Concerts

The lights go down, the crowd goes wild, and the band hits the stage. A chill runs down your spine as you gear up for yet another musical journey. If you’re like us, there are few things in life that can compare to the excitement of a good concert. Whether it’s following our favorite band around the country, checking out new venues, or exploring the music scene in Asia, we can often be found rocking the F out at a concert. Without live music, we wouldn’t even be together. We even went ahead and got engaged at a Phish show! Read on for more about our countless concert experiences over the years:

Yeah, we got engaged at a Phish show.
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Yeah, we got engaged at a Phish show.

Sasha

There’s perhaps nothing I love more in this world than going to a concert. I’ve completely lost track of how many I’ve been to in the last decade, but it’s sure to be over 500. It’s usually a bit hard for people to understand why I would spend so much time, energy, and money going to shows – just as it is for people to grasp why I’d want to live in China or take a year off to travel. Read on to get the story on why I fell in love with live music and all the amazing experiences it’s brought me through the years.

Stats

The bus came by and I got on.
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The bus came by and I got on.

Favorite Live Band: Phish

Favorite Indoor Venue: The Melkweg, Amsterdam

Favorite Outdoor Venue: The Gorge, WA

Band I’ve Seen the Most: Umphrey’s McGee

Formative Years

As my parents had me start playing the cello from age five, I was introduced to live music at an early age. The problem, of course, was that I wasn’t the least bit interested in classical music; I wanted to rock! Luckily, I got my chance when I was just nine, when a friend’s dad took the two of us to see Green Day play in downtown Detroit. We had last row seats, and it was the coolest night of our lives at the time.

GPW 4 Life!
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GPW 4 Life!

Some years later, and I was a punk-ass middle school student with very different musical tastes. For about a year, my friends, brothers, and me beat the crap out of each other and videotaped it in our backyard wrestling league. At the time, we were into Korn, Limp Bizkit, and all that loud, angry rock music. However, we never went to any of their concerts.

Naturally, as upper-middle class white boys from the suburbs, we then took an interest in rap. A friend’s mom drove us out to the Palace of Auburn Hills one day, where we saw a duel show starring Nelly and the Cash Money Millionaires. Once again, it was the coolest night of our lives. After the show, our friend’s mom remarked that we “all reeked of marijuana!” Of course, we had no idea what she was talking about at the time. Let’s just say that the next time she drove us to a show (Jay-Z in downtown Detroit), we had a better idea.

Transition

Turning into a w00k.
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Turning into a w00k.

In my freshman year of high school, I went down to Comerica Park one night to see Dave Matthews Band, which was the cool thing to do in the summer in Grosse Pointe. The band was playing two nights, but I’d only bought a ticket for one. I thought it was weird that a bunch of GP bros were going to both nights. Oh how times have changed.

The show that night was extremely powerful for me, and I’ll always remember it as one of my best live music experiences. Say what you will about DMB, but they are a hard-working band who puts on a great show, and they helped turn me on to a whole new scene of music.

Go Phish

My Phish books, full of stubs and setlists.
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My Phish books, full of stubs and setlists.

By the next summer, I was getting deep in the jam band scene. I was trading discs of Phish and Grateful Dead shows with people all around the country, and I was just learning how to download music on Napster. While neither of those bands were touring at the time, I did notice that Widespread Panic and moe. were coming to town. A big group of friends and I bought tickets, piled in my van, and drove out to Meadowbrook, a great outdoor venue outside of the D. Arriving in the parking lot, that was the first time we ever saw a Shakedown Street. People were set up all around the lot, selling clothing, stickers, veggie burritos, cold beers, and plenty of other goodies, if you catch my drift. The show itself was incredible, and after that night I was totally hooked on live music.

My first Phish show in '03.
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My first Phish show in ’03.

Later that year, we got the great news that Phish would be returning from their 2-year hiatus. I tried my damndest to get tickets to see them in New York for New Year’s, to no avail. Thankfully, I did score some tickets to see them in Chicago. Sean and I planned to drive my van there, but after it broke down, my mom kindly offered to take us. She and my youngest brother went to the aquarium to see fish, and we stayed behind to see Phish. When the show was over, we were left hungry for more.

Deer Creek '03
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Deer Creek ’03
An 18-year old me seeing Phish in Vegas.
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An 18-year old me seeing Phish in Vegas.

That summer it was three nights camping out at Deer Creek. Later that year it was four nights to ring in the New Year in Miami. Over our senior year spring break, Sean and I flew to Vegas for three more shows. That summer, we packed into Ty’s truck and drove to see the boys at Deer Creek again, as well as two nights at Alpine Valley. Up in Vermont a few months later, we said goodbye to our favorite band, who said they were calling it quits after their Coventry festival.

Worst. Festival. Ever.
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Worst. Festival. Ever.

A New Love

Umph Love
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Umph Love

With no more Phish shows to go to in college, I found a new love in the form of Umphrey’s McGee, a band that combined my love for hard rock with the improvisation of Phish and the Dead. Thanks to their Midwest roots, I racked up a ton of shows in my four short years at MSU. It was not uncommon to skip class to go on Umphrey’s ter, and I even went international by seeing them in Amsterdam and Jamaica. With no Phish around, UM NYE also became a tradition – I rang in the New Year with them four years in a row from ’04-’07.

NYE in Chicago with UM.
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NYE in Chicago with UM.

In my last year of college, I was completely sucked into the live music scene. I was hosting an online radio show playing strictly live tracks, interning with a local music promotion/production company, and doing street team work for Live Nation. Thanks to those volunteer side jobs, I got to attend dozens of shows around Michigan for free.

Living Abroad

Infected Mushroom in Beijing
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Infected Mushroom in Beijing

Unfortunately, going to concerts for free wasn’t going to pay my student loan bills, so I decided to move to China to teach English after graduation. In the years that I’ve been living here, I’ve still managed to get out and see a ton of cool shows – Elton John in Beijing, the Flaming Lips in Seoul, Lotus in Tokyo, and more. Of course, we also go home at least once a year and make sure to pack a few shows into each visit.

I’ve seen well over 500 concerts in more than almost twenty US states and seven other countries over the past ten years. Some people may call this crazy, but I call it my passion. I love music, traveling, and meeting people, so this kind of lifestyle is right up my alley. Thankfully, I met an awesome lady who is just as crazy about live music as I am…

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Rachel

I've always been a musical person.
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I’ve always been a musical person.

Just like Sasha, music was a big part of my youth. I started playing piano at the age of 6 and trumpet at 11, but I too was not interested in classical music. However, being from east Tennessee, the most easily accessible live music was country. I liked country up until I was about seven years old. After that I turned my nose up to it like a snob. So that didn’t leave me with many options for live music. Living in Johnson City, which is very much under a rock, gave me even fewer options.

I was fortunate that Elton John decided to include my little hometown on his US tour when I was 9 years old because my Dad took me to that concert and that’s what started my dream of wanting to be a singer-songwriter. I consider that my first real concert.

In high school, like all of my classmates and friends around me, I liked what was on pop radio and hip hop/rap. When people started driving cars, you were considered super cool if you had huge sub woofers in the back and drove around town blasting bass-heavy rap.

When I was 16 Lynyrd Skynyrd came to town and my Dad took me and my younger brother. I had a blast watching all the drunk rednecks be themselves. That was my first rock concert.

When I first learned about the hippie movement and music festivals at that time I was so incredibly intrigued but a little sad because I thought those things were no longer a reality and had only existed in the 60’s. Then when I visited Appalachian State University my senior year of high school, I was shocked to find the whole campus covered with them. They had dreads, wore Birkenstocks, played frisbee in between classes and listened to jam bands. I knew that was the perfect university for me. Then the following summer before my first year of college, several of my friends disappeared for a weekend. When they finally resurfaced I asked where they had been and it turned out they had gone to a music festival called Bonnaroo. They still existed!

What can I say... I like to rock!
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What can I say… I like to rock!

That fall as a freshman at App State I was introduced to all kinds of jam bands and even saw a few live. Then that summer I went to said music festival and was totally ecstatic to be there, but also very overwhelmed. I went with some girlfriends who were just as new to the scene as me. My friend’s brother and father were Bonnaroo veterans but didn’t do much explaining or guiding. I was asleep by 1am every night, that’s how much of a n00b I was.

Luckily for me there was a great music venue on campus that was run by the university and student groups. Because of the population of students at App State all those jam bands that played at the music festivals would include Boone in their fall and spring tours. I became very involved in the student groups who would promote and work at the shows. I never had to travel to see music for this reason. I finally started traveling for music at the end of my senior year and once I graduated that’s all I did. I drove my car all over the place for concerts and music festivals, usually by myself. In doing so I met Sasha, and the rest is history. We met at a festival and started dating on Phish tour, so live music has played a big part in our relationship.

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Grateful Gypsies

Seeing Phish at the Gorge in '11.
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Seeing Phish at the Gorge in ’11.

With our powers combined, you may be able to imagine what kind of a live music powerhouse we are. We actually started dating while we were in the middle of following Phish around the country. Enjoying live music together is a huge part of our relationship, and we’ve been to hundreds of shows together over the years. Here are some concert highlights we have experienced as a duo:

We are the champions!
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We are the champions!
  • We saw 19 Phish shows in 10 states from June-December 2009.
  • We hit dozens of shows in Nashville while living there in the fall of 2009, from MMW (Medeski, Martin & Wood) to Toubab Krewe to the Biscuits to the Kings of Leon.
  • We’ve flown to Seoul for the weekend to see the Flaming Lips and Japan for a week to catch Lotus in Tokyo.
Raging with Lotus in Tokyo!
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Raging with Lotus in Tokyo!
  • We went to Mexico for two weeks to explore the Mayan ruins and then get crazy at Mayan Holidaze.
  • We’ve been to a rave on an aircraft carrier and another under the Great Wall in Beijing.
  • We’ve had some crazy nights in the Chinese capital, from an all-night rager with Grandmaster Flash, to an incredible performance by Elton John, to countless nights watching our friends in their various bands.
  • Even living in China, we managed to see 23 Phish shows between 2011-2014. We even got engaged at one!



Of course, we’ve still got plenty more gas in the tank when it comes to getting out there and seeing live music. No matter where we are, we do our best to dive into the music scene, whether it’s stateside, in China, or across SE Asia. Through our site, we hope to inspire people to travel, especially for live music. Whether you’re looking for the best venues in Beijing or wild stories from the lot at a Phish show, you’ll find something here.

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Looking for more on live music? Why not check out our experiences going to and working at tons of music festivals? You can also watch episodes of our short travel series titled “Streets, Beats & Eats” that spotlights cool places to hang out, tasty food, and of course live music in cities all around the world.

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