Two years of nothing and a few shows later, here’s what changed in the culture of concertgoing
Let’s be honest, this almost post-pandemic era has us making up for lost time. We’re almost always out. We spend most of our days outdoors and splurge on concert tickets after saving up during the pandemic. Of course, some people prefer flying out, while others wait for a local stop to be announced. After all, different strokes for different folks. But perhaps spending two years indoors and having a new favorite social media platform has shifted the culture of concertgoing. Of course, however, some things never change.
Up ahead, I pick apart the new things I had to learn (or relearn) as an avid concert watcher.
What’s changed in post-pandemic concert going?
The ticketing process. With the pandemic pushing us to become much more sanitary and conscious of the places we go and the things we touch, I’ve learned that many prefer securing seats online. Of course, many still attempt (and better succeed ) in buying seats IRL, but some don’t want to take that chance. That’s why queue numbers balloon to five digits and servers crash; they can’t take the user load logging in.
With all the ticketing horror stories, it’s high time for providers to improve and invest in better servers to keep up with the demand, especially since we’ve got top-billing acts like Harry Styles and BLACKPINK making their way to the Philippines. And it’s not only our local providers who have this problem. American ticket promoter Ticketmaster will face the US Congress in a hearing after its mess with Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour, so it's possibly a global thing. In addition, many more people are vying for a seat in the arena, so we must be prepared to have them on.
The prices. (Un)Surprisingly, some ticket prices continue to shock me. In 2019, General Admission tickets used to cost a little over P1,000, and P10,000 would get you great seats in the middle of the MOA Arena. But now, looking at some concerts, seat tiers have been rebranded and merged, lessening the sections and widening ticket price gaps.
But I get it—due to inflation and many other factors brought on by the world economy, prices have increased by a few thousand pesos. As a result, flying artists and their entire entourage cost more now in this economy, and businesses need to ensure the shows end up as box-office hits. So sometimes it’s okay if you pass on a concert if you can’t afford it—gracious people on the Internet would gladly report the happenings for you.
The mutual care. Masks, vitamins and vaccines work to protect us from catching COVID, so we’ve gotten a little lenient through the years. While some people prefer going mask-less in a concert pit, many other concertgoers are consciously careful. They bring alcohol or hand sanitizers and use them liberally. Others bring extra masks and switch after a couple of hours. Meanwhile, some prefer hanging out at the back of the floor to avoid getting too close for comfort. Many remain mindful that a pandemic is still underway—the last thing we want to do is catch something on the happiest evening of the year.
What stayed the same?
The memory hoarding. Cellphones taking up the viewing space has always been an issue, even before the pandemic. It’s inevitable as everyone hopes to hoard many memories and post them on the ‘gram (or the ‘Tok). But I’m not sure—did everyone already hold their camera phones up for most of the show? Concertgoing in this era reminds me how much balance and sensitivity we still need to practice.
We can still enjoy the show happening in front of our eyes instead of watching from tiny screens. There’s no problem taking snaps for a few seconds. I’m guilty of it, too, because we want to relive the concert whenever we can. But hold your phone up properly and fast enough to let the people in the back also enjoy the view. We all paid the same ticket price, and we all hope to enjoy it equally.
The anticipation. Standing in a packed concert hall with many people who share the same love for the artist is always a delight. Finally, it’s the end of the finish line. What started in the battlefield of ticketing continued to our arrival at the venue amid city traffic and the quest to secure a spot in the pit. In each show I’ve watched and covered, everyone was vibrating at an intensity that could shatter glass out of excitement.
The energy. It’s freeing to watch how people behave in concerts. We have eager ones who endure the pit and barricades and others content with hanging at the back and dancing. The palpable and infectious joy in celebrating music is a welcome, familiar and comforting feeling we missed all too well. Sharing such a visceral experience with an artist who helped you survive the worst of the pandemic feels like a reward for holding it out. You definitely deserve it.
Despite the ups, downs, hiccups and mishaps, there isn’t a place I’d rather be than a packed arena singing to all my favorite songs. Things might have changed, for better and for worse. But we’ll still queue for tickets, splurge on shows and merch and take time off to feed our souls with the magic of music.
Art Macky Arquilla