Have you seen this man? No, not Nashville’s Charles Esten, the one on the right. You may be more familiar with the back of his head. He’s the one miles ahead of you in the venue queue; the one closest to the stage while you’re squashed somewhere back near the the toilets.
So, as part of a personal resolve to “gig better” this year, I reached out to an apparent concert ninja for advice. This gig guru is East London lad Jamie. Aged 28 now, he first fell in love with live music as a child at a Blondie concert. His affections turned to country music when Shania Twain strode into the UK charts exactly 20 years ago.
Here’s what the man behind the UK country scene’s most impressive collection of selfies had to say.
Do whatever it takes to get to your gig.
Jamie, an administrator by day, has recently taken on an extra night job… all to fund a trip to CMA Fest in June. It throws my own so-called dedication deeply into question. As for gigs closer to home, the self-confessed fanboy admitted he’s not afraid of pulling a sickie to get out of work but advises varying your excuses and staying smart. He’s learnt – presumably the hard way – that it’s no good blaming car trouble for not being able to get to work when your boss already knows you can’t drive.
Multitask to get those tickets.
Aside from being signed up for the newsletters of all official ticket sites to get early access to sales, there are further efforts required to secure the best seats. Jamie’s advice is to make sure you know every site which will have an allocation of tickets for any given event and on release morning have separate tabs open to enter the waiting room of each.
Of course this isn’t fool-proof. Jamie like the rest of us has suffered from ‘Ticket Buyers Breakdown’ as the computer chooses a crucial moment to freeze, or a site inexplicably kicks you out of your shopping cart. You’ll also need to beware of the AXS waiting room which allocates places randomly in a thoroughly unBritish queue-less system. So some days AXS is Jamie’s best friend while on others it pays no respect for how early he’s logged in. To battle this, if you have gig buddies, get them on the case too and be ready to flip between internet tabs and mates’ messages to find out the best tickets on offer. Then nab them. Quickly.
Turn up early.
While I’m rushing out of the second nearest pub to the venue (the nearest is always too crowded), Jamie has probably already been there for a very long time. For Shania Twain at Hyde Park, Jamie got to the gates at 06.45. For Carrie Underwood in Camden, when doors opened at 19:00, he’d been there since 10:00. “Why?” I asked “and does the waiting not bore you to tears?” But Jamie and his equally dedicated friends have found ways to make it fun. Since they only see each other at country gigs, the queue time is like a reunion. They come armed with games like phone app ‘Heads Up’ and have discovered you can get pizza delivered to the queue – by a usually bewildered delivery person.
Run Forest, Run.
As soon as the doors open Jamie makes a beeline for the prime spot, front and centre, right under the stage. Have you been stopping at the cloakroom / bar / toilet first? If so, you’ve been doing it wrong. Thanks to moments like Kelsea spotting her name on his t-shirt and so serenading him, I’m told once you’ve experienced the thrill of being right at front, there’s no going back.
But even if you’re not quick enough to be right at the front…
Never stand near the bar.
Jamie’s learned the hard way that people near the bar seem to be in their own world. No matter how much they’ve paid for tickets, they’ll hold full volume conversations through the sets. Although, with alcohol a priority, they’re probably not aware quite how full volume their conversations are.
Don’t be a flasher.
As Instagram makes clear, this gig stalwart is camera-happy at shows, but even he was irritated by a gig-goer once whipping out a full sized iPad to film with. Flash is frowned upon at most gig venues but Jamie has his own considerate rule: don’t hold the camera above your head. If you can’t resist pulling out your phone or camera, keeping the lens level with your eyes prevents you ruining others’ experience, plus the resulting photos will be a time capsule of your own actual point of view.
Get taller friends.
These creatures are excellent at spreading their legs to hold your spot when you inevitably have to go to the loo. Of course friends with heads above the crowds are also a priceless beacon when winding your way back through the throng.
Meet and Greets are worth it.
Whether it’s an officially booked Meet and Greet or sprinting across a train station in Norway because Lauren Alaina’s social media said she was there too (yes, he did), Jamie’s list of country star encounters in on course to rival Bob Harris’s. One highlight was running into Dan and Shay before their London show. Later they singled him out to wish him happy birthday and added his request, Round the Clock, to their set list.
To marvel at more of Jamie’s country star encounters and see what you couldn’t see from the back of the gig, check out his Instagram account @maybeimcrazy. Or if you’re a seasoned gig-goer, yourself, please share your own tips below.
Say hi if you spot Jamie (or me) at your next concert,