Anyone who knows me knows that my idea of the perfect night involves being in the front row of a concert. I don’t have a lot of hobbies besides painting (which usually feels more like work these days), but I absolutely LOVE listening to live music and attending my favorite artists’ shows. Thanks to one of my aides and my aunt, I was introduced to country music at a very young age (much to my mother’s dismay), and absolutely fell in love with it. That’s not to say I don’t like other types of music too, but I am definitely a country girl at heart. There’s just something about country music, country artists, and country music fans that feels like family. I think that country fans truly connect with the music they listen to, thus develop a deeper connection with the artists as well. I met many of my friends (and in fact one of my closest friends) at various country shows and continue to see them and keep up with them at concerts and on social media.
Music has always been a big part of my life, and as a child I loved 60s and 70s oldies, and anything else my parents listened to. It’s always been something I can connect to and rely on–it’s always there and will say exactly what I need to hear at exactly the right time. I love to sing, but totally, COMPLETELY suck at it. Another plus at concerts is I can sing as loud as I want and no one can hear me! Ha!
However, one problem I constantly run into at concerts is the lack of wheelchair accessibility. Have you noticed that in almost every arena or concert venue the handicap seats are located at the top of the first tier of seats? Sometimes that’s okay, but more often than not the row below the ADA area is not low enough that when those people stand up they block the people in wheelchairs’ view. We’re in wheelchairs. We don’t have the option to stand up too. Also, it’s very hard for people like me with wheelchairs that lean slightly backwards to look down at the stage from above. Talk about a neck/headache. It’s not fun to pay $80 for a ticket and then not be able to see any of the show.
I’ve found that the best way to fix this problem is to buy the closest ticket I can to the stage, and then just work out what we can with the security staff when we arrive the day of the show. Granted, sometimes this works out amazingly, and sometimes it just doesn’t. In the best circumstances, the artist has a stage set-up that involves a general admission, standing room only pit, and we buy tickets for that section. Yes, we have to arrive very early to make sure we get a good spot and yes, it gets a little wild, but as far as being able to see and interact with the artists, it’s definitely the best option. I only go to a GA Pit concert with two people, my friend and my aunt. They’re both more than capable of protecting me from the crazy drunk fans and are ALWAYS watching everyone around me. If you are in a wheelchair and are thinking you want to do this, I don’t suggest it unless you 110% trust the person/people you go with. It’s really important to have your own personal bodyguard!
For me, being at a concert lets me forget about everything else going on in my life. For two or three hours, I’m having so much fun that I don’t notice any pain I might be dealing with. Now, I’m usually pretty sore AFTER the concert, but there’s drugs for that (and maybe a little Fireball)! The break I get from everyday life and the memories we make are worth every achey muscle. When Thomas Rhett’s “Star of the Show” comes on, I am immediately back with him in the Superdome where he sang the entire second chorus directly to me. When I hear Little Big Town’s “Day Drinking,” I start laughing at the time my friend and I brought nearly a full bar into the meet and greet with us, and they later mentioned us in a magazine interview. I’m lucky that I have people to go do this with, and we have had some pretty amazing experiences (several of which you will learn about in upcoming blogs). There is nothing I love more than the loud music, singing along to every word, and interacting with the artists on stage. Concerts give me something to constantly look forward to, and helps me get through the not-so-fun parts of life.
I also think it’s important for venues to think a little more about how they handle their wheelchair-bound patrons, and I hope that by attending shows in different places and pointing out why the accommodations they’ve made are severely lacking will help them to change how they do things. I realize that if you’ve never been in a wheelchair you don’t think about things like not being able to see over anyone who is standing (and in my case, even sitting), and not having the ability to stand up at all. If people in wheelchairs want to pay for a front row seat to see their favorite artist up close, they should be able to do that just like every other able-bodied person. I’ve encountered several venues, some of them being extremely well-known, where this is not the case and who refuse to accommodate at all. It’s time for that to change.
Pro Tip: If you’re going to a concert and you have great seats that will let you interact with the artist on stage, learn the words to their songs! They feed off of the energy you give them from the floor, and there is nothing more awkward then having them sing to you and you don’t know the words to sing back!