Going to Concerts When I Was Younger vs. Now – Part 1

Concert 1980s
Getting ready for an AC/DC concert in my 20’s at the Los Angeles Forum

I have been going to concerts since I was around 14 or 15 and things have changed a lot during the years. The first major concert I attended was at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, AZ where I saw KISS with Cheap Trick opening. I still vividly remember parts of that concert after all this time. I thought I would write an article about how just how much things have changed, for myself, when I attended them.

I still remember that first concert due to a few things. First, I had seats in the upper level and being an impressionable teenager, when Gene Simmons pointed in my direction, I thought for sure that he saw me and pointed directly at me since I was such a big KISS fan. I use to wear Kiss t-shirts to class most days of the week and even at one school, my nickname was “KISS”.

I took this pic of Rick Nielson from Cheap Trick the last time I saw them in San Diego, California

Secondly, Cheap Trick really made an impression on me. Until the show, I don’t remember ever hearing about them. When the show started, out walked two guys that looked like musicians (Robin Zander, lead singer and ‎Tom Petersson, bass) and two guys that looked like nerds (Rick Nielsen, lead guitar and Bun E. Carlos, drums). I didn’t think they were would be very good since not all the members looked like rockers (yeah, I was young). But they ended up making such a big impression that they are still one of my favorite bands to see live. The thing I remember most about their opening set was at one point, Rick Nielson went over to his three-step riser, complete with lighting, and kept dropping his guitar down the steps. I thought that was so cool! Couple that with Ace Frehley’s smoking,  flying guitar later in the show… I was in heaven!


When I was younger and much into my adulthood, I remember that I would start thinking about the upcoming concert, sometimes weeks in advance that was much stronger in the days leading up to the concert. I thought about the show, the group and even what songs the band might play in anticipation. I’m sure my mood improved since I would get more and more excited about the show.

I use to, somewhat to this day, get anxiety about getting all the way to the venue and not have my ticket. In most cases, this would mean I would have to miss the show which only happened once when I was married and took my wife to see the Doobie Brothers here in San Diego. We did have to miss the show and I have never seen that band. For most concerts, I would put the ticket in my wallet, sometimes weeks before the show so I would not forget. I guess it worked since it only happened once.

Now that I am older, except for worrying about forgetting my ticket, I don’t get so worked up before a show anymore. Once in a while, I might search for set lists online to see what songs the band might play, but usually, I like the surprise.

Going To The Show

When I was younger, going to the show was also part of the event. The first groups I saw like Kiss, Cheap Trick, Styx, Van Halen, and more weren’t held in the small towns I lived in Arizona, so I had to find transportation to Phoenix, but that’s not what I am talking about. I’m talking about getting to the venue for many hours in advance (early afternoon) with my friends. Most of the time we would drink (tailgate), sometimes play Frisbee, meet other concert-goers and more. I also loved people watching as fans would arrive at the venue. The photo at the top of this article was taken by my best friend before an AC/DC concert at the Los Angeles Forum when I was in the US Navy. When I got older, we usually just did this at the closest bar to the venue.

Going to the show early, was for me, was part of the show. Now that I am older, unless I’m trying to avoid traffic, I try to arrive right when the show starts. If I know that I’m not that interested in the opening bands, then I try to arrive right before the band I came to see. The only exception to this rule is when it’s one of my favorite bands and I want to make sure to be standing at the barricade so I can seem them up close. Since I am a guitarist, I do this for guitarists who inspire me like Billy Duffy from The Cult. But the older I get, the less I do this, mostly due to it being more difficult for me to stand for that length of time.

Ticket Cost

Concert Memorabilia
Ticket stub from Styx concert in Los Angeles in 1983.

When I started going to concerts, tickets were around $9 to $12. Taking inflation into account, those tickets in 2020 would cost $20 to $27. It sounds totally affordable to me. But, the reality in 2020 is that most large concerts are not affordable anymore.

In 2020, floor seats for the band Tool ran around $425, Kiss tickets are around $250, Rage Against The Machine tickets are around $415 and Motely Crue tickets are a whopping $1,250! Taking inflation into account, these tickets would be between $110 to $548 when I was a teenager, far out of the range I could afford since I was making only around $800 a month when I was a manager at a restaurant at the age of 19.

