Gig lining up culture: What is it, and the Dos and Don’ts of the practice
“How long have you been here for?”
That could possibly be the most asked question I receive at every concert I attend. My answer of “since 6:30 am” is almost always met with gasps and wide eyes, followed by chuckles and the occasional, “Wow, that’s dedication.”
I’m not annoyed by the question, it’s something I expect every time I find myself sitting at the front of the line. A lot of people have rolled their eyes at me many times, expressing their disagreement and stating that I “must have no life.” On the contrary, every time I wake up at dawn to line up for a gig, I add yet another wonderful day that I’ve experienced to my memory bank.
To answer another frequently asked question of “why do you do it?”, I have a short answer and a long answer. The short one is simply because I enjoy being at the barrier. I prefer to watch a show from the front row, and to interact with the musicians as much as possible rather than stand at the back of a crowd and have my view blocked by a hundred heads.
The long answer is a little more complex. Ever since the first day that I spent sitting outside a music venue, I realised that a lot of the fondest memories I had made from that particular show I attended were not from just going to the gig, but rather from the time that I had spent lining up and the friends that I had made while waiting for the doors to open. Some of the most valuable people in my life are those I met outside a venue and spent a whole day with. The one thing that immediately united us was the love for that particular artist we were about to see, and for that reason it was inevitable that we’d immediately create a bond over something we had in common.
I like to call myself a veteran of lining up for gigs. I’ve perfected my technique, worked out what to do to guarantee myself a spot at the barrier, sorted out what supplies I need to spend a whole day sitting outside on the sidewalk, and figured out how to maintain a chaos free and respectful environment with the early goers. Although a magician is never supposed to reveal their tricks, I suppose that the best thing I could possibly do to aid any future concert goers with an interest in lining up early, is to expose some of these secrets.
To be quite honest, there is no magic to it at all, I have learnt all of this from experience and common sense, but in order to make it easier and avoid the trial and error learning process, here is a quick guide to follow in case you are interested in planning an early arrival to your next concert:
- Settle for an arrival time that is realistic for you. A time that works for me due to distance and travel means is usually 6:30 am to 7:00 am. Some people prefer to sleep a little more and arrive at 10 am. I do not recommend camping out overnight, especially if you are underage, since there are too many risk factors involved.
- Try to deduce what type of crowd will attend the concert. This ties in with my last point, since it will help you work out a suitable time to arrive. Usually, underage or all ages shows of a well known act will draw the biggest crowds, at the earliest time. Over 18 shows are always much more relaxed, and the number of people in line rarely exceeds 10 until well after midday.
- Bring the least amount of items as possible. All you really need to enter a show is your ticket, and in some cases your ID. Since you will be spending the whole day outside though, this is where things might get tricky, and other things that you should consider bringing are your wallet, a portable charger, snacks and blankets or a warm jumper (depending on the weather).
- Make sure that everything you bring with you can be either thrown away, kept in a car, or stored in your pockets. As mentioned in the previous point, bringing too many things might be tricky, since the last thing you want after lining up for a whole day is to use the cloak room, as this requires you to leave the line as soon as you enter the venue and allow others to reach the barrier before you. If you do not have access to a car, do not bring backpacks or purses, store all your belongings in your pockets and bring any food you might need in plastic bags or containers that you can later throw away.
- Make friends with the people around you. Not only will it make the day more entertaining, but you will be able to rely on someone to look after your spot in the line in case you need to leave to use the toilet or get food.
- Use a number system to keep track of the order of the line. Write down the number of the order of arrival on everyone’s hand as soon as they join the line. This will also allow everyone to move around and return to their spots without any issues.
- Wait until the last minute to go to the toilet. Leaving the line to go to the toilet once you enter the venue will cost you your spot. Check out the area, locate the nearest toilet and make sure you give yourself time to empty your bladder before you head inside.
- Cut in line. This point is a little subjective, since I myself have been guilty of relying on friends to save me a spot. However, there are some guidelines that you should follow when and if doing so. Showing up thirty minutes before the doors open and asking the person at the front to let you in is a big no-no. If you simply could not be bothered with showing up early and expect to get a good spot in line, my message to you is: don’t even try it. If some unavoidable reason (like having to attend an appointment or an exam on the day of the concert) forces you to arrive later than you wanted to, asking a friend to save you a spot is a possibility. However, communication is the key, and it is important that whoever is saving you a spot speaks to the people around them early on, explains the situation and makes sure that everyone is okay with letting someone in. Through my personal experiences, I’ve seen that people will usually be okay with it, as long as there is a valid reason behind the late arrival and as long as you are polite about it.
- Let more than two to three people cut in line with you. Even though commitments may be unavoidable, sometimes you just can’t work around them. Letting more than three people in line with you jeopardizes the chances of everyone behind you getting a spot they will be happy with. Be respectful of the effort others have made and do not diminish their chances of getting their rightful front row spot.
- Disrespect those around you. These are the people that you will be pressed up against once you enter the venue. Starting arguments or causing fights will only make the experience uncomfortable for everyone. Most arguments in line are started when people cut in, and for this reason it is important to follow the above guidelines in order to minimize the chances of displeasing someone.
These guidelines are some things that I try to follow, and have allowed me to have the best experiences when lining up for concerts so far. It saves to say that of course, these are only guidelines, and everyone’s experience is bound to be different. I only attend rock/metal/pop-punk gigs, so I have no experience with other types of gigs and how every concert goer would behave in these different cases. However, these guidelines are pretty basic and broad, and could help set a foundation for what should and should not be done when lining up for any type of show.
Lining up for shows early has become a part of my live music experience, I cannot even picture myself showing up to a concert right before the doors open. Once I attended my first front row gig, I was completely hooked, and since that day I have not experienced a show from any further away than the second row. Not only did I become addicted to witnessing my favourite artists perform from up close, but I now look forward to the 12+ hours of waiting, since I get the chance to spend a whole day with a group of people who are as passionate about the artists and their music as I am, and to form new friendships that are bound to stay with me for the rest of my life.