Rocking All Over the World: How to get your live music fix while on the road
Somerset House, London [July 2009]
One of the best live shows I’ve ever experienced was seeing The Mars Volta at London’s Somerset House, while visiting a friend in July of last year. Not only because The Mars Volta are a magnificent live act, but also because Somerset House is one of the most beautiful and captivating venues I’ve ever been to. Another amazing place to see live music is Lyon’s Fourvière ampitheatre – Roman ruins next to a majestic old cathedral. I haven’t been to L’Olympia in Paris yet, but I’ve bought my ticket to see BB Brunes there at the end of November, and I can’t wait.
For those of us who love live music, travel can be both a blessing and a curse. I remember being heartbroken to discover that both Lily Allen and the Kaiser Chiefs would be playing in Melbourne at the same time that I was booked to be in Paris. And I missed out on seeing Blur in Lyon, even though I was there at the right time, simply because I didn’t know they were playing that night, until tickets were already sold out. I was kicking myself.
But at the same time, I saw Have Heart’s final gig in London, at a small Camden venue [I’m not a Have Heart fan, but I know a few people who are quite envious that I got to see them play]. I’ve been to two nights of “Les Nuits de Fourvière”, and with my forthcoming trip, I’ve already got my BB Brunes ticket, and I’m waiting to see which big acts announce UK dates for late Jan [Biffy have December dates on sale now, so I don’t think it’ll be too long til the first crop of Jan dates pop up somewhere].
So, here are my tips for getting your live music fix while on the road:
[Note: these tips are mainly relevant for the UK and France, as these are the places I’ve travelled to most often, but I’m sure the basic principles apply in other countries, too.]
Do your research.
Planning on staying in one particular city for a specific period of time? Start looking up gig listings and tour announcements. NME is [of course] great for the UK. Parisnormal: Paris Rocks can be a little difficult to navigate, but there are lots of links to individual venue pages [in the sidebar, about halfway down], where you can look up their upcoming show listings – that’s how I found out about BB Brunes! Bigger bands can announce their shows six to twelve months in advance, but more and more gigs will be announced closer to the date, so keep checking back.
Ask a local.
The best authorities on the local music scenes would have to be the locals themselves. I wouldn’t have known about the shows at Fourvière, if it weren’t for my wonderful French friend Alex. She took me to see bands that I’d never heard of, and was responsible for some of my most memorable live experiences – I think that singing along in the front row The Green Olive, a young French band, to an energetic version of “Nelly the Elephant” is something that I’m unlikely to ever forget [same with L’Orchestre Internationale de Barbès’ trilingual take on “Sympathy for the Devil”]. Ask around, and check out bands that you’re unfamiliar with. Worst case scenario, you don’t like them very much – but you’ll probably still have a memorable night.
Don’t be afraid to do something a little crazy.
My friend is a massive Muse fan – so, when she was staying in London, of course she saw them there. But that wasn’t enough, so she flew to Spain to see them play there as well. If you like a band enough, and they’re playing nearby [or at least on the same continent], then why not adjust your itinerary to fit them in? If you book far enough in advance, flights and trains can be relatively inexpensive. And if it’s a last minute change of plans, well – what other chance are you ever going to get to see Neil Young in a concert hall in Vienna? Take the opportunity, and seize it. You’re guaranteed to have an amazing time.
What’s your favourite memory of live music while travelling?