I’m not averse to doing things alone. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy the peace and quiet of my own company. Over the last few years, I’ve even mustered up the bravery to catch long-haul flights on my own, study abroad in America for a semester and move to a different city by myself for a new job. Twice. But bizarrely, I’ve never had the courage to go to a gig alone.
It’s strange that as a society we have decided there are certain times when being on your own makes perfect sense and other moments when it is considered a little sad. For example, snuggling up on the sofa alone and watching a film is completely understandable, but going out to watch a new release at the cinema by yourself is a bit weird. Dinner for one at home is definitely normal, but eating out on your own? Not so much.
I’ll admit, I’ve never been to a restaurant by myself either and the thought of doing so still makes me feel a bit funny. Will people stare at me and wonder whether I have any friends? What if the waiter thinks I’m meeting someone and I’ve been stood up? I just have these visions of looking like Ross Gellar in that episode of Friends where the restaurant staff start taking bets on how long he’ll wait at his table for the date that never comes.
And this same feeling is exactly why I’ve also passed up on seeing some great artists perform live in the past, for fear of having to ride solo if no-one wanted to go with me. Once, I actually paid for a friend’s ticket to a show, knowing that he had no real clue who the rapper performing was, just so that I had the comfort of someone standing beside me in the venue for two hours. Because going to a gig on your own is something else that we’ve decided is quite unnerving, right?
Well, recently I decided to throw caution to the wind and I bought a ticket to see Chicago-hailing rapper Common perform in Manchester. Just one ticket. To be honest, I had no other option. Since moving from London up North earlier this year, I’ve left behind practically all of my hip-hop loving friends that I would usually attend gigs with and it’s just not feasible for me to keep going all the way back down to the capital to be with them on a weekday night at XOYO. So when I noticed that Common had a Manchester stop on his UK tour this month, and since I’ve been waiting for him to visit this side of the pond for foreverrr, I knew I had to go no matter what.
I won’t pretend that I wasn’t weirdly nervous beforehand. I spent the entire day leading up to the gig simultaneously trying to psyche myself up, while also contemplating whether I could be bothered. But in the end, the thought of chickening out (and of losing the £30 I’d already spent on the ticket) willed me to get up and go. And as cliché as it sounds, the experience turned out to be pretty liberating.
Entering the venue was definitely the most intimidating part of the evening. I arrived an hour early, while the DJ was spinning old Biggie and Nas tracks to get the crowd warmed up, and I had no clue where to stand or what to do. So I headed straight to the bar (obvs), bought a drink and then perched myself at the very front of the stage, literally cheek to cheek with the security guard. Then I relaxed. Contrary to how I felt, there was not a giant sign above my head informing everyone in the venue that I was alone and believe it or not, no-one else at the gig even noticed or cared that I didn’t come with a group of girl friends. The other fans were too engulfed in their own conversations and the music to be concerned about who came with who.
Soon after I bagged my place up front (which I definitely secured because there was only room for one person to fit) the lady to my right asked if I was by myself. “F*ck, someone has noticed,” I thought. But really, she only enquired because her maternal instinct immediately wanted to make me feel welcome in her two-man gang.
The lady had come to the show with her 17-year-old daughter, who clearly wasn’t much of a Common fan and was more concerned with looking cool to the older emo guys stood behind her. So instead, the Mum bonded with me, joking about how she was determined to make the rapper notice her somehow during his set. She even told me to check out an up and coming hip-hop group based in Manchester that she thought I might like. I never would’ve had this conversation or even acknowledged her had I come with my friends.
Once the show began and Common came out, I instantly breathed a sigh of relief. I’d gotten over the hardest hurdle and now I could truly enjoy myself. Because when you’re at a concert, you barely pay attention to your mates when the artist is performing. You get lost in the music and the sea of fans surrounding you all become your friends. It’s actually impossible to feel alone.
I danced, I sang, I rapped, I waved – all in unison with the people around me. I didn’t feel weird or sad that I wasn’t sharing the moment with someone I knew personally, because I was sharing it with the people in Manchester, the ones that actually wanted to be there because they have the same appreciation for Common’s music as I do.
After the set ended, I said “Goodbye” to my new 39-year-old BFF and her daughter and headed straight home, high off the songs I’d finally got the chance to hear live and the success of my first solo mission to a gig. It definitely left me with a real sense of achievement, a reminder that the fear of leaving your comfort zone should never stop you from trying something new.
If you want to go somewhere, go. Don’t wait for someone to go with because they may never want to and in the meantime, you’re the one missing out.
Next mission: a table for one at Café Rouge. Maybe.
Have you ever been to a gig alone? Are you strangely freaked out at the thought of it? Let me know by commenting or tweet me: @natashananner