Why the huge jump in ticket prices in the past 20 years or so? Well, to me, the biggest reason is iTunes and streaming. When I started going to concerts, bands and record companies made their money off of album and CD sales. Concerts were merely a way to promote those sales, so the price was pretty low, around the same cost as a concert ticket. That all changed when people started sharing music for free (Napster) and got worse when iTunes changed how we purchase music and got much worse with streaming. I even asked John Connolly, guitarist for the band Sevendust, if he makes more money off of iTunes or CD sales and he told me CD sales. Ever since that day I have only purchased CD’s because I know how hard it is for bands these days.

So now things have flipped. Sure you can purchase a song for $1.99 or listen to it for free on a streaming service, but the bands need to make an income, so they do that now from concert ticket sales and merchandising. That’s why bands that I saw when I was a teenager, like Styx, seem to never stop touring.


Come back soon to read part 2 where I will discuss being at the concert, merchandising and post concert. Did this article stir up your own memories? Please make a comment below.

AC/DC Photos, Videos and Memorabilia

Since I was around 18 years old, the band AC/DC has been one of my favorite bands. They have also been one of my favorite bands to see live and I never try to miss them. They have launched (inspired) countless other bands too. Now that they seem to be retired, I thought I’d share some of the photos, videos, and memorabilia that I have collected over the years.

20020224--AC-DC-Sports Arena-20-L

Concert Fan Seeks More Consideration

Way, way back before the internet and Facebook, one way to express an opinion in public was to write a letter to the editor at a local newspaper. When I was in my 20’s, I did write a few letters to the editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune. The one below I wrote after the KGBSky Show (annual fireworks show synchronized to music) on September 17th, 1984 that featured a concert headlined by Def Leppard. This was actually the last date on their Pyromania tour.

The reason I wrote it was due to the local news media coverage of the show that due to an alleged rape allegation and other issues, basically called all rock concert goers “losers” or that is how it made me feel. I was worried that the annual fireworks show wouldn’t feature a concert anymore and it never did.

The rape allegation that a woman made was later found out to be made up and I mention that the news should have found out more before just jumping to a conclusion and alerting the public. I also mention that the security hired by the venue was poorly trained and they actually made things worse. Unfortunately, almost 40 years later, this overreaction and poor training has not changed much.

Full Letter to the Editor

Concert MemorabiliaSan Diego, California, Thursday, October 13, 1983

There is talk of banning rock concerts from the San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, after the KGB-Sky Show of Sept. 17. Would they rather have the youth of this town “let loose” on the streets, where they can get into real trouble? Concerts provide a much needed release for us, which almost always lants until the next concert.

Sure, there are a few people who will take things too far, there always will be. So why should thousands suffer? Why throw thousands of kids on the street to find their own kind of fun, which might end up being the wrong kind of fun?

The media are one of the areas the surely does not give us any help. They lie in waiting to jump at the first chance they get to blow everything out of proportion before they get all of the facts. So no everyone has the assumption that when we go to concerts, we rape girls, fight and blast our minds away. Not 100 percent true of course. Funny thing, they never tell about the good things that happen, like the good feelings we get.

It sure would help a lot if the security force hired for rock concerts knew what they were doing. Whoever said they had things under control at the Sky Show was dead wrong. Well, maybe they did if you call beating up people and throwing them back into the crowd as a means for keeping control for stepping onto the field or other minor infractions. That instigated more rowdiness than anything did.

So where is the solution? Some great ideas have come up, but will the people and the City Council look at them logically or will they just choose to ignore the problem and see if it will go away? So let’s pull together and solve this. That is the only solution. It will keep us happy and you happy.

Dave “Heavy Metal Dave” McCarter

Rock Star of the Week – Fan Halen

There are a ton of Van Halen tribute bands out there… some good some not so good. The best one that I have seen and have done photographer for is Fan Halen from Southern California. The band has been around for 16 years and continue to rock Van Halen fans around the United States.

I have been a Van Halen fan since the 70’s and have seen them many times. I even saw them on their first reunion tour. Since I am fan, I believe the hardest person to “tribute” in the band is David Lee Roth. Not only does Ernie Berru (featured in photo to the right) sound like David, he nails his attitude and swagger which is very important (to me)!

Derek Fuller also nails the portrayal of Eddie Van Halen! Plays like him and even smiles a lot like Eddie does.

If you haven’t seen Fan Halen they are performing at the House of Blues this Friday at 7pm. I will be doing photography for the band and I hope to see you there.