Remember the feeling of the first day of school? That aching, paralysing sense of fear and isolation that engulfed your child-self? Some of us may have been able to convert that into a spark of excitement for the unknown, but the sentiment of walking into the unknown alone remained for most. Suddenly you are a thousand times more self-conscious, weighing up every decision, move and action like the general crowd is your audience. You lose focus on what is happening then and there, and tremble in your “you’ll-grow-into-them” shoes.
It’s this fear that still finds itself in many a new experience in our lives, none more so than going to a gig alone. And how couldn’t it be? Sure, there are thousands of others inside a club or concert hall, but just like the schoolyard they are divided into cliques and groups, offering to the outsider a sense of pretentious superiority that supersedes the communal reason for all of you to be there. You are not one of them, so why should you bother being here? There appears, then, to be an ingrained social anxiety with confronting a crowd as large as these alone.
“As cliché as it sounds, the power of music, and of live music at that, is that it can bring people together in ways unseen anywhere else.”
All too often, this sense can control our motivations for attending a show, even to the point of cancellation. “I didn’t go because I had no-one to go with” is a common cry on social networks when someone you know doesn’t go to Their Favourite Band’s show. But while they may fear the crowd, you could argue that they are missing the point entirely: the show itself.
As cliché as it sounds, the power of music, and of live music at that, is that it can bring people together in ways unseen anywhere else. Where you may be strangers in a crowd at a concert hall or festival one minute, the next you are in each other’s warm embrace singing along to the act on-stage. Take Madness’ 2007 Glastonbury Festival slot, where they broke the world record for the most people kissing at once; no doubt that not everyone (I’d even say 50%) of the 12500 couples present didn’t have a clue who the other person was prior to Suggs getting them to pucker up. And really, what better way to break the social ice than with a band that you and someone else both find mutually interesting.
“You are there to see a performance, first and foremost, and once you focus your energy on watching and enjoying what is going on on-stage suddenly that fear dissolves into euphoria.”
Friendships and random hook-ups brought upon by musicians aside, it seems contrived to worry about the social aspect of a show when you will spend most of the time blanketed in darkness amongst a large throng of people. That is, no-one will notice, because they literally can’t. You are there to see a performance, first and foremost, and once you focus your energy on watching and enjoying what is going on on-stage suddenly that fear dissolves into euphoria.
Just like in that first day of school, there was a point for all of us that the fear that dragged us down dissipated. It may have been a lesson in class, a discovery in the playground or a new friend made. While we do have the choice now, as adults, to stay at home or do something else, little changes from the schoolyard to now. When you go to a concert alone, you are taking a risk, but it’s one for the music you love. You place yourself in a socially vulnerable position so that you can feel something, new, different or strange. And more often than not, you leave with an experience you would have never encountered had you stayed home.