Travel Tools: For The Frequent Concert Attendee

(Editor’s note:  This is not a paid advertisement.  I get no kickbacks from writing about this stuff.  It’s just things that I use regularly and find to be incredibly useful.)

The vast majority of my trips to new cities start with news of a concert that I want to see.  I’ve written about this before, and even listed the concerts I’ve seen in a separate post.  I wanted to write some posts that detail the tools that I use in my travels, and there are two tools in particular that are invaluable for the music-based tourist that I am.

The first tool is the means with which I find my concerts.  In the old days, I would use magazines with concert listings, searches on and, band announcements, and sheer luck to find my concerts.

In this enlightened Internet age, I mostly just use  I’m not sure when the website launched, but the iOS app launched in 2011, and the Android app was released the next year.

Here’s why SongKick is amazing-  with your free account, the app will scan the music you have on your phone, and it will begin tracking the artists.  If you use the website, you can have it import artists from your iTunes collection, your Spotify playlists, your Pandora history, or your tags.  You can also select specific cities to watch.  The site then begins to notify you (usually by e-mail, in my case) of the concert and tour details for the artists and cities that you’re watching.  From that list, you can tag certain shows as “Track This” or “I’m Going” and they’ll show up on your Dashboard on the Website.

I’ve been to three of these five venues. Can you guess which ones?

I’m currently tracking almost 1300 musical acts and more than twenty cities.  I’ve even subscribed my calendar to the RSS feed of the concerts that I’ve started tracking.

I’ve only found two flaws in SongKick so far.  The first is that there’s no sanity-check in the artist listings; it’s entirely user data driven.  As a result, SongKick was tracking concerts for me from Zero Mostel.  Considering that Zero has been dead since 1977, I can’t imagine that would be a very good show.  (Or, maybe, it would be the best concert I’ve ever seen.  In an infinite universe, anything is possible.)

The second flaw in the SongKick system is just overload:  I now have so many amazing concerts at my fingertips that I can’t see them all.  I simply don’t have the time or money I would need to see everything.  I also haven’t figured out yet how to clone myself to see shows in different cities at the same time.

The second tool I wanted to mention here is a tiny item, but one which is absolutely necessary to really enjoy all these concerts:  a good set of earplugs.  I used to use the little ball-of-wax ear plugs you can buy for a few dollars in Walgreens or Boots, but they get dirty easily, and they block out too much of the sound.   I wanted to find a better way so I did a little research- there are dozens of options and brands out there for high quality hearing protection.  What I ultimately settled on was a pair of V-Moda Faders.

I left the coin in this photo so you could see how tiny they really are.

Faders are little metal ear-plugs with a variety of silicon “fittings” to go with different ear sizes and a little plastic case to keep them in your pocket.  The Faders are connected by a string which can be removed, but the one time I took the string off, I dropped one of the plugs on the floor within seconds.  Now I leave them attached.  The V-Moda Faders claim to drop the volume of whatever you’re listening to by twelve decibels without sacrificing clarity.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that I’ve used them now for Cyndi Lauper, Ellie Goulding, and Gary Numan.  For Gary Numan, I was standing right next to the stage, and I could hear everything clearly, without the distortion that high volume usually brings me.  I also didn’t have to spend the half hour immediately after the show saying “What?  What?!” to everyone that spoke to me.  These ear-plugs work perfectly.

Do you have any favorite tools that you use for concerts, games, or other events?