Are you the sort of person who can stand wherever they want at a gig, blissfully unaware of the heads and shoulders of those packed in around you? Can you get a wholly unobstructed view from anywhere? Can you remain still for the duration without needing to stand on tiptoes or constantly adjust and crane your neck to achieve optimum viewing angle?
Yes? You, then, are a tall bastard and this article is not for you. Get to the back.
For the rest of us short arses, I am about to present several options and to share the knowledge I have gleaned over many years of gig going.
Conventional wisdom states that getting down the front is the best option as it limits the number of people between you and the musician you’ve paid to see in the flesh. But this can be easier said than done. However, with my advice, you too can overcome the colossus standing in the way, again.
Here are my seven tips for the vertically challenged:
Know your venue
Really small venues, I’m talking pub sized, are usually ok. You’re so close to the performer wherever you’re stood, there’s no real issue. Features to look for elsewhere are a stage with ridiculous levels of elevation (Manchester’s Albert Hall for example), sloping floors (old theatre style venues like Brixton Academy are best for this), raised sections such as the circle, or any other area that involves using stairs to access. Arenas have many flaws but at least you have the option of sacrificing some atmosphere in favour of actually seeing the thing by getting a seated ticket. When outdoors, look for vantage points at altitude. It’s possible to see both the Other Stage and the Pyramid Stage at once at Glastonbury. From really far away. Maintaining proximity is also important. Avoid height shrinking holes – at a recent gig I thought I had found the perfect spot only to straddle a sudden dip and find myself with one foot 15cm lower than the other.
Get there early
Thought teenagers only queued up five hours before the doors opened because they were band-obsessed stan freaks? No, they do it because they’re small. Of course, this isn’t really feasible if, say, you have a job. But the simple principle of being one of the first in will help you get at least near the front.
Tall friends, tall enemies
Bring a tall friend and stand in front of them. There’s no guarantee another five giants won’t stand directly in front of you but at least you’ve avoided staring at the back of one massive head this time around. Also leaves open the option of shoulders (see below).
Usually reserved for festivals and a sure fire way to piss off tens of people behind you, and one directly below you, sitting or even standing on someone else’s shoulders is a massively obnoxiously selfish win. For you. Just for you.
Drafting is a term I’ve borrowed from road cycling to best describe the practice of moving forward by letting someone else make all the effort. Here’s how. Hang around near the bar and simply follow in the wake of someone else pushing their way back through the crowd with a series of beer spills and “sorry, excuse me mate”s. Keeping on your toes and having little sense of shame will help you here. Use lulls in the performance, which trigger bar-ward movement, as opportunities to advance.
Time your arrival at the gig badly, and you’ll notice the venue is impossibly packed from the back. Wrong. There is always space down the front, you just need to know how to access it.
Moving along the sides is the best technique for getting forward easily with the least disruption. In more difficult circumstances use drafting (above). Get as far forward as possible. “I can’t see the band at all now, how is this better?” you may be thinking. At this point you will need to work with the distribution of people in the crowd. Usually people will unconsciously form concentric semi-circular rows, spreading out from the stage, leaving natural gaps between them. Getting to the optimal position, front and centre, will now necessitate moving across and backwards again. Still with me on this roundabout route? Trust me, it works. Getting through the final few people will be easier than at the back as they will be less densely packed and coming from the side, rather than behind, is an all round friendlier angle of approach.
Work your awkward way, crab like, until the desired location is achieved. If you’re really lucky you may have even found a huge gap. But be wary of betrayal here. Depending on the type of music you’re going to hear, this is merely the space of the mosh pit that is yet to be.
If all else fails, be that guy you’ve been barged by 100 times. “My sister’s down the front”. “Dave. Dave! I’ve got your pint”. You know the type. But you’ll do it. You’ll do it to see more of the band than the small gap between the collar and earlobe of the Brobdingnagian allows.
I hope you’ve found my tips useful and can put them into practice at your next gig. See you down the front (not you, jumbo).
Words by James Spearing