How to Navigate the Live Music Scene

This post is from my recent entry on Examiner.com:

When you’re in a major city like Denver, the number of bands and artists playing around the area almost every night of the week can be staggering. Nearly every weekend there are several well-known acts playing around town, in any of a wide range of theaters and venues. Not to mention the dozens of bars and clubs where local and indie bands play to smaller audiences. And the ticket prices and cover charges range from free to take-out-a-second-mortgage.

Having such a range of choices is great, but it can also be intimidating. So here are a few things worth knowing which might help you find your way around. (If you’re not in Denver but in some other city, a lot of this information will help you, too.)

  1. If your town has a local events paper, check it to see who’s playing in town. In Denver, it’s a free weekly magazine called Westword. Virtually every theater and bar in town posts their upcoming shows in there. There may also be websites posting the shows in your town. (On Fridays, I try to post a few of the more promising possibilities right here on Examiner.)
  2. Try doing an Internet search on bands or artists playing in town that you might like to see. These days, most of them have websites and/or MySpace pages. You can read about the act, their genre of music, and sample some of their tunes online.
  3. Do an Internet search on the venue as well, to see if they have a website. Sometimes you can buy tickets directly from the venue online. (A word to the wise: sometimes what is presented on a website makes a venue look bigger or better than it really is. Just exercise caution; a bar or nightclub that looks upscale online might turn out to be a dive.)
  4. The posted start time is not always the actual start time–especially with the bars and local gigs. Three times in the past two weeks, there was a delay in a concert I attended because a band got in late. One time a show started 45 minutes later than the published time, without any explanation as to why. When several bands are on the ticket, it takes time for one band to tear down while the next one sets up. Bigger acts and venues are usually a little more consistent. Just plan to be a bit flexible with the smaller gigs. Relax, have a beer. Often the music will turn out to be worth it.
  5. Be aware of the age restrictions for the show. Some venues will specify that they are family-friendly; bars are usually age 21+, although depending on the club and the laws in your state, sometimes they will let minors in to hear the music, provided that they do not try to order alcohol. They might mark minors’ hands to identify them as underage. But even with precautions like this, be advised that some bands are decidedly not family-friendly. As much as possible, know about the show before you go.

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