We all have that friend that is seemingly at Red Rocks every other weekend, right? They gloat about it nonstop despite the reality that they stood behind a tree for the show and sat in traffic for two hours. Or how about that gal pal who went to Taylor Swift at Empower Field and sat in the nosebleeds while you were at home scratching your head as to how she was able to afford that ticket on a barista “salary”. Looking at you, Bethany. Well call me crazy, but taking out a loan for a seat where you need binoculars to see the artist shouldn’t be standard when there are plenty of local shows for a fraction of the cost right in your own town. 

Ya see, folks, big music is exploiting you. Fees are out of hand, so much so that Joe Biden, yes el Presidente himself, got involved and called out TicketMaster to lower its fees. And while that call didn’t result in any action from ticketing sites, mostly because the phone was never plugged in in the first place, it does illustrate that performances should be a lot less expensive. $17 on top of the $120 price tag? F*ck you. 

And while we’re at it, “seeing” an artist perform should entail actually SEEING them. Take Bethany for example. Yes, she technically was at the Taylor Swift concert, but she shelled out $600 to sit BEHIND the stage and watched her on the jumbotron. My neighbors get a better view of me changing, but that’s because I refuse to close my blinds.

Now let’s switch gears here and let me take you through a night out at a local show. Call me Picasso, because I’m about to paint you a picture. 

It’s 8:30 P.M. on a Friday night in downtown Denver, and people are lined up along East Colfax to get into the infamous Squire Lounge. Everyone’s waiting to get into the packed bar to see Spells’ ten-year anniversary show, some with pockets of just a crinkly Hamilton and their ID. And you know what? That’s enough to party.

Opening acts of Black Dots, Tuff Bluff, and The Postman light the fuse and with each new band joining the stage, the wick becomes smaller. But once Spells starts playing, the room explodes. 

Some concertgoers are moshing, some hanging in the back, while the remainder are smoking outside. The opening bands’ members are standing among the rest of the audience members, just like one of them, singing at the top of their lungs, albeit much more in tune. To start Spells’ final song lead singer Ben Roy jumps from the bar into the crowd as concert-goers give him the one thing that abandoned kids long for, support.

When the show concludes, everyone claps and cheers for Spells and the bands they’ve seen before – some still damp with Ben’s sweat from his journeys into the crowd. People are chatting with band members while they all wait for their ears to stop ringing after three hours of loud music. The night was capped off with some late-night eats at Pete’s Kitchen, a staple of Colfax and Denver for decades, before catching a quick Uber ride home. 

While the Ball Arenas, Fiddler’s and Red Rocks of the area are obviously necessary to see larger acts, the concerts are impersonal and the stages are distant – it’s great to see your favorite artists, but it doesn’t matter if you’re even there… the show would go on without you. Not to mention that inflation is hitting you everywhere – from the grocery, to gas stations, to bills at home, so the last thing you need is a thousand dollar plus night out.  With local acts, it feels like you’re not just an audience member, you’re part of the god-damn show. With upcoming bands standing in the crowd around you, it’s as if you could be called on stage at any moment. And with performers stage diving and joining the pit, if you weren’t there to hold up a singer or push that dork next to you, the show (and Ben in this case) would seemingly and literally fall on their faces. 

So save up your cash, pay the large fees, and still go to the big venues for that artist you’ve wanted to see for years. Sure. But, don’t forget about the local music scene. Because in this world of cold impersonal performances, a local show might just be the big warm hug that we all need.

Total amount spent: $60. Homeless people encountered: 8. Memories made: priceless.