We all can do better. I'm accurately aware of that when a new year rolls around and we start challenging ourselves with betterment resolutions. While it can be difficult to change one's diet or phase out a vice, it's a lot easier to commit to becoming a better patron of the arts. Even marginal tweaks can not only improve your experiences at concerts and create a more rewarding sonic world for yourself, but can also contribute positively to the local music scene and career musicians on the whole. With that in mind, here are a few suggested musical resolutions for 2023.
ATTEND MORE LOCAL SHOWS
Keeping abreast of the Spokane music scene hasn't been the easiest task in the scattered year or so since live shows have returned in the wake of peak COVID. (I mean, it's literally my job to keep on top of it, and I still sometimes feel lost.) But getting out to support the local scene is something vital that feeds itself in a positive feedback loop. The more we get out to shows, the healthier the scene; the healthier the scene, the more talented folks will strive to be a part of it; the more talented folks being a part of it, the more shows worth getting out to see. I've noticed that even people in local bands and acts don't frequently come out for one another's shows. That wasn't the case when I was covering the Seattle music scene. If music people aren't putting in the effort, why should anyone else?
But there are ways to casually get out for more local shows with a very low barrier for entry. Keep an eye on the event calendars for spots like the Big Dipper and Lucky You Lounge (or simply check the Inlander's calendar in print or online) to know what's happening. Lucky You offers an array of free basement shows on many weekends that highlight local talent (including their "So Below" concert series — there's one this Saturday). Even if you go and don't like the tunes, at least you're already at the bar and having a night out on the town.
ACTUALLY BUY MUSIC
I know file sharing and then streaming have led most people to think that music is something that doesn't have value and they should be able to access all of it for free, but I am on my hands and knees begging you to actually buy some music in 2023. The economics of the music industry have gone haywire over the past couple of decades and pretty much any non-superstar artists are dealing with the ramifications. In our capitalist system, we need to compensate our artists financially.
Think of it this way — how many hours of enjoyment do your favorite songs and albums give you over the course of a year? Dozens? Hundreds? So is it really too much to ask to plop down $10 or $15 bucks to support that? It's an outrageous value! If you're willing to pay that much for a lunch, a couple of drinks or a month of one of your myriad of streaming services, why can't you support music the same way? So buy an album! (Or at least some merch or concert tickets.) Even if you're just going to listen to all the tunes on Spotify anyway, think of it as a charitable donation.
To that end, keep in mind Bandcamp Fridays. The music distribution site lets artists sell their music and wares directly to fans, and on the first Friday of most months, the site waives its 10-15 percent cut of the fees — meaning the money goes straight to the artist and labels. It's a brilliant way to support artists while broadening your musical horizons.
BRANCH OUT SONICALLY
We've all got our preferred music styles. Even the folks who like to boast that they listen to "everything," they'll still tend to go out to see certain types of music live more than others. But you can't really understand a region's music unless you are doing Costco-like samples of the various flavors that stock the sonic shelves. If you mainly catch national touring acts at Knitting Factory, maybe swing by Neato Burrito for a DIY show. If you're normally taking in folky singer-songwriters at Lucky You, return for one of the venue's hip-hop shows. If you're a metalhead who spends most of their time thrashing at the Big Dipper, try to make it to a Spokane Symphony concert (maybe the free Symphony in the Park summer concert). If your concert-going is only familiar old singers and rockers at the Bing or the Fox, find a show of up-and-coming locals to reinvigorate that youthful zeal.
One pretty fun exercise I started engaging in last year was last-minute jaunts to Spokane Arena shows. Am I the type who would normally plan out going to a Korn and Evanescence show? Absolutely not! Did I wait until an hour before the show and buy a cheap ticket on a ticket reseller site so that I could take in a scene and collection of people that don't fall neatly into my wheelhouse? Absolutely! Adding spontaneity to your concert-going routine is rarely a bad thing.
Personally, one of my resolutions is to return to my old, pre-pandemic norm of going to 100-plus concerts over the course of a year. I had a pre-COVID streak of five straight years of reaching that goal, though I'd done so in Seattle where there are simply more quality concerts on a regular basis. To hit the century mark in Spokane, branching out isn't merely a choice — it's essential.
BE RESPECTFUL AT CONCERTS
It's not news that people can be jerks at concerts. The sardine-ing of masses into tight spaces leads to personal space issues that can sometimes ruin a night out trying to see one of your favorite artists. Remember, you are just one person of many at these shows. You don't deserve anything anymore than anyone else in the crowd.
There are the obvious things to avoid. When a crowd is set, don't push in front of others to get a spot (especially if you're tall). Don't talk while the bands play (almost nothing you have to say is so vital that it can't wait at least until the end of a song), and if you insist on chattering, at least go to the back of the room to avoid ruining the songs for others. Use good cellphone decorum — taking some photos and video clips are fine, but you don't need to be recording whole songs and blocking folks' views.
The most galling example I've seen over the past year and change in Spokane is people who fundamentally don't understand the tenets of mosh pit etiquette (that may seem like an oxymoron, but I assure you it's not). Pits are an incredible way to blow off steam and let out aggression in a fun and communal way. But make sure to be mindful of that communal aspect. (And yes, this paragraph is entirely targeted at aggro White dudes.) Mosh pits are at their best when everyone's on board, so try not to rough up people on the fringes of the pit who clearly don't want to be a part of it. Trying to ruin other music fans' nights is never cool. And if you are basically the only one moshing — just slamming into people standing and trying to watch a band — you aren't punk, you're just an asshole. ♦