This week, I took my 12-year-old son to his first big concert, Coldplay at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. It was a joyous night, filled with top-of-our-lungs singing, dubious Dad dancing and a truly spectacular show that will live long in both of our memories. But planning this coming of age milestone for the little man took a bit of consideration, so here are my top first concert tips for parents.
Don’t go on a school night
Perhaps a strange tip to start with, because we went on a school night. However, if it’s possible to avoid it I would advise doing so, as I have spent the last year praying that there would be no school trips or events planned that would clash with Coldplay. Thankfully, there weren’t, but the downside of planning a 100-mile road trip on a school night is that getting your son or daughter to their place of education the following morning – in some kind of vaguely conscious state – is always going to be a challenge.
Big concerts have a habit of finishing late and of ensuring lengthy queues, whichever form of travel you decide to take. So, when you also have to drive two hours home from the bed you eventually get back to, in order to be at the school gates for 8.30am the following morning, the amount of sleep you will have secured could be quite limited.
Of course, you can’t control when the bands you want to see choose to tour, but if they are playing several dates and you’re planning on taking your children, opt for a Friday or Saturday night if you can. If you don’t have the option, get praying that your school don’t plan the Geography field trip to Swanage over your chosen dates.
Eat before entering the stadium
Food and drink at concert venues is priced as if it’s the last sustenance on earth. You can realistically expect to empty your wallet for a Coke and will likely need to remortgage your house for a slice of pizza. So, eat before you get there.
We were tight for time, so took a picnic with us on the packed train to the stadium, managing to scoff a few sandwiches before making our way to the venue. Once there, it’s also worth remembering that you probably won’t be allowed to take any of your own food and drink in with you, so stuff it down before you get there, or you’ll be adding to the security team’s extensive haul of contraband goodies.
If you do decide to buy drinks while you’re there – we did – try not to feel too aggrieved when you pay the best part of £5 for Pepsi (which they’ll pour in front of you, because they can’t trust you not to throw the bottle at Chris Martin) or £10 for a pre-poured, almost flat beer.
Get there early and enjoy the atmosphere
My son had never been to an event like Coldplay before, so being there while the stadium filled up, to watch the support acts and to soak up the atmosphere was important. It also meant that we avoided most of the queues and were able to relax a bit after the stress of the travel.
Inevitably, as it gets closer to the main event, the toilet queues also get longer, so if you or your child need to go, go early.
Don’t watch from behind your phone
Spectacular events inevitably mean that many of us tend to spend the duration trying to capture them on our phones. However, the end result is never as good as the real thing, so my advice would be to take a few photos and videos for the memories, but to then put your phone in your pocket and enjoy the moment.
Coldplay front man, Chris Martin, implored the 65,000 people in the packed stadium to do exactly that for one song, Sky Full of Stars, and when he did the volume increased, along with the sense of togetherness as thousands of arms were held aloft. The teenage girl next to me would be able to evidence that, as she recorded the whole thing on her phone!
Let your inhibitions go
Unless the stadium cameras catch you, no one’s going to see you flapping your arms about and singing along, so go with it.
My son, who’s usually mortified by my presence, didn’t seem to mind at all as the two of us jumped around together, shouting out the lyrics – unashamedly out of tune – and losing ourselves in the moment. It was utterly joyous.
Keep an eye out for the accessible train queue
Inevitably, when 65,000 people leave somewhere at the same time, wishing to get home, the queues at the train station will form quickly and go on for a fair distance. However, if you’ve attended with a small child, you may be able to jump them.
My son and I went to the gig with his eight-year-old, much smaller cousin (Chris Martin’s biggest pint-sized fan) and, as we looked to join the back of a vast, snaking queue of people at the station, a kindly steward spotted us. Pointing to the Accessible Queue – which had precisely zero people in it and went straight into the station – he said we could go through.
We promptly did so, trying not to look at the people on either side who were in the middle of what must have been a two-hour wait, and more or less walked straight on to a train back to Bristol, barely believing our luck.
So, don’t just assume that you’ve got to join the queue if you’re with children, ask the stewards and see if there’s an Accessible Queue that you can take advantage of.
Expect post-concert comedown
All good things come to an end…said some fun sponge back in the day. However, sadly it’s true and, if your little one has been looking forward to it for months, you can expect a few days of grumpiness to follow.
“There’s nothing to look forward to now,” was one of my son’s remarks as he moped about the day after the gig. However, to be fair to him, he did have to go to school after only four hours’ sleep and sit through lessons, so it’s hardly surprising that the grumpiness levels went up a notch or ten.
The grumpiness won’t last, or at least it won’t last in regard to the concert. Before you know it, they’ll have moved on to other sources of grumpiness. Nevertheless, it’s worth keeping my final tip in mind.
Keep an eye out for the next gig!
If you enjoyed yourselves, why not do it all again? That’s why Ticketmaster saves your credit card details after all.
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