A couple of years ago I had a coworker who really liked to go to concerts. I told her I wasn’t typically into live music, but there were two bands I’d kill to see. However, I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance. The first was Rammstein, a metal band from Germany whose concerts I missed when they were last in America because I was away at college. They’re old for an internationally touring rock band, all in or about their 50s, and I knew they could decide that they didn’t want to do massive world tours anymore or decide to suddenly retire. It had been nearly a decade since they’d been to America and I wasn’t certain they’d ever be back. The other band was My Chemical Romance, a band whose heyday was when I was in high school and college. They broke up right after I graduated college and I was sure that they were gone for good.
And then a few months later in January 2020 both bands announced new tours with stops in my area. I vividly remember getting the tickets for both concerts. Rammstein went on sale at 5 p.m. so I stayed glued to my desk at work, afraid that if I waited the 20 minutes to drive home that all the tickets would be gone. I had no idea who would go with me, because no one I know loves the band like I do, but I bought two tickets anyway, a little nervous to go alone and knowing I’d find someone willing to go. The MCR tickets dropped at noon on my birthday. My friend and I both frantically tried to secure a set of tickets while we were on speaker phone, as I sat in my car next to the sea, a day trip which was my birthday gift to myself. She got unfortunately stuck in the virtual queue, but I managed to snag our tickets. Both concerts were scheduled for September so once the tickets were secured the only thing left to do was wait
And then March came along and the world changed. I would later darkly joke that I had caused the plague in a butterfly effect sort of way by doing something so out of character for me as buying concert tickets. I had never been to a concert outside of two acts at Anime Boston and two Distant Worlds concerts, all of which hardly seems to count in the sense most people mean when they say concert. I know I like to watch a symphony, the concert band high schooler I used to be never getting over the way the bass drum felt in my chest or the blare of the horns or the dainty flutter of my specialty, the flute. On the other hand, going out of my way to attend a rock or pop concert was never quite appealing to me. It just seemed like a whole bunch of expensive fuss. However, there are exceptions to everything I suppose and two of mine happened to turn up in the same year. How could I pass up the opportunity?
Now that I’ve been to both concerts, I can definitively say that they were fun, but it’s not an experience I feel like I need to have again. I could go on at length about why I don’t want to go to more concerts (and in fact a prior version of this post did just that), but I will attempt to be brief and not gripe overly much.
1. Getting to the venue is a nightmare: The public transit sucks in most areas of America, so driving is required to get to a lot of places. Most concerts are in the evenings so you have to fight rush hour traffic to get there, massively multiplying both travel time and frustration, because a lot of people drive like idiots. To be precise, it took me an hour to drive from my brother’s place to MetLife Stadium for the Rammstein show and only 20 minutes to drive him home after. It similarly took probably twice as long to get to the MCR concert at the Prudential Center as it did to get home.
2. You are at the mercy of the conditions in the venue: This is a little hard to explain, but basically you will likely have to put up with some kind of uncomfortable inconvenience in the venue. For instance, some arena seating sections are so unpleasantly steep they activate my fear of heights and make me worry about falling down the stairs and tumbling over the railing to my doom. They air conditioning may be powerful enough to leave you feeling chilly even when you get up to dance. It rained heavily the evening of the Rammstein concert, finally stopping partway through the show, and MetLife Stadium does not have a roof. The music was a good distraction, but between songs it was difficult to not fixate on how uncomfortably damp I was. Thank god it was an unusually cool night for early September and not horribly muggy or I don’t think even the music could have distracted me from feeling gross.
Also, as a side note, while I’m on this topic I’d like to point out that a lot of venues just are just straight up not accessible (or have limited accessibility) for people with disabilities. And they also build these things like airplanes, trying to cram in as many seats as possible to the detriment of the visitor. I qualify as what is known as a mid fat and if my butt was much bigger it wouldn’t have fit in my seat at MetLife, which is a newer stadium, so you would think they knew fat people existed while they were building it.
3. Excessive cellphone use by fans: I understand snapping a few pics or a couple of brief video clips, or maybe taking a longer recording if they play your favorite song. But be fucking reasonable. I paid good money to be here. I don’t want to see your phone in the air for the whole night. You paid good money to be here. Why are you constantly distracting yourself from the experience by fucking around with your phone? Often the lighting in the venue and your probable distance from the stage are gonna result in your footage not being that great anyway. Rammstein specifically had a PA announcement before the show telling people not to film and multiple people around me were poorly filming basically the whole thing. And may I remind you that they were exposing their phones to the rain while they were doing this? Craziness.
All that being said, I would like to reiterate that I did really enjoy myself a lot at these concerts! Both bands are fantastic live, although I did come away feeling that Rammstein lost some of its nuance and became just a blaring wall of mushed together sounds grounded by the drum kit. The members of both bands had good on stage chemistry and seemed to really be having fun, and that energy fed back into the crowd. The MCR concert I went to was in Newark, right where the band was formed, and so that crowd in particular had a fantastic energy because the band are local boys. At one point the singer Gerard even made a comment about wanting to take a drive around his nearby hometown of Belleville.
I’ve been listening to both bands on my own for so long (since middle school for Rammstein and 9th grade for MCR) that it was really surreal to see them in the flesh even from far away. It didn’t quite feel like real life. There was so much feeling in those stadiums, the culmination of two years of waiting, that I found myself getting a bit emotional as the crowd yelled lyrics along with the singers while the drums and guitars pounded in my chest. It felt so powerful to chant the verses to “Du Hast” with the entirety of MetLife Stadium while pillars of fire sprouted overhead. Towards the beginning of the MCR concert when we were all singing “I’m Not Okay” together and I actually weirdly felt tears kind of welling in my eyes.
And while I’m not one to shy away from doing things on my own I’m very glad I got to see these bands that are so important to me with people that are important to me. It was so fun to speculate over what songs would be played and make comments to each other during breaks in the concerts. For instance, at one point late in the MCR concert when they still hadn’t played “Welcome to the Black Parade” I looked at my friends and said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if they never played it at all?” and then with perfect comedic timing the first note of the song rang out in the arena. My younger brother enjoys Rammstein’s music, but not with the same intensity that I do, so it was fun to give him context like, “This is the song about cannibalism,” or “This is the fucking around the world song,” and hear him laugh.
So I had a great time at both concerts, but I don’t want to go to another one? Yes. I enjoyed myself enough to not entirely begrudge the existence of the bad bits, but all in all I think I can enjoy my music just as well at home. Do I have a couple of more exceptions that I would be willing to see? Of course! I’m interested to see what Orville Peck’s live show is like. If The Crane Wives ever come east there’s no way I’m passing them up. (I discovered them just before the pandemic started and they quickly became my favorite band.) I also think I’d see Distant Worlds a third time, because I will always miss that symphony feeling. However, I definitely don’t see myself buying more concert tickets anytime soon. I understand why people enjoy it, but I just don’t think it’s for me!
And finally, if you like the pictures in this post and want to see more, I posted on Instagram after each concert!