I just got back from a Northside Festival show at McCarren Park with Beach Fossils, The Thermals, Jens Lekman, and Of Montreal. Guess who I was most excited about seeing? It was just as great as I hoped - maybe even a little greater thanks to a couple surprises (How did I not know that The Thermals have a kickass lady bassist? Why did Jens Lekman have such an adorably tiny tambourine??)
I went by myself, which I've learned seems weird to some people. Sure, it's partially because I'm an introvert at heart and I'm fine doing lots of things alone (there's probably some deep psychological reason for this, related to a childhood spent talking to myself, but let's not broach that topic here). But it's also because I was tired of missing out: why should I skip doing something cool just because I have no one to go with me? Balls. I would rather do something cool alone than not do it at all.
I've pretty much got the show thing down to a science now so I thought, HEY, maybe if I share my own going-solo tips, someone else will feel empowered to pop their own going-to-shows-alone cherry! Trust me, it's painless:
1. Don't arrive too early. The hardest part to get used to is that lull before any bands start and you're just standing around. Of course, now that we all have the internet in our pockets, it's easy enough to stare into the glow of your phone to kill time, but that's no fun either. Unless you're there to see the opening act, plan to get there right when they've started playing.
2. Have a pee, get a drink, then stake out the best spot. I like to wait until the band right before the one I want to see starts playing (the... runner-up?) then get a drink, because the bar is usually less crowded by that point. Then I use the rest of the band's set to worm my way to the front. Because, yes, I like to be in the very very front. This is probably the best part of going to shows alone - standing wherever you goddam want to. This also gives you extra time to scope out the crowd and try to move away from any obnoxious teenage girls talking too loudly and wearing cat-face makeup (FYI: I was not successful in doing this at McCarren Park).
3. Drunk text your friends. Maybe you're still feeling lonely in between bands - it's OK! Use that time to tell your BFF about that girl in front of you with the horrible tattoo or how there's a hot pink amp on the stage or how this dude looks like someone you went on a date with and maybe it's actually him or wait, no, maybe it's not him, never mind. You can also be civil and just watch the band set up, but let's be real - you'll probably drunk text your friends.
4. Don't take photos or videos during the set. Yeah, I said it. OK, fine, FINE, let yourself take ONE photo of each set if you absolutely have to, but puh-lease don't spend the whole goddam show with your iPhone in the air recording a million shaky memories. It's never going to be as good as experiencing it with your own eyes and ears. Plus, Brooklyn Vegan or some other cool blog is going to post beautiful photos taken with beautiful cameras and you can just steal those. I mean... reuse them as needed with the appropriate credits given. Just listen to the music. Let it sink into your bones. Love it.
5. Dance like a fucking maniac if you want to. This is really a rule for any life situation, but is especially applicable here since your friends aren't there to make you self-conscious and you don't know any of these people around you so fuck them. I mean, be respectful of people's space and all that, but just DANCE. If you're lucky, the other cool people will dance with you.
6. Leave whenever you want. Maybe you're not a huge fan of the last band/song. Or maybe you just really really need a sandwich. Or maybe the teenager with the cat face keeps "accidentally" smash-dancing into you and you need to stop yourself from kicking her in the vag. No big deal - you can leave. You don't have to wait up for your friend who's chatting up the roadie or buying every piece of merch. That said...
6.5. Stay as long as you want. Maybe YOU want to buy every single piece of merch. Or maybe you just want to have another drink while the crowd thins out. Whatever you do, DO NOT attempt to talk to any band or artist unless you already know them personally or they approach you. I'm serious - not even if you can see them right over there and they look so friendly. (I should really write a companion piece to this called "Reasons You Should Never Talk to Your Heroes.") Just go when it's time to go and spend your journey home replaying all the best moments in your head. Eat your sandwich on the train if you want - it's OK because you're really fucking hungry and you earned it.
See? Not that hard! Tell me if my methods work for you and/or if you are a going-solo champ and you think I missed something.
(And to that girl with the cat-face paint who SAT ON THE GROUND during Jens' set: enjoy being sixteen while you can. Soon you'll realize people aren't looking at you because your ripped-up tights look so cool, they just want you to please move. I really hope the press got a picture of your dumb face with me looking surly behind you.)
And to Jens: you're the best. Always. Thanks for coming back to Brooklyn.