Taken from issue 6 of Shrieking Violet fanzine:
You like music. I like music. We all like music. Your friends definitely like music. But sometimes, they like pretty awful stuff. I know people who actually enjoy Hard-Fi, for instance. That isn’t good, but usually these people have other perks, like being able to make an awesome cup of tea or having a car, so you ignore the fact that they’re seriously excited by the idea of a new Coldplay record and let the hate boil inside of you whilst they talk about Chris Martin.
On the flip side, they might think you’ve got pretty awful taste. I mean, compared to ‘Yellow’, what have Herman Dune ever done, right? And just as you’d never step foot into an arena where U2 were playing, your friends might not want to go and see some New York band that’s only put out a 7” on woodsiest. So what do you do? You can’t stay home, so you’ve got to go alone. To a gig. Where there will be other people, all likely to be watching you, making a note of your every move and laughing to their friends about how much of a loner you are. What do you do?
First of all, calm down. Going to a gig by yourself isn’t the painfest that you imagine on the bus there. It can be, if you want, but as long as you follow a few rules, it’s a pretty easy thing to get through. The best thing to do is to minimise your time there. A few years ago, I really wanted to see Be Your Own Pet, but everyone else was going to see The Sunshine Underground. I agreed to get the bus with them – at about half past 6, which meant I was at an empty venue for doors. Unless you really want to see the support bands, try not to get there until you think the main act is going to be on. Good Shoes were supporting that night, but no amount of ‘Photos on my wall’ is worth standing about on a deserted dance floor with a rapidly warming pint of cider for 3 hours.
Once you’re there, you need a plan to waste your own time. This is one of the only ways in which smoking is a bonus, as it gives you something to do in-between acts, and makes you look like you’re actively involved with something (i.e. killing yourself) whilst the bands set up. If you’re one of the many people who fear lung, throat and mouth cancer, then fear not. There are lots of other things you can do to make the time drip away. One important thing to note is that taking your own props might seem like a good idea, but reading a newspaper at a gig only makes you look self-important and whilst scanning a book in a quiet corner may have its advantages, it’s a brave move, and this is ultimately a guide for the cowardly.
The most obvious one is to use your phone. The beauty of this is that it can make you look like you’re texting or speaking to friends who are on their way to the venue, which
allays the imaginary criticism that the fictional characters in your mind level at you that you may have no friends whatsoever. However, try not to be too dependent upon this, as it can make you look desperate and feel isolated. The fact is that many venues being underground and whatnot can pretty much destroy a phones signal, meaning your plans to live-blog through your blackberry may be doomed from the start. Also, there’s nothing more embarrassing than having to hide your phone when someone’s walking past because you’re trying to beat your high score on ‘Snake’.
It might be advisable to drink – preferably whilst the bands are on. If you’re not one for alcoholic beverages, simply get yourself a water or, as I prefer, a cordial. This gives your hands something to do whilst the bands themselves are on, but more importantly, can waste time when they’re not. You’d be surprised how long can be wasted in a venues toilets, both queuing and actually, you know, using them. They’re destined to be grotty, granted, but it can be a lot better than standing at the back, looking edgily over at groups of lads to see if they’re pointing and laughing.
Of course, you can almost use the fact that there are other people at the venue to your advantage. If you can, sidle up to a group of people, and position yourself in a manner that means that, too outsiders, it might look like you’re joining in with the conversion. It is crucial to note that at no point should you ever join in with them. This will only lead to humiliation and the group slowly inching away from you, leaving you without cover, the cold winds of society free to blow you down.
In some circumstance, there’s no other option than to go nuclear. Though you’re sad to be at a gig by yourself, it’s better than being there with someone you hate. In these situations, fate always conspires to work against you and, lo and behold, over a crowded room you see… well, someone like an old school friend or a colleague or someone from Facebook that you don’t really know or ANYONE who you hate. Panic sets in.
But in the face of adversity comes triumph, innovation and complete and utter shame. Venues are usually quite small, languid affairs, made up of a black box room and some speakers. This means that you will likely need to GET OUT OF THERE, QUICKLY. If you’ve got money, this is the perfect time to nip to a corner shop and spend twenty minutes looking around before buying yourself a Wham bar. There’s also the increasingly ridiculous tracing your route home method, which can be anything from walking to the bus-stop and back to seeing how far you dare get back to your flat. It’s pointless, mind-numbing and likely to make you cold, but at least it’s not awkward conversation, right?
Above all, make sure that you return in time to see the band that you’ve paid money and taken the time and effort to see. Aimlessly wondering the streets, going to the bathroom and scouring corner shops might be fun, but it’s nothing compared to a gig. Whilst the band are on is when you don’t really have to care about anything other than yourself – but make sure not to dance like a dick, okay? And don’t throw your hands in the air or sing along – but these are rules that should be obeyed whether you’re alone or in a group of forty.
Of course, you could always go to a venue and try and make new friends. But I would much rather be stood alone on street corners outside venues, slowly checking my money on an ATM machine, shivering than risking the chance of appearing creepy to a bunch of strangers.