20 Things We Learned Going to Concerts Overseas

The South Bank Lion near Big Ben looks down on all sorts of mass transit Houstonians would never dream of using to get to a show.
The South Bank Lion near Big Ben looks down on all sorts of mass transit Houstonians would never dream of using to get to a show.
Photos by Jack Gorman

The following are some interesting notes and general tidbits from three shows attended during a recent trip to England: Madness at London's Wembley Stadium; rising singer-songwriter Jess Glynne in Camden; and acid-house legends the Happy Mondays in Southampton. It includes some general differences and similarities. Again, these are just a few observations from a small sample of concerts.

TRANSPORTATION
• The main mode of transportation used was “The Tube” or London’s underground train system. It was easy to navigate and cost-friendly.

* Other modes used to get around were bus, overground train and walking; all means of transportation that wouldn’t normally be used to catch a show in Houston.

* Parking is extremely limited in the city, and driving a vehicle in designated areas at certain times is subjected to congestion fees.

• The size and layout of U.K. tour buses would make U.S. bands a tad jealous. The double-decker buses had sleeping quarters on the top and a communal area on the first floor.

College students partying in Southampton
College students partying in Southampton

THE FANS
• Most people stayed until the show was over. Not many people left to “beat the traffic.”

• Not many visible rubbish bins but the venues were kept clean. People didn’t throw their trash on the ground.

• So many more people dancing rather than simply standing to watch a show. They danced a lot, and fans respected each other’s space while they were doing it.

• Not nearly as many phones in the air as observed in Houston. Surprisingly, most of the phones out were not recording the show, but fans filming their friends singing and dancing around each other.

• Did not smell weed at any of the shows, but I did not cover Cypress Hill.

Guildhall in Southampton, full of ecstatic Happy Mondays fans
Guildhall in Southampton, full of ecstatic Happy Mondays fans

THE VENUES
• The set times were announced and easily found for all shows. It included the times the doors opened, start times for all bands and the curfew.

• Queues for bars and security: There were a more than adequate amount of staff to serve you. Time spent in lines was minimal at all venues, including Wembley Stadium.

• Sound quality was excellent at all the venues.

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• Cloakrooms for bags, overcoats and the sort were available for a minimal fee. It sure beats being a victim of Houston’s favorite crime – the smash and grab.

• Overall, London is quite expensive and the conversion rate was $1.50 for £1 (pound). Merchandise prices were slightly higher than in the States; shirts were set at £20.

• However, drinks were reasonably priced at the venues — £5 for a cocktail; £4.30 for a pint of beer.

Happy Mondays onstage at the Guildhall
Happy Mondays onstage at the Guildhall

• There did not seem to be such a thing as a "generous pour" in the U.K. Bartenders were meticulous when making drinks by using various sized jiggers to measure the liquor evenly.

• Locations for merchandise and drinks were away from the main area. This prevented bottlenecks and other crowd-traffic issues by not blocking entrances or exit areas.

• Security was essentially the same as it would be at Warehouse Live or any other place in Houston. It included several people in yellow shirts using handheld metal detectors, checking bags, conducting minimal patdowns and stationed throughout the venues. I always felt safe inside and outside the venues.

• According to the security manager of one venue, the biggest overall fan issue the U.K. has at concert venues is pickpocketing. “Not many people act stupid as they want to remain at the show, especially since they paid good money for it,” he said.

• Most restaurants and pubs shut down much earlier than in the States, like between 10 and 11 p.m.. Only a very small number of restaurants are open. Have to get some cheeky Nando’s to satisfy the hunger pains.


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