This piece was originally published in Issue 9 of Heart Eyes Magazine (pages 28-29).
I bought the tickets on a whim months in advance. Live Nation was selling tickets to certain shows for $20. I woke up from a 16-hour nap, saw the email, and immediately bought four tickets to see Niall Horan at Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Chicago. (Don’t ask why I slept for 16 hours. Just know it was necessary.)
I had four tickets. Now all I needed was three people to go with and a mental justification for the money I just spent as a poor college student. I reasoned with myself, “This wasn’t for me. I’ll take my sister and one of her friends for her birthday. And my mom can go too! She loves Irish accents.”
So five months later the four of us packed up my mom’s minivan and headed toward Illinois. We booked a hotel outside of Chicago and planned to Uber to the outdoor venue. I had been to an outdoor show before and had a rough experience with parking, so this seemed like a good idea. After getting to our hotel we Uber-ed to the venue and waited for the venue to open. And that’s when the life lessons began to flood in…
Lesson #1: Know Your Options
The tickets I purchased were for general admission lawn seats, which meant we didn’t have assigned seating and would need to get to the venue early if we wanted a good view. A week before the concert I decided to purchase Fast Lane Passes. This allowed us to wait in a different line before the venue opened. They were only $10 each and allowed us to make sure we got good seats on the lawn.
Before going to your outdoor concert, check to see if there are any affordable upgrades like this. For us it didn’t make too much of a difference because we got there early enough so the regular entry line was not long yet, but it was a nice safety net just in case.
Lesson #2: Research the Venue Policies
Before leaving our hotel, I made sure to check the venue’s bag policy. For safety reasons, venues put restrictions on the items you can bring in, even to outdoor venues. You don’t want to get there and then have to leave some of your stuff at the gate.
Lesson #3: Eat Beforehand
The tickets may have been cheap but the food was not. We didn’t have time between getting to our hotel and leaving for the concert to get dinner, so we knew we would have to grab something to eat at the venue. If this is your plan, make sure to factor the costs into your concert budget, especially if you’re also planning on buying merch.
Lesson #4: Bring a Portable Charger
Did you really go to a concert if you didn’t post any pictures? If you’re not bringing an actual camera, you’ll want to use your phone to capture the best moments. Sadly, my phone is on its last leg and it dies way too quickly. I didn’t have a portable charger and had to rely on my sister to get pictures.
Lesson #5: Pack for the Venue
If you have lawn seats like I did, you’ll most likely be sitting on the grass/dirt. Bring towels and blankets to sit on. You never know, you might meet the artist and you definitely don’t want to be covered in dirt when you make that first impression.
Make sure to check the weather forecast beforehand too. It might get cooler as the concert goes on and you’re going to want a sweatshirt or a jacket. My sister came way more prepared than I did, so thankfully I borrowed one of hers when the Chicago air got a little chilly.
Lesson #6: Have Solid Transportation
This one was a hard lesson for me. We decided to Uber, and honestly I don’t know if that was our best bet. It was pretty expensive, probably because of surge pricing and we were informed of some venue rules a little too late.
This particular venue required pick-up drivers to be in the lot by 10pm even though the concert wasn’t scheduled to end until 10:50. For the majority of the concert I was trying to schedule an Uber and didn’t get to enjoy the show near as much as I intended. Once we finally got one, the driver was not allowed into any of the lots until they had cleared out. Thankfully we were able to find a different driver that was already in the pick-up lot, so we eventually made it back to our hotel with just a little more stress than anticipated.
If you’re thinking about using a taxi, Uber, or Lyft service, do your research first. Make sure to factor in venue policies and surge pricing. Depending on the situation, it may be worth the extra charges. It usually is for me because I always forget where I park.
Lesson #7: Live in the Moment
Concerts are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Do your best to make your plans ahead of time so you’re not stressing out during the concert. So much has lead up to this moment. Don’t take it for granted. I wish I had taken this advice myself. We miss out on so much when we have a negative outlook. If the events leading up to your concert have been less than ideal, try to keep a positive mindset and be thankful that you made it there and have the opportunity see this show. So many others would love to be in your position.
Even if the events surrounding this show were stressful, I love the vibes of outdoor venues. There’s just a sense of freedom that comes with hearing your favorite music live with a breeze blowing through your hair and thousands of other people enjoying the same moment together. Each person there is experiencing something different and the music means something entirely different to them, but they’re all there for the same music and the same person.
I loved hearing Niall sing. He has such a sweet sound and for those who have followed him since his time in One Direction, you can tell how much he’s grown as a person and an artist. You can tell that he loves what he does and it’s absolutely heartwarming to witness. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to see the Flicker World Tour.