Is it sad to go to gigs alone?

I also go to the cinema alone – is that sad too?

This man sits alone

This man sits alone

I like going to the movies, and I occasionally go alone because it can be hard to get someone to pay over 10 pounds to spend two hours of their time watching something they unsure about in the first place. Maybe IMAX or 3D can get some people out there, but that’s cool, I get it. Movies require a time commitment, