We have all been there. The dreaded General Admission ticket at concerts. In my life I have been to a total of 50+ shows, with about 20 of them being General Admission. Some of my favorite concerts have sprouted from being squished in between the guy that says “My sister is at the front, can I squeeze past you?” and the girl that is decked from head to toe in band merch with her hair unknowingly flopping against my face during the set. However, general admission has become an absolute nightmare to be apart of. I would like to preface that I am 21 years old, and although this isn’t “old” in a typical sense of the word, in terms of enjoying this kind of concert experience, I think I may have outgrown the feeling of being in this environment.
It was only last week that I was at a show where the band had to stop four different times because people were passing out from being so close together. The tickets for this show were only general admission, so there were no other tickets I could have bought to avoid this. This experience leads to a whole lot of issues that involve not only the health of the individuals that are experiencing extreme claustrophobia and overstimulation, but the entire layout of the concert. There is a lot of planning when preparing a concert. The artists (typically) have a certain layout and energy they want to exude from the crowd and for the crowd. It is all about the experience of the lights shutting off, the slow thud of the drums to build anticipation, and finally your favorite band emerging on stage. This doesn’t just happen overnight! It is a process that is rarely talked about, but contributes to a retention of wanting to continue listening to that band, and going back to see them on their next tour.
As I was saying, there were four times the band had to stop their set in order to help someone get recognized by security in hopes they can get hydrated and out of the sometimes unbearably hot and miserable pit. Four times the music was stopped in the middle of songs, and four times the energy was shifted within the show. The first time the show was stopped, I didn’t necessarily mind at all. A girl was overheated and needed to get out of the audience immediately. It was admirable the way the band handled the situation, and the crowd clearly loved how they helped her out. That time the energy was well in tact, and the fans (myself included) made sure to make room for everyone whilst the artist could continue their show without interruption. However, that was only the first time.
The show continued on and during mid-set I noticed girls jumping up and down and flashlights on phones beaming as a way to get the lead singer to call attention to a girl who was clearly overheated as well. The band stopped yet again and said the same speech as they did the first time: “Please help one another and look out for each other.” So a precedent had been set. If you were able to call attention to someone who was passed out, the band would inevitably talk to you and figure out the best course of action. (I don’t mean this to sound cynical, but I find it hard to believe that this wasn’t going through anyone’s mind at the time).
The third time. As I said, the energy remained at a constant high (even with two stops) and I credit that to the band. But, the precedent was there. We were getting towards the end of the show, and another girl needed help. I am totally aware of the fact that fans are seriously shoved and pushed around while being in this type of environment, but at this point in the set, there should have been a moment of realization that maybe you should not be where you currently are if you feel any sense of nausea or lightheadedness. I digress. The song stops, the band helps, the girl survives. This time though, you could see the annoyance the band felt after having to completely stop one of their highest energy songs to fix something they thought they had solved at the beginning.
But the band moved right along, picking up the song exactly form where they left off and did their best to regain power over their own show. The fourth time this happened, the lead singer clearly had no intention of stopping the show yet again, so he continued to sing and move across the stage while gaining the attention of security and pointing to the area of where she was. Not only is this frustrating as someone in the crowd, but once you recognize that the band you’re there to see is getting annoyed as well, it takes you out of the concert experience as a whole. No matter how badly the crowd and the artist wanted to make sure the individuals who had to be escorted out of the pit were safe, there is a way to be smart about these kinds of situations.
Once you see that it is a General Admission Concert Venue only, there is a certain kind of rationale that goes through your mind. You know that it is going to be a long ass night. For starters, you can never leave the position that you are in once you get past the front doors. You are cemented there until the main artist leaves that stage and does their encore. The only hope is that people maybe want to leave early so you can squeeze your way up further.
Also, don’t even think about about bringing a purse, a water bottle, a wallet, or anything that any normal person would want to carry. Security won’t let you take it in, and honestly if I am next to you and you’re wearing a small backpack there is a 100% chance I will be talking shit about you. But people act like they can be an exception to the rule. And this is where GA can be an issue. In no world have I ever been at a show that was General Admission and felt like they were my friends. It’s weird to think about because we are all ther for love of the same artist, yet I don’t feel close to any of them. Of course, this has only been my experience. I do know a small group of people who met some of their best friends through the general admission concert, but it is definitely rare.
The other frustrating thing about these kinds of concert venues are that they don’t necessarily favor older people. Like I said, I am 21 years old. I have been going to general admission concerts since I was in high school. I used to be someone that was able to stand in line for long periods of time in order to get a front row spot. But that has quickly changed as I was older. As I stood in line for last week’s show, decked out in lipstick and clearly a different outfit compared to that of the 13 year old next to me, I couldn’t help but feel out of place. This may just be my own insecurity, but GA forces you to wait in line in order to have a nice viewing for the show, and I am trying to grow out of the fan girl stage of my life, not further it.
Now that I have stated way General Admission is truly not my favorite thing in the world, I think it is important to explain the benefits the close environment can provide. There is a level of intimacy between you and the artist. I can look the artist dead in the eyes and make some sort of connection, them knowing or not, through being in that kind of space. The energy is also off the charts for shows like this. In every General Admission show I have ever been to, the reason I have loved them is because of the kind of freedom you feel being in the crowd. There is a sense of trust between the people you are next to, as well as the artist to make sure you are having a great time. They not only feed off of your energy but the way you are taking in what they say or do in between songs. There really isn’t room to mess up, but to be completely honest if you do that only makes the crowd more aware that you are comfortable in front of them. This then only leads to a better show.
General Admission needs to change. But as I type this, I don’t necessarily know what I would do to fix it. I want to say age restrictions, but those are always so annoying. I think that artists and venue managers are starting to notice more that there is something that needs to be changed, but that would mean taking the time to do research on what would help and the music industry is already set in all of its ways it would truly be hard to lead this kind of movement.
Written by Mariah Bode