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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

The good, the bad and the sweaty: The best and worst of my concert experiences

If you’ve read anything I’ve written for The Observer, you might be able to ascertain that I like to go to concerts. In my opinion, getting to experience live music is one of the greatest gifts life can give us. The plucking of strings, thrumming of the bass, the clash of the drums — you can more intimately experience the feeling of sound throughout your body and can connect with the artist on stage. 

Not only do I love concerts, but I have also been to several (at least 36). For your entertainment, I will now be ranking some of them.

Best concerts (in no particular order): 

1. Stevie Nicks/Billy Joel in Columbus at Ohio Stadium

This was truly a concert of a lifetime. I’m a huge Fleetwood Mac fan and seeing Stevie Nicks has been a goal of mine for a very long time. She was delighted to be performing and she told cute stories about the songs and the people she knew. “Rhiannon,” “Gold Dust Woman,” “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” and “Landslide” were some of the highlights from her set. Billy Joel’s set was also insanely good. He had amazing lights and visuals to accompany his playing and he made jokes with his band throughout the performance. Hearing “Vienna” live was a dream come true. 

2. Fontaines D.C./Arctic Monkeys in Chicago at United Center

Arctic Monkeys was another dream come true. I know their discography by heart (even their B-sides). I’ve loved them for nearly a decade. They’ve been my top artist on Spotify for four years straight. While I was apprehensive to see my heroes live, they lived up to every expectation. 

3. Jelani Aryeh/Hippo Campus in Chicago at Riviera

Though I would not call myself the most devoted fan of Hippo Campus, their performance was stellar. They had colored lighting and smoke effects that made the band look like a hallucination. Their sound was clear and resounding. The crowd was respectful and it was a wonderful environment. 

4. Lollapalooza 2022 in Chicago at Grant Park

Local Natives, Måneskin, Green Day, Charli XCX, Djo, j-hope … what more could you want? Although I only went to the festival on Sunday, I had the time of my life. The festival was well-organized and I never felt unsafe. I made friends at the Måneskin pit and I got to help bassist Victoria De Angelis crowd surf. Seeing BTS member j-hope during his solo debut was quite surreal. Not only were the artists amazing, but it was a prime opportunity for people-watching. 

Worst concerts: 

1. Melkbelly/Joyce Manor in Chicago at Bottom Lounge

Fortunately for me but unfortunately for the bands listed, this was the only genuinely bad concert I’ve been to. The circumstances surrounding the performance did not help, but the music was … interesting. Melkbelly, a very intense noise rock group, was the greatest offender. Viewpoint Editor Claire Lyons was with me and she thought they were singing in German (they were not). Joyce Manor was fine, but the crowd was insane, rushing forward and moshing with no regard for anyone else. My earring got ripped out of my ear. No one had deodorant. Everyone was on drugs. 

2. Hootie & the Blowfish/Barenaked Ladies in Cincinnati at Riverbend Music Center

This concert was a present to my mother for Mother’s Day. We were in lawn seating and the crowd was packed and insanely sweaty. I could barely focus on the band due to the day’s heat and I was close to passing out. My father, sister and I were not very happy to be there and we had to leave early because of my work schedule. Sorry, Mom. 

3. Joywave/Cold War Kids/Young the Giant in Cincinnati at Riverbend Music Center

Joywave and Young the Giant are some of my favorite bands. I’ve seen both of the bands multiple times, but this was an interesting concert for sure. Joywave was not as well-known by the crowd and their attempt at crowd engagement was questionable. Young the Giant was great, but Cold War Kids gave a bit of a weak performance. Their frontman’s vocal style is more shouty than I typically prefer. 

4. bülow/Conan Gray in Chicago at Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom

This was a dark day. I didn’t make advanced parking reservations and my friends and I spent over an hour looking for a place to park. We missed the opener. Conan Gray was fantastic and the visuals were stunning, but the ballroom was so packed that the set was constantly interrupted by people passing out. It’s a good thing there were interruptions — as some artists do not care enough to stop their set for their crowd — but there were a concerning amount of people passing out. I’m also convinced I caught COVID-19 at this concert. Take that as you will. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.