The NYCountry Swag Team Recalls Their Very First Concerts

Do you remember your first concert? The first time you experienced the lights going down and hearing deafening screams? Well our team of music lovers sure does and is recalling the very first time they experienced live music and guess what, most of the shows were not country artists! Check out each writer’s first concert experience below.


Stephanie Wagner, Founder

“As a kid, my uncle was always introducing me to new music and taking me to shows around the city, but the first major concert I can remember was at Brookhaven Amphitheater at Bald Hill (Now Long Island Community Hospital Amphitheater) with Jill Gioia, Nine Days and headliners: The B-52’s. I had to have been about 9 or 10 years old, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was on the 4th of July and my brother and I were pumped to catch the opening acts. Nine Days was an American rock band from Long Island, NY and my uncle would catch their shows in their early days out at Dublin Pub. From him listening to them for so long, my brother and I became fans at a really young age. I remember their hit song “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)” hitting the radio and my 4th grade self thinking… “I’ve been listening to this song for months… how is it just now getting popular?” It was truly my first taste of how the music industry worked, without really knowing it. As for Jill Gioia, she is still arguably one of the best vocalists I’ve ever heard. From following both Nine Days and Jill Gioia, I became fascinated with the music industry, rising acts, and their journeys.

It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered my love for country music which led me to establish NYCountry Swag, but live music, in general, has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I could have a career in the music industry, but it’s funny to look back at something like this now and realize how so many little happenings in my life all played a major role in getting me to where I am and what my company focuses on, without really knowing it at the time the kind of impact those moments would have.”

Christina Bosch, Managing Editor 

“My love for music goes WAY back before I ever attended a live concert but like many of the other writers, I was a huge boy band fan. I loved Backstreet Boys but my first live concert experience was *NSYNC at Nassau Coliseum with friends and my mom is the 7th grade. I just remember being so excited, knowing all of the words because of course, I had every single CD that they put out. Growing up as a dancer, I was fascinated with the choreography and the spectacle of it all.

As far as country music goes, I loved Shania Twain and of course, Garth Brooks but I got my first taste of a country music show when Rascal Flatts came to the city in 2010. Their showmanship, huge stage that stretched out into the pit and absolutely catchy songs had me hooked and just a few months later I was driving 15 hours to CMAFest in Nashville in 2011 to see all of the country artists that I would soon come to admire and love. Even now, going to concerts for a living, I am still in awe of the way a song or an artist can captivate a crowd and it makes me fall in love with my job each and every time. ”


Dylan Bestler, Contributing Writer

“Although country is my favorite genre, my favorite artist does not come from country. I have seen Imagine Dragons four times now, most recently at Radio City two weekends ago. They headlined my first ever show at Jones Beach in the summer of 2013. New to the concert format, I was unaware there were going to be three acts before them. When the second act came on (I don’t even remember who they were) it started raining and I was miserable.

When I finally think it’s time (Imagine Dragons pun) for them to go on, Senora Lanza took the stage instead to perform a 20 minute set. Senora Lanza consisted of Joe Gatto and Sal Vulcano from the now famous TV show “Impractical Jokers”. Looking back at it, the set was hilarious (I’m a huge fan of the show now) but in the moment I was very frustrated because we already waited two and a half hours and I was soaked. However, Imagine Dragons put on an incredible show like they always do to turn the night around. It’s crazy how one band or even one song can change your whole mood. Big concert guy now.”


Julia Grubbs, Contributing Writer

“It’s possible I might have been to a small concert before this, but not really one of my choosing, i.e. a possible Lynyrd Skynyrd concert when I was 7, but this is the first concert I actually planned to go to. My two best friends from college were going with me in Pittsburgh, and it was no less than an emotional experience. We tailgated outside of the Steelers stadium, where I competed in a pushup contest and won, and made it to see Lee Brice, Cole Swindell, and Dierks Bentley. Can you get any better? At this point, I had been listening to country for about two years, and was in love.
I just remember having the time of my life, sharing this with my best friends, loving Luke’s dancing and knowing every word to his songs. This started my real concert-going experience, later seeing Kenny Chesney, Thomas Rhett, Dierks Bentley, Sam Hunt, and following new artists such as Cale Dodds, Carson Beyer, and many more. I don’t think any concert will live up to that night, however, but I am willing to be proven wrong.”


Molly Holmberg, Contributing Writer

“My first concert experience was Justin Bieber when I was in 7th grade. He was still that young kid with the swooped haircut that made every girl fall in love. What I remember most about that concert was how much the music really impacted me. Not necessarily the lyrics or the songs themselves but just being around people that were fully engulfed in the music was something that I had never experienced before. Since then I have loved surrounding myself with people that love music, no matter what kind, as much as I do. Pulling out our favorite childhood songs, new artists, or lyrics always makes for a fun time with the people you love the most. Concerts have a unique way of pulling people together, no matter the size, for a of couple hours to celebrate something we are all passionate about and that is why I will continue to go to as many as I can.”


