Headbangers Brawl: Traveling for shows, What do you jam to?

Posted by on September 16, 2016


Heavy metal fans are a dedicated group. We often spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a year, and many hours traveling to and from shows to see our favorite bands. It is not out of the question for fans to drive 2,3, or ever 4 or more hours to and from a show in a single night. It has even become a sort of rite of passage within the community as the ultimate show of dedication. The best way to fill the void between departure and arrival within the metal world has always been simple: listen to more metal. It’s almost as if it’s too obvious. However, there seems to be a divide here between many fans, so here we pose the question: What is it that you listen to on the way to a show, is it one of the bands you are going to see, trying to get hyped for the upcoming spectacle, or do you avoid them entirely, not wanting to wear  yourself out on the band?


Zach Fehl: I have been pretty firm in this the last few years, I try very hard to avoid listening to any of the  bands that I’m going to see during the ride to see them. As I’ve grown, and my ability to afford to travel to shows has grown with me, I use the drive to a show as a palate cleanser for whatever I have been listening to. When you are making a 2-3-7 hour drive to see a band or artist, it’s easy to burn yourself out on their music if you listen to it the entire way. I will make it a point to listen to similar acts, maybe someone inspired by the band or colleagues within the same genre. If I’m in the driver’s seat though, and I usually am, you can be sure we won’t be listening to the band until after we’ve heard them live.

On the other hand, for the drive home anything is fair game. Those new CDs aren’t going to listen to themselves.


Bram: I haven’t been “that guy” in a while. As a teenager going to my first shows, it was almost mandatory to listen to the band you were going to see. And growing up in Philly, for some shows, the rock radio stations (WMMR and WYSP) would sometimes play the set back on the air after the show, which was kinda fun. Since then, I haven’t really done that, instead playing whatever else I was listening to at the time, or letting friends who were driving dictate the tunes. Being a guy “in the industry,” I’ll sometimes play a like-minded band that someone I’m going to the show with might like or haven’t heard. The best thing about being a music fan is that you can talk about music for hours, and Spotify is the great equalizer, giving you almost any artist you’ll ever want to hear at your fingertips. One thing I don’t really understand is the tailgating while listening to the band you’re going to see. Why get drunk and listen to songs you’re going to hear while drunker in an hour? Ultimately, if it’s getting you more pumped for live music, to each their own.


Nick: I don’t really have a consistent rule for this, but the general system I go by is that the drive to the show is for what you guys already said – similar bands, energized conversation about the music, etc. What tends to happen on the way back from the show is that I find myself listening to the band I just saw if I was psyched enough for the songs. Once in a while, I’ll use the trip up to refresh myself with deeper cuts or things in the set list I don’t know as well. (I know it makes me a massive killjoy, but I use setlist.fm religiously, especially if I need to weigh my options and decide if it’s worth going to a show or not) As I get older, I realize I’m way more hillbilly than New Yorker, so I discovered that I absolutely love tailgating. By far the best pregame option in town, if the venue makes it available to you. Saves money, you make friends, it’s hard to dislike unless you’re at a seriously terrible show.


Chris: Generally, when I’m on my way to a show, I tend to listen to bands that are not playing at the show that I’m going to see. This tends to hold true  both for music in the car with friends and music in my headphones on mass transit. It’s not always a conscious effort on my part. It’s just something that seems to happen by default.

However, what IS a conscious effort is my ritual for the week leading up to the day of a show that I’m particularly excited about. During that period, I will intentionally listen as much as possible to the artist(s) I want to see at the upcoming show. This is to re-familiarize myself with their older material and re-discover hidden gems in their discography, so that I can sing along as much as possible at the show itself. Case in point: I listened to Scar Symmetry’s entire catalog for the week preceding their show in New York City this past Sunday, and because of that, I was able to sing along with every track that they were playing for the first time in North America (and there were quite a few).


Matt: I’ve always been pretty adamant about not listening to the band I’m going to see while en route to the show. This was especially true when I was in high school and still new to concertgoing, treating each show as a special occasion with rituals and rules put down by my friends and I. Nowadays, with shows being more of a regular thing, I have loosened up a little on the “no listening” rule depending on a few variables. If, for example, I’m on my way to a festival-type show I may put on a band or two that I’m not as familiar with or, if the ride to the show is a long one, I might put on a headliner out of excitement, especially if they have a new album out. I also forgo the rule if the person(s) I’m attending the show with isn’t as familiar with one of the bands. This, of course, runs the risk of said person hearing a song and saying “Oh, I don’t like that”, then you have to quickly assure them that the band are awesome live and it’s worth it, but I haven’t had that happen yet. Apart from these exceptions, I hold to the “no listening” rule. On the way home anything is fair, though I usually prefer to listen to something that cools things down rather than keeping the party going.


Alix: I usually blast the band I’ll go see next a few days before the show but rarely the same day. If they are supporting a new album, I like to be somehow familiar with the new music, but not enough to take it for granted once I get to the venue as that would ruin some of the thrill. For the most part, I put a band of similar genre just to get the blood flowing but I also like to blast something completely unrelated just to create contrast. If I’m going to a black metal show, I’d put some post-metal or grindcore; If it’s a death metal show, some crust or post-rock and so on.
The alternative to any of those options is usually play music from the unknown opening bands I’m not familiar with. My calendar is usually filled with small, underground shows with upcoming bands from out of state usually bringing a fellow-band with them on top of the local support. I’m usually familiar with the touring bands if I’m attending the show, but every once in a while there’s one band I don’t know and decide to give em a chance on my way to the show. That will determine if I will have a cigarette break or get to the venue faster.
On a semi-related note, if you’re a venue hosting a show, do NOT put music of the band performing in-between sets. I’ve been at venues guilty of this sin and irritates the hell out of me.


Chip: Don’t wear the shirt of the band you are going to see and don’t listen to the band you are going to see on the way there. Those are the rules, right? I’ve actually had people in the past tell me it’s bad luck to listen to the band you are going to see while en route to the show. The metal version of don’t see the bride right before the wedding I suppose. For me it’s the mood that strikes dictates the music. On my way to see Carcass and Crowbar recently I listened to a bunch of dark wave type stuff. Just the mood that struck at that point. (Needless to say the ride home was the new Ghoul record.) Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.


Zach Shaw: Enough said…

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