A few times in a blue moon, I get asked which of the shows I’ve been to is my favorite. I have an embarrassingly hard time recollecting a lot of things, I Shazam some of my favorite songs and often find myself forgetting the word “ladle.” For a host of these, I can blame missing a few lessons on basic classifications — I think I missed a few very important days of first grade.
In terms of concerts and music, I’m equally forgetful, but for different reasons than them simply slipping my mind. I’ve thought about it for a long time, and have come to a few points of understanding, all of which have to do with my experiences alongside other people. So what do I mean?
Somewhere, in between the daguerreotype and HUF 5 Panel, we, as a collective humanity, quietly cultivated this very specific idea of what it means to be social — what it means to enjoy yourself in the company of other people. That’s not to say everyone follows a blanketed mantra of living, but there became a certain expectation of the self that emerged as more humans began to interact with one another and live through shared experiences and shared interests.
If I really focus my memory on the concerts I’ve been to, I find that, in many cases, I spent a disconcerting amount of time thinking of the people around me — squinting to anticipate their reactions or hoping they wouldn’t ask me to go on a bathroom trip with them. Or sometimes wishing they would but not wanting to ask first. I spent too much time worrying that the people around me weren’t having fun or weren’t happy or feeling stifled by a need to maintain a social situation and accommodate unrealistic expectations, often times second-guessing my own.
Sometimes, concerts felt like another venue for which to go through the banal motions of life. Seeing bands I felt so unbelievably close to started to play second fiddle to upholding some random, immaterial “aesthetic” of perfectly chopped baby bangs, ’90s revival chokers and that one backpack everybody has.
Everyone feels the weight of human interaction to their own personal degree, but the point is that music, specifically, musical events, are extremely susceptible to this kind of disembodied social stress. A core part of that sometimes rests on how difficult it has become — and how unprepared we are — to be alone, devoid of all crutches.
There’s something quietly sublime in being alone, something so truly empowering in acting exactly, with intention, as you want, in doing exactly what you feel in a moment, independent of anything or anyone. And acting earnestly doesn’t mean disregarding the rights or feelings of other people. It’s just learning the subtle importance of peeling yourself away to be fully you when you feel you need it most. So much of our lives are spent acting subordinate to some inanely looming idea of being “trendy” or the dozen other misguided marks of social virtue.
Nothing is or isn’t, though. Some of my favorite concerts were spent dancing wildly for hours with my best friends. But a few of them were spent alone, hands free of any buffer, totally submerged in the drummer’s unearthly dexterity. In no way am I concerned with dictating or setting some dogma for how other people define quality or happiness, all I want to emphasize is the utter importance of feeling okay just being. Concerts are wonderful as shared experiences, but taking them to a certain social extremity and warping their roles to fit a diluted space where the only concern is to “see and be seen” fogs an experience that could be really magical.
Next time you’re deciding on a concert you want to go to, just go. Even if your friends or your ride bails. Just go. “Bob’s Burgers” can wait. You don’t even have to talk to anyone. Just go and be. And I promise to do the same.