Where were you June 22nd around 10 o’clock? If you said inside the Music Hall of Williamsburg watching the free Fun. concert then A) you are very lucky because out of around 6,000 people only 550 got in and B) we probably saw each other because I was there too! Secret shows are happening all of the time, but you don’t hear about them because they’re, well, a secret. While it’s definitely not an exact science, (who likes chemistry anyway?) after living a year in the city that never sleeps and is also really expensive, I’ve learned how to fill up my waking hours with as many free musical happenings as possible.
Thanks to the fact that hardly anyone buys hard copies of music anymore, bands now get most of their earnings through live gigs. This is also how they most of their exposure, so they will put on shows simply to reward and expand their fan base. Here’s a few tried and true ways I’ve used to sniff out where and when secret live shows will be:
1) THE ARTIST’S WEBSITE / FACEBOOK / TWITTER:
Number one for a reason. Be on the lookout especially if the band is already going to be in the area for a traditionally scheduled show, since they have a habit of playing another just because they’re around. Last week The Black Keys posted about a first-come first-serve show the day-of in Nashville. Instead of paying people to play fans for a music video, they just invited forty of their real fans in for a free show. I have a feeling they looked (and were) much more genuinely stoked.
2) IN-STORE PERFORMANCES:
Stores will put on special events and have artists come play to pump up the atmosphere. Launches of new lines at boutiques are especially a draw, and you can usually get free drinks and snacks too! Keep an extra hard lookout during big annual events such as Fashion Week and Record Store Day (this past year you could catch performers such as Leighton Meester and Patti Smith at FW and Portugal. The Man and M. Ward at RSD).
3) SPONSORED EVENTS:
Like the in-store performances, but at an outside location. A few months ago WeSC had an intimate event where you met at their SoHo store, rubbed elbows with Skrillex, then were blindfolded, loaded on a bus, and driven to an underground club where he played a three-hour set. I literally ran into the head of Atlantic Records because I was staring at a man eating fire while listening to Skrillex. No, really. Heads-up if you’re free – Converse is putting on two free shows on Pier 63 featuring Sleigh Bells and The Kills. Find these types of shows by keeping up with the mailing list / social media of your favorite stores.
4) WEBSITES WHOSE SOLE PURPOSE IT IS TO TELL YOU ABOUT THESE THINGS:
Sorry for the extreme mouthful of a heading, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. I wake up, drink my coffee, check out the local events section of sites such as TimeOut New York, Free in NYC, Broke Girl’s Guide, My Free Concert NY, and Brokelyn, and plan my week accordingly. You can do the same with sites that cater specifically to your location.
If you’re like me and the, “Help me, I’m poor,” line from Bridesmaids plays in your head every time you look at your bank statement, get out and take advantage of secret shows. They’re free, they’re fun, and they make for a much more interesting Facebook status than, “Roman is having an OK day, and bought a Coke Zero at the gas station.”