Abby Kaye-Phillips, Contributing Writer

“Growing up I would drive by our local arena every day on the way to school. After months of begging, my parents finally agreed to let me, my twin sister and our best friend at the time see Britney Spears on her Onyx Hotel Tour in 2004. I was 12 years old, but I remember so clearly planning our outfits weeks in advance, counting down the hours, and then screaming our heads off from the 15th row for the entire show. I had always loved music but I was blown away by the energy of the crowd, the spectacle of the stage and the lights, and how close we were to the action. My Britney stage may not have lasted long, but I’ll always credit her with my obsession with concerts!!”

Tricia Murdy, Contributing Writer

“When I was a kid I got to go to 2 concerts pretty close to each other and so I can’t remember which one was actually the first. One was Debbie Gibson and the other was New Kids on the Block – standard issue for a kid growing up in the 80s. I must have been 7 years old and was going through that phase where I had posters plastering my wall and almost everything I owned had one or all the New Kids on it. My mom had taken me to both concerts. The Debbie Gibson show was on the beach in Atlantic City, NJ at one of the resorts. It was not a very big crowd and we got to sit pretty close to the stage. I remember the sheer excitement of getting to see one of my favorite singers in person. The NKOTB show we had won tickets to from a local radio station. The radio station had been set up at the mall and you had to fill out an entry form to win. My mom must have filled out a hundred of those. They called on the phone to say we’d won. I remember feeling over the moon about winning and knowing we were going to get to go see the New Kids. This was a much different experience as the seats were in the nose bleeds and as a kid, it’s really hard to understand why you have to sit so far away and deal with it. I’m pretty sure I whined and cried most of the show because I couldn’t see. It was most definitely attending concerts at an early age that contributed to my love for music and my constant need for seeing it live. Throughout those younger years, I saw such a broad variety of artists with my parents. It truly instilled in me a great love and passion for music and concerts.”


Nicole Piering, Contributing Writer

“The first concert I ever attended was the Backstreet Boys at Nassau Coliseum when I was in middle school. I went with two of my best friends… and our dads! Our fathers weren’t sure about letting us attend a concert on our own so they braved the throngs of screaming teen and preteen girls and then were left to wonder why they were nervous about us going alone. We were typical middle school girls and wore homemade shirts and brought posters proclaiming our love for Nick Carter. This concert was still in the earliest days of the Backstreet Boys’ career, so their biggest hits at that time were “Quit Playing Games With My Heart,” “As Long As You Love Me,” And “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).”
I can remember loving the concert and the energy and would go on to attend quite a few more BSB shows, including one a few years later where they blew my mind by flying over the audience on giant surfboards. While I’m not sure that that BSB concert directly led me to my love of country music, it certainly opened up my eyes to that untouchable feeling that you can only experience at a live show. Due to that, I think I can safely thank Nick, Brian, A.J., Howie, and Kevin for my love of live music.”


Olivia Reese, Contributing Writer

“The first concert I attended was Carrie Underwood in August of 2006 at Musikfest. I was a huge fangirl since she was on American Idol and knew I had to go the minute it was announced. The concert took place in a park between a river and train tracks, so it was a super cool, untraditional place for a concert until a train went by and the show had to be temporarily stopped because it was so loud, which is such a unique memory to have from a concert. I was 11 at the time and couldn’t see much so I stood on my chair the entire show and had the time of my life. Ever since then all I have wanted to do is go to concerts and have succeeded in that endeavor and don’t plan on stopping any time soon.”

Sara Schonmann, Contributing Writer

“I’ve attended a lot of concerts in my life some of those to see an artist I’ve longed to see, just having fun with friends, or accompanying someone and expanding my music taste. When I was seven years old my first concert was a Hilary Duff, which I attended with my mom. No one can deny that the Lizzie McGuire movie didn’t make millennials (like myself) want to go on a spontaneous trip around Rome, but unfortunately, I do not remember much from that particular concert. However, what I did learn was that my mother has been the best plus one for concerts ever since. Fast forwarding ten years later my mom has introduced me to country music that I have loved ever since.

On June 4th, 2017 at Jones Beach theater I attended our first country concert which included performances by Kane Brown, Chris Young, and Jason Aldean. Before even entering the venue I was shocked at the unity country concerts have that all start with the tailgate. After seeing the amazing atmosphere from the parking lot I knew country concerts were going to be the most entertaining. While walking into the amphitheater I saw cowboy hats, boots, denim, and flannels being worn all around and everyone looks the same, but in their own unique way. After being blown away by the performances I knew this wouldn’t be my last time seeing them (since then I have seen Jason Aldean two more times!). While my first concert wasn’t a country concert I’ve never felt happier than at a concert with my mom. The unity that country music has on the everyday person makes these events even more special.”

