“Pre-Gaming” for a Concert

I overheard a conversation discussing “pre-gaming” before a concert – activities before going to see Bob Dylan perform live at a venue capable of holding up to 28,000 attendees. The concert-goer in question said he was nervous about his “pre-gaming” activities, because at the same time he was to be meeting his girlfriend’s parents. I took this to mean that he was intending to get drunk–or more–as preparation for the concert, and he realized that he might make a bad impression on the potential in-laws.

Now I’m going to be opinionated and cynical.

Leaving aside the blatant lack of willfulness expressed (you don’t have the self-control to put off your boozing during the time you’re meeting your girlfriend’s parents?), what is it about going to a concert that requires getting loaded in advance? What is it about a concert that requires mind- or mood-altering substances at all? For people who do this is music, even the music of a 20th-century legend, only a backdrop to schmoozing, socializing and ‘partying?’

Shouldn’t a concert, the music itself be mind- or mood-altering?

Is getting drunk before the concert a way of hedging your bets, planting the seeds of an excuse?

  • If you don’t enjoy the concert, but it’s well-reviewed by others, you can say “oh wow, well, I was totally wasted” and be absolved of the guilt of not knowing good from bad?
  • Or if the concert is panned by your friends but you had a good time, the same excuse “dude, I was partying so hard, it was awesome” (with “it” left a indeterminate referent: was “it” the music or was “it” the bacchanalian* excess…) gives you permission to have a different opinion?
  • Is it the possibility that a Bob Dylan concert might turn out to be a colossal waste of $60 or more, and the best way to have a good time is to chemically lower your barriers to being entertained? Could the same question be asked about Wilco and the Richard Thompson Electric Trio, the undercard on the concert?

I certainly hope that my audiences don’t feel that their experience of my concert isn’t complete unless they’ve partied beforehand. I suppose if I knew the audience was going to be drunk or high, it would be easier: all that practicing would be unneeded. The mere appearance of four bassists alone on a stage, able to stand next to each other and not fall over would bring howls of appreciation.

(Is Bob Dylan in 2013 a colossal waste of time? I note with irony that the page promoting the concert here in Chicago features a 50-year old picture of the artist. Is a concert like this, in reality, a nostalgic trip akin to hearing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play Strauss waltzes? Can I offend both pop music fans and classical purists by suggesting that both concerts would be a complete waste of time and money? They certainly would be for me.)

So, how about you: do you “pre-game” before a concert? Is it an essential part of the experience? How does it add to your enjoyment of the music?

* by using the term “bacchanalian,” of course, I attempt to raise my blogging to the erudite level of Jeremy Denk.

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