Gig Survival Tips For the Chronically Ill

As I’ve mentioned on varying blogs here on the XMR HUB, I have chronic illnesses. Mine are invisible, meaning I look able-bodied even when I feel like I am on death’s door. I know there are many others like me who are obsessed with music and love going to gigs and try to balance that love with their disabilities or illnesses. It’s hard, I won’t lie. It’s a juggling act. You can’t fully enjoy one, because in the back of your mind you’re worrying about the other.

Inspired by a recent post by Safe Gigs For Women founder Tracey Wise, I decided to compile some tips. Some are from me personally, some are from others with health issues. All of them are ways we have found to survive a night or weekend out with live music. If you have your own tips, feel free to send them our way for inclusion. Please do. There may have been something we haven’t thought of yet.

At The World’s End in Camden, UK, right next to excellent rock venue, The Underworld.

Before the Gig

Getting to and from the venue

  • Research the venue you’re planning to go to. Is it accessible? If it’s a general admission venue, will they be able to provide you with a viewing platform or seat if you need one? Sometimes this information is available on the venue’s website. Other times you will have to call the box office. I recommend checking out Half/Access, a database of venue accessibility information.
  • Accessible tickets: are there any available? Can you book them online, or over the phone? Do they offer concessions or companion tickets?
  • Sometimes you can pre-book your accommodations for a gig by contacting the venue. Other times they will instruct you to speak to someone at the venue day-of. Contact the venue before your show to find out how to proceed.
  • Usually venues will ask you to arrive early, an hour to a half-hour before doors open, to sort your accommodations. Factor this into your travel plans if that’s the case.
  • Research how you’re getting to the venue and back.
  • Are you driving? If so, are there handicap parking spaces available?
  • Is there public transportation nearby so you don’t have to walk far? Is the public transportation accessible, with step-free access?
  • Can you get back home after the gig or do you need to stay overnight? Is your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb accessible? Is it close to the venue, or will you need to take transport / a cab there and back (raising costs)? Is it up or down a hill from the venue that could make it harder for you to get to? Check out the location on Google Street View to see what you may be dealing with!

Take care of yourself

  • Rest, rest, rest. Resting and taking care of yourself before your gig gives you the best shot at feeling okay during it.
  • Gig buddy-up! If possible, find a gig buddy you trust, who is aware of what health issues you have, and would be willing to help you out if you need it. Be upfront and honest with them before the gig about any concerns you may have. It’s easier to manage an exhausting event like a festival if you have someone with you who has your back. Be sure to update them throughout the event if you’re beginning to struggle.
  • Take your medications! If you have any you need to take, that is.
  • Hydrate yourself! Drink water before going out and remember to stay hydrated throughout the night.
  • Stretch! Limber up! Sometimes a gig can feel like a marathon, so prepare for one as such.
  • Pack a bag! Go prepared with things you may need. Some suggestions are…
Make sure you make whatever accomodations you need to enjoy the gig as much as possible.
Having a hoot on the ADA platform at the Stone Pony, NJ
  1. Ear plugs. Everyone should have ear plugs. Just yes. Get some cheap foam or one-size ones (though a regular gig goer should consider some personally moulded ones) and keep them in your bag.
  2. A small snack. Good to have if you need to take medications or are prone to low blood sugars. Glucose tablets, granola bars and the like are handy to have!
  3. Water bottle, factory sealed. Not all venues will let you bring one in, which is shitty as some people have immunity issues and just getting tap water from the bar can be iffy. Keep one on you just in case they allow you to bring it in. If they object to it, try explaining the medical reason why you need it to security.
  4. Heat patches, Deep Freeze, IcyHot, etc. Small patches that stick onto your body in case of muscle spasms. Could come in very handy at the end of the evening – after you’ve stood or danced all night – while waiting for the train home. Don’t wait for relief, start helping yourself as soon as you need it.
  5. Tissues / napkins / wet wipes. Good for so many things, but especially if you need to tidy yourself up for any reason or if you have the misfortune of a toilet without the paper.
  6. Hand sanitizer. When you’re chronically ill, it’s best to try and keep the germs at bay.
  7. If you only occasionally need a cane or walking stick, consider getting one that is collapsible or folds up. They can be very cheap on Amazon and in some drug stores / chemists. They fold up to about 12 inches long and can fit in a tote bag easily.

At the Gig

Make sure you make whatever accomodations you need to enjoy the gig as much as possible.

  • Enjoy the ever living fuck out of the concert. It’s your night as much as anyone else’s. You deserve to be there and to have fun.
  • That being said: PACE. YOUR. SELF. It’s all fun and games running around from stage to stage at a festival, dancing without a care, pretending you’re fine, until you need to be escorted off-site because your body is shutting down and you end up missing half the festival.  
  • Be smart with alcohol. If you’re drinking, keep track of how much you’re having. Pace yourself with water. Don’t mix your meds with booze. Eat something before, or after, or both (yum).
  • Drink water throughout the night. Gigs are hot and sweaty and this can make you feel extra fatigued, dizzy, and weak.
  • Check in with your gig buddy. If you are struggling, let them know. Ask for help.
  • Find a place you can rest. Hopefully in your before-gig research you found out if the venue had seats, and hopefully they do. Sometimes venues have lounge areas or seats out by where merch is being sold. If you need to have a rest, find a way to have a rest. If you felt fine going into the gig so you didn’t ask for accommodations but now you’re feeling awful halfway through, find a venue staff member to speak to. Ask for help.

After the Gig

  • Eat something if you need to.
  • Drink more water if you need to.
  • Take your medications if you need to.
  • If heat works for your aches or pains, consider investing in an electric heating pad. I personally would not survive without one.
  • If you love heating pads but wish they were bigger, consider getting an electric blanket to heat your whole body. Just remember not to fall asleep with it on, or get one with an auto-off function.
  • Baths or hot showers can work wonders on sore muscles.
  • Maybe ice is your ticket. Get yourself decent ice packs beyond a small boo-boo-bear.
  • Consider getting a TENS machine. Small, battery-powered ones can be bought on Amazon or at drug stores / chemists for not much money. They can do wonders for muscle cramps or spasms.
  • FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GET SOME SLEEP. You’ll need it to fully recover from a night out, especially if you’re attending a multi-day event. Easier said than done if you have insomnia issues – but if you do, talk to a doctor about medications to help you here.

Links to check out


If you enjoyed this and learned something, you can support my continued research and work by: buying me a cup of coffee: https://ko-fi.com/valderie or becoming a patron: https://www.patreon.com/valderie

The first show I brought a rollator to was Jeff Rosenstock! It made queuing so much easier.

This piece originally appeared on Xtra Mile Recordings’ blog, the XMR HUB, in 2017.

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