, I even went to a local arcade bar and played bubble hockey with Zach Schmidt after his set at a local venue because he had been talking with me and a few friends at the bar of the venue he’d played.

If you start going to smaller local shows you might even catch an act before they blow up and make it big. Steve and I saw Luke Combs at Joe’s in Chicago in Spring 2016 and the place was pretty empty, but he played it again this past spring and sold the place out. I imagine he’s going to keep growing and I’ll forever get to remember being at his show and standing directly next to the stage.

My main point is basically to go see live music. You won’t regret it if you start going to more shows. Also, don’t assume the only options are arenas and festivals because every city has bars with live music. Many of the smaller acts have cheap tickets around 10-15 bucks too (at least in Iowa they are… can’t vouch for other places) and more people end up coming through your town than you ever could realize if you don’t look. Live music is great, don’t miss out.