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(Credit: Ryan Arnst)

Music | Opinion

Hear Me Out: It's better to go to gigs alone

To some people, even the thought of attending a gig on their Jack Jones is entirely unthinkable and embarrassing. My romantic image of the music venue is one of a cosy pub with a band playing and singing their hearts out on stage while wide-eyed moshers mosh or lovers sway, depending on the type of music. While going out to see one’s favourite band with a partner or a gaggle of friends is a perfect way to spend a Friday night, in my humble opinion, the experience can often be enhanced with just a touch of loneliness. 

Indeed, some of you may have mulled over the different types of music and deduced that an evening with a techno DJ might best be attended with friendly company and lots of energy. I, too, am party to that sentiment; I’m not sure I could face dancing with myself, as appealing as Billy Idol might make that seem. So, as a little disclaimer, my argument here is that solo gigs can be among the most rewarding, but the vibe of the evening must be congruent. 

Far too often, I find myself at a gig, fully immersed in a highly anticipated live act, when, to my bemusement, some disrespectful, loquacious lout is gassing their way through the most delicate and sentimental moment of a song. This odious behaviour is tantamount to rustling a packet of crisps or answering a phone call in the cinema. If I were better built or more confident, I might have a dunking stool at the ready for such people. Alas, I’m a slave to British reticence, and I stand there simmering. 

As I simmer, I wonder, if the true fan of the group had come alone and left their ostensibly impartial friends at home, wouldn’t they be spared looking around with that meek, apologetic expression at the red-faced bystanders like myself? And would they not instead be able to listen to the artist they paid to see?

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For me, it makes perfect sense to attend a gig alone if I have friends I fear might not be quite so absorbed in the act. Of course, not everyone has the gall to raise their voice, so their important conversation can be heard over the racket coming from the stage, but attending gigs alone can also introduce you to like-minded people. If, for example, you’re a huge fan of a niche Colombian Shoegaze act that you’ve tried in vain to introduce to your obstinate (and possibly very chatty) friends, then why not go alone? 

Just like those sickeningly optimistic youths that set off to find themselves on a gap year in South-East Asia, you will give yourself a much stronger chance of socialising with new people if you go as a solo agent. My previous comments might appear to contradict the thought of socialising at a music event; on the contrary, I love the opportunity to speak to like-minded people and have a few social pints. The only rule is to ensure your chatter is kept to the intervals, if only for the sake of my blood pressure. 

For those who have been lucky enough to enjoy live music without distracting gasbags and have a music taste that harmoniously aligns with that of their friends, I still urge you to humour a solo gig. Even standing in total silence with a friend or two to behold a breathtaking band, thoughts still seem to wonder… whose round is it next? Where will we go after this? I hope they’re enjoying this as much as I said they would. 

On the handful of occasions I’ve attended local gigs on a solo mission – usually on a boring weekday night – I have always enjoyed the most liberating and absorbing experience. Without the pressure to entertain or socialise, one can become thoroughly transfixed by the music as it fills your consciousness and puts all worries on hold — after all, isn’t that what music is all about?

Perhaps not. Perhaps you think I’m a lunatic music fanatic hellbent on castigating noisy members of the audience — and you could be half-right. However, a recent study conducted by Bandsintown in the US found that 80% of live concert attendees believe attending gigs alone sounds like an enjoyable experience. The data, collected from a sample of 1,106 music fans, also found that 34% of respondents had plans to go solo to a gig in the next 12 months. 

As we touched upon earlier, the survey concluded that solo gig attendance rates vary wildly depending on genre. While 13% of rock fans, and 10% of country fans, said they would happily go solo, only one per cent of dance music fans said they would humour a solo shuffle. 

Bandsintown also discovered a notable rise in solo concert attendance since before the Covid-19 pandemic, with up to 70% of respondents having attended a show alone in the past 12 months. So, with that in mind, it seems there’s no time like the present to give the lonely concert a whirl; you won’t be the only one.

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