A year in live music travel with Chloe Catajan and Mike DeWald

Design: Chloe Catajan and Mike DeWald

We all have something we’re devoted to; something that we’d go great lengths for. For some, that thing is live music and the lengths are literal. From crossing state lines to transatlantic flights, there are many reasons music fans go the distance to see their favorite artists. It could be because an artist isn’t playing many concerts, because they don’t travel, or simply because you can’t get enough of seeing them. Editor Chloe Catajan and writer Mike DeWald each travelled over oceans (and places closer) and recount their own concert travels to inspire the globetrotting gig-goer in you.

Taking in the sights and sounds with writer Mike DeWald

Coming together for music

Music is one of the few constants across languages and cultures and serves as one of the best ways to bring people together. One of the most striking examples of this was Linkin Park’s “Celebrate Life” concert following the passing of vocalist Chester Bennington. Fans from across the world came to the Hollywood Bowl to celebrate their favorite band and fallen musician. To my left, fans from the Netherlands. To my right, fans from Brazil. There may have been a language barrier, but regardless of the language everyone spoke, they all came together through the band’s lyrics. It was eye-opening talking to different fans; attendees and hearing their stories—some international fans even learning the English language through Linkin Park lyrics.

Historic venues

Concert travels don’t even necessarily have to be artist-specific. You can also travel to see live music at some of the more unique or storied venues around the world. The venue in which you’re seeing an artist can sometimes be just as important as the performer. Auditoriums, clubs, amphitheaters—there are so many different options at which to experience live music.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to fulfill a bucket list concert dream: seeing a show at Colorado’s famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The naturally formed amphitheater, built into a massive rock formation, provides one of the most stunning settings on earth to witness live music. The acoustics, also naturally formed over time, are perfect, and the location has only a minimal amount of human construction beyond a platform for the stage and wooden bleacher seating.

It’s a decent walk uphill to get there, but the payoff is worth the effort. Spectacular views abound over the valley and when the sun goes down the rocks that flank the sides of the venue light up a golden hue.  I was curious how the seated setting would translate to a punk rock bill that included Rise Against, AFI and Anti-Flag, and was surprised that it turned into one of the most energetic and engaged crowds I’ve ever seen for a rock show. Bands love playing there and  fans love attending shows there for a reason.

Get a little culture in your life

One of the purest ways to experience unfamiliar territory is through live music. A concert in a foreign country is one of the best ways to understand the culture and people. At first it might seem intimidating to be in a large crowd (or even a small one) in a completely new place. That edge makes it easier to quickly see how people interact in the context of music. For the most part, concerts are not heavy on tourists—so you get one of the purest examples of what it’s like to be a local regardless of whether you mingle or just decide to people-watch.

Leeds Festival offered a glimpse at how the English and Europeans take in their live music. Without VIP designation, all 90,000 attendees were on the same plane. Everyone hoofed it across the expansive festival grounds. Very few festivalgoers raised their cell phones in the air. Whether it’s dancing, moshing, or singing, the crowds were engaged and showing their support for the artist on stage.

Chasing adventures with editor Chloe Catajan

A musical meet-cute

I’d like to believe that my first show out of the country happened by some alignment of stars.

It was April 2017 and I was getting ready to travel solo to Japan—both for the first time. My flights were booked; my accommodations were reserved; and my itinerary set. And then Mew, one of my favorite bands, announced a performance at the Shibuya Tower Records on the day after I arrived in Tokyo. Aware of the Denmark band’s few and far between North American gigs, I couldn’t miss this.

There was limited space, but I was lucky enough to secure a spot up close. Stripped down from Mew’s typically grandiose sound, the acoustic set felt like a cozy hug that made being alone in a foreign country a little less lonely. I would’ve never guessed how a show could make traveling so much more memorable. I also didn’t expect that this would be some sort of tradition I would continue.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder?

Last winter Mew announced a concert in London in October for the 15th anniversary of its album Frengers. I bought a ticket, partly having my head in the clouds and partly expecting to sell it after reality sank in. Even though Mew eventually had Stateside shows lined up, I still kept London in mind. I decided to save up and use this as an opportunity to explore a new place and reconnect with my solitude.   

Mew performed at the Barbican Centre with a string ensemble. They opened with the tender B-side “City Voices” before jetting into an initial set of songs from recent albums. “Repeaterbeater” paved an upbeat pace for popular singles “Special” and “The Zookeeper’s Boy.” They later slowed down with “Louise Louisa” before taking an intermission and proceeding with Frengers front-to-back.

With the added strings and otherworldly visuals, it felt like discovering Frengers for the first time all over again. The orchestral performance, along with the songs in the first set, were totally unique to the London crowd. I also had the pleasure of meeting fans who loved the band just as much. Around me were a few other solo attendees, one of whom had flown in from Mexico. It made the unfamiliar setting a lot less intimidating and infinitely more like a haven for the soul.

Mew inevitably became the soundtrack of my trip, as it did for my Japan travels. That’s probably one of the best parts about seeing a favorite band abroad: forming new memories and attaching new meanings to songs I thought I couldn’t love even more. The show itself might have been a one-of-a-kind performance, but the actual experience becomes an adventure of its own that I hope to take on again.   

Follow editor Chloe Catajan at Instagram.com/riannachloe and Twitter.com/riannachloe.

Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.

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