Nicole Sellati, Contributing Writer

“My first concert experience was attending Arthur Ashe Kids day in 2007 to see the Jonas Brothers for the first time. I was 13 going on 14 and my parents bought me and my sister tickets as a birthday gift to celebrate. It was a day to never forget, I got to see my favorite band perform live and that was only just the beginning. I always say my love for music started with the Jonas Brothers and ever since then I’ve gone to countless shows, never going a month without a concert.”

Christine Sellers, Contributing Writer

“My first concert was back in 2006 when my parents took me to see Hilary Duff’s Still Most Wanted Tour in Atlantic City. I’d grown up watching Hilary Duff on Lizzie McGuire, which is what led me to her music. I considered her my favorite singer then, so I was really excited to finally go to one of her concerts.

The concert was in the summer, so my mom purposely scheduled our family vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey around it. I remember that it was on a Friday night and we all got dressed up and went to dinner beforehand. I also remember being completely awestruck as I watched Hilary perform.

Music and performing are two things I’ve always been fascinated by and getting to go to my first concert definitely gave me a greater appreciation for all the hard work that comes with making an album and planning a tour. It’s also an exhilarating experience to hear your favorite songs live after you’ve listened to them alone in your room or your car.

I’ve been to many other concerts since seeing Hilary Duff and I’ve truly enjoyed every single one. I look forward to going to concerts any chance I get.”

Julia Singer, Contributing Writer

“The first concert I ever attended was Taylor Swift’s Red Tour in 2013, and it completely changed my life. To be honest, as much as I loved Taylor Swift at the time, I was more excited to see Ed Sheeran as the opening act. My mom and I bought tickets for nosebleed seats at the Prudential Center the day of the show, and although the seats were nothing special, the overall experience took my breath away. Before Ed took the stage, Florida Georgia Line performed. This was right as “Cruise” took over the radio, so it was so exciting to hear them live (and maybe why I’ve seen them live 3 times since!)

When Ed hit the stage, my 13-year-old self completely lost it. I cried and screamed along to every song. Even though I was all the way in the back of the sold-out arena, seeing an artist I admired in person truly meant something to me. After Ed, Taylor took the stage and put on an extremely impressive show that I will never forget. It’s crazy to look back at this experience, as now I have been to over 50 shows and am studying the music business in school in hopes to one day work in live music. No matter the size or scope of the shows I go to now, I will always remember my first Taylor Swift concert and how it shaped my love for music.”

Danielle Tornatore, Contributing Writer

“My mom took me to my first concert when I was just five years old. Like everyone else in the late 90s/early 2000s, I was just a little girl obsessed with *NSYNC. I don’t remember every single detail but I remember being there with her and my aunt and I have memories of seeing the guys on stage. A few years later, they took me to see Britney Spears and I remember singing my little heart out. Little did she or I know, years later I would become obsessed with Justin Bieber and attend my first concert that I would remember in vivid detail. It was October 9th, 2009 in the Hofstra Dome at Hofstra University. I went with my best friend at the time and I remember that exhilarating feeling, that rush, as soon as he entered the stage and I’ve been chasing that same feeling since. I attend live shows at least once a month and they will never get old. Concerts are my happy place and a way to escape and get lost in the music.”

Jaclyn Tracy, Contributing Writer

“My first concert was the Jonas Brothers first major tour in 2009. I was in the 5th grade, a major fangirl and went with my mom. It was at Madison Square Garden and fans were lined up for blocks outside the arena with every type of Jonas Brother shirt and sign you could imagine. When they actually came out on stage it was a surreal feeling that I never felt before actually seeing a band that I listened to each day play live. Even though my ears were ringing for days after, ever since then I’ve grown such a love for live shows and try my best to make sure I can get to as many as possible because they are an experience that nothing compares to!”


Shanna Vitaliano, Contributing Writer

“Growing up, Shania Twain’s album Come On Over was on repeat in my house.  I can still remember my Dad telling me and my sister that he got us tickets to see her show in Trenton, NJ at the former Sovereign Bank Arena.  I was in fourth grade and my sister was in second grade, and we felt like the luckiest little girls around.  It was so much fun hearing all of the songs we would listen to as a family (“Man, I Feel Like A Woman!,” “From This Moment On”) and such a nice memory being introduced to country music early on.  It is definitely a concert that I will never forget!”


Erica Zisman, Contributing Writer

“Looking back, music was always a big part of my life growing up. I remember being 9 years old, and my parents surprised me with Avril Lavigne tickets. I don’t remember why I liked her so much, but I suppose it was because of the meaningful lyrics. I mean obviously, my life was really “complicated” in 4th grade.

Joking aside, I was mesmerized by my first concert experience. The show was at the Nassau Coliseum and I went with my mom and my best friend. I knew every song by heart and jammed out the entire show. I remember talking about and writing about it in my school journal for weeks to come afterward.

Although I don’t remember specific details anymore about the show, I’m sure it had an impact on my love for music and specifically, why I love country music. I’ve always been connected to singer-songwriters, who bare their souls through their music, and like I always say country music does it best.”


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