Dancing on my own: In defence of going to concerts alone
After a round of rejections from within my social circle, I knew that I had to do the unthinkable and face a general admission crowd alone.
In January I had an out-of-body experience. From high above I saw myself, standing in the middle of a sweaty crowd at Hordern Pavillion, but completely alone. Around me, people laughed with their friends and danced to Mariah Carey’s Heartbreaker as we awaited the headline act for the night. With no reception and no one to turn to, I was forced to stand in place and revel in the loneliness of the moment.
There’s a brave validation that one grants oneself for completing an ordinarily social task unaccompanied. Not to brag, but I am quite good at doing things by myself (there’s the aforementioned validation in action!). Having travelled solo, I’ve conquered most activities that are socially taboo to do alone: movies, restaurants, clubs, you name it. But live music has always evaded me and felt like something I could only enjoy with friends.
I love concerts. They are uniquely social events, and I have loved deepening friendships over the shared passion for a musical act. To this end, I’ve never dared to attempt one on my own, but late last year I moved from Melbourne to Sydney and in doing so lost my network of concert lovers and people with just as questionable taste as me.
But live music is my thing, so when queer R&B legend Kehlani announced their Australian tour, I simply had to buy a ticket. I assumed that I would easily find a companion, but a quick survey of my social circle turned up short. The date was fast approaching and I considered bailing. It took one listen to Kehlani’s seminal masterpiece “Nights Like This” and I knew that I had to do the unthinkable and face a general admission crowd alone.
When telling coworkers and friends that I was going to the show, I fell into a web of lies about why no one was joining me. My creative flair had me spinning a new story every time —“a friend pulled out last minute”, or “I won the ticket so I thought I’d check it out!”, or “Kehlani is actually an old friend of mine, we go way back”. I hate to say it, but I felt a sense of shame and embarrassment.
All that awkwardness faded away when Kehlani took to the stage. As the lights went down, I was no longer acutely aware of myself or the people around me. For the next 90 minutes, I danced, I laughed, and I cried with reckless abandon. The last time I saw Kehlani live was during the marriage equality debate in 2017, and they spoke with wisdom about protecting your heart from negativity. This time, as they sang Open (Passionate), I felt as though they were personally consoling me about the trials and tribulations of my love life. At that moment I felt connected to the person on stage in a way that I never have in a group setting. It was just me and Kehlani. One-on-one.
Because I’m a nerd, I had to validate if my positive experience was common. So I conducted a short-term empirical research study, and posted a poll on my Instagram story. The findings were as follows: 67% of respondents indicated that they would happily go to a concert alone, yet only 34% said that they actually had done so. For all the worry, what I did wasn’t that weird after all. If I had an unhealthy attachment to live music before, just wait to see how unhinged my future will be.
Friends, if you’ve come this far and still aren’t convinced, I implore you to try it for yourself. And don’t forget to say hello, odds are that I’ll probably be there, dancing alone too.