Over the weekend, in preparation for the Dallas Observer Music Awards, there was a lengthy showcase devoted to bands that were nominated. I reviewed three sets, all at different venues and for completely different acts. Needless to say, as much as I had fun with Diana as my plus-one, we didn't spend a lot of time on our feet yesterday.
As we walked up and heard the Secret Machines rock the you-kn0w-what out on "Lightning Blue Eyes," the tone of the rest of evening was bands, bands, bands. In a way, with our pink wristbands on our right hands, I thought we were at a mini-SXSW.
At some point, I thought about the privileges that my friends with SXSW badges have every year and compared them to what we had with our wristbands. Basically, we got into any of the sponsoring venues for free and could come and go as we pleased.
That leads me to something I remembered Jim DeRogatis told me about how he reviews shows. He's never forgotten what it was like to pay good money to see a show and feel disappointed. Even though he reviewed many shows for the Sun-Times for free, he kept that mindset.
I agree with that mindset, but I must admit that it's easy to forget as well.
I don't think I have been let down any of the shows I've covered for DC9. Then again, I haven't covered big shows where decent tickets neared the $100 mark. I think at most with the shows I've covered, the Warped Tour was $40 a ticket, but there were almost 100 bands playing that day.
I can remember the first time I saw the Dillinger Escape Plan. They played at the Ridglea Theater and I paid something like $20 to see them. Even though they played for only an hour, they were towering and blew my face off. I kept that in mind when I got to see them for free back in March. I thought they were even better.
But I think a big factor to enjoying any show (free or paid) is where you stand. Seeing Seryn early Sunday morning right up in front was a whole different experience than if I saw them at the back of the bar. According to comments left on my Hold Steady show review, there were people that weren't happy with the sound mix. Where I stood with Diana (two tiers up from the stage, between center and stage left), we heard everything just fine. Oh, and we had earplugs in too.
I'm thankful that I can get into shows I want to go for free. When I spend fifteen years paying to go to shows, the desire to get a good (or great) experience stays with me.