We’ve all been there. You’re standing in the crowd at some darkly lit band’s show and you can’t shake the feeling that everyone around you is looking at you. Maybe your friend has gone to the bar or the toilet between sets, but somehow you’ve found yourself feeling solo and self-conscious in public.
If you’re someone who’s felt the need to make the ‘fake phone call’, or you’ve tried your hardest to look like you’re waiting for a friend to arrive when you’re actually alone then this one's for you.
If you know me personally, you know my musical taste is pretty eclectic. I’ve been known to bust out the entirety of Jay-Z’s 99-Problems at Karaoke, but also to head bang my way through the emo soundtracks of my youth at a house party.
There’s so many bands and artists to love, and I spend a lot of time finding them, obsessing over them and being absolutely devastated when my friends don’t want to come with me to see some tiny Melbourne punk band they’ve never heard of at The Corner Hotel on a Wednesday night.
So what’s a girl to do when this is the case? I had to either learn to embrace the solo-gig or sit at home looking through the band’s Instagram, my FOMO growing bigger with every insta story they post.
Way back in 2016, one of my favourite artists announced they were coming to Melbourne to play the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. I was so excited. I reached out to all my friends to ask if they wanted to come with me, I sent them track after track in the hopes they’d fall in love with them too and was understandably disappointed when no one shared my obsession in time to buy tickets.
Being too nervous to go alone, I missed the concert and sat at home. It was this silly decision four years ago that made me decide to get comfortable in my own skin and to stop needing others to have fun at gigs.
It’s four years on, and that band are only just now returning to Australia (and you bet your bottom dollar I am going, solo).
So learn from my mistakes and get comfy in your own skin now, before you have to wait four years to catch your fave band’s return trip.
How I embraced the solo-gig:
1. Start off slow to the solo life
Nothing is easy when you jump in the deep end. Getting used to being comfortable in your own company is a tough thing to do all at once.
I started with a simple trip to the park. I took a book, a snack and my picnic rug and I set a timer for an hour.
I promised myself I’d make it through the hour no matter how many dog walkers passed me or how many couples set up nearby for a picnic and a public snog. And once I made it, I doubled it. And I kept going until I didn’t need a timer. Just me, my book and the sunshine.
Find somewhere you like going and commit to going alone.
2. Go to public places you’re supposed to be quiet in
Once I had made it through my fear of the park, I set my sights on a more public goal.
I took myself to a gallery on a Saturday all by myself and took my time looking at the art. At a gallery there’s no pressure to be making conversation or interacting, you’re all there to look at art, and that’s it. No pretences.
When I’d finished walking through the gallery I sat in the middle and people watched for a while. I realised most people were paying more attention to the art than those around them, and I felt silly thinking I was more interesting than the work of artists like Van Gogh or Andy Warhol.
3. You’ll probably fail to show up solo at some point, so buy tickets to smaller shows first
It’s much easier to bail when you’ve only shelled out $20 for a ticket. And if your pre-show anxiety means you don’t make it out your front door at least you know that the small local band still felt the impact of your purchase.
I’m not going to lie, there’s probably five or so tickets I’ve bought for shows I never went to. It’s tough to make it off the couch and across town when no one knows if you… just don’t.
Here’s my mathematics on the value of starting with small bands:
Smaller band = smaller venue = smaller amount of people seeing you out solo.
And on the flip side, you can see the smiles on the faces of the band and the energy when you show up to support them. They're the ones that you’ll never regret making it to a show for. So, get ready to share the love with the small bands. I just know you won’t regret it.
4. You don’t have to get drunk to enjoy yourself
One of my favourite parts of going solo to gigs now is there’s no pressure to get drunk.
This one took me too long to realise. Liquid courage seems like the easiest way to get through a gig by yourself, but it’s one of the most unnecessary times in your life you’ll get drunk.
Getting f**ked up solo will always end up drawing more attention to you and you probably won’t remember the show the next day, which is definitely not the goal.
So take a moment. Think about it. You didn’t buy anyone’s ticket and they’re “paying you back in beers”. You didn’t meet anyone before the show for some pre’s at the bar before the support act starts.
Save some coin and save yourself from a headache the next morning. As fun as beers with the boys are, realise you don’t need a beer blanket to feel confident in the crowd. If you do want to have a couple, go for it! But do it for yourself, not to give you something to do while you wait between sets.
5. Drive yourself to a gig
Now this is the real benefit to riding solo. You’re sober, you don’t need to meet up with anyone before the show and you don’t have to go clubbing after. Take advantage of the situation.
There’s nothing more wonderful than driving to and from a gig. You don’t have to leave until the last minute because you’re not dependent on the tram timetable and you’ll feel like you’ve hacked the whole damn system when everyone stumbles out the door after encore, the Uber rate is surging and there’s 100 people waiting for an already packed train to the city.
Your knight in shining armour is waiting, parked around the corner. Hop in, blast your music loud and turn the heater (or the aircon) up. Ride home in style you amazing confident gig-goer, you deserve it.
6. Meet a new friend with similar music taste
Finally, the kicker. Realise everyone at the gig has something in common. You all love the same songs, you all love the band or artist you’re seeing. Go say hi to someone else that’s solo. Strike up a convo about the band in the line for the toilets.
You never know who you might meet.
Enjoy gigs with your friends whenever you can. Just promise me you’ll never miss out on something you want because you’re the only one that wants it.
Be confident, buy those tickets, and live your best life. You deserve every damn memory you want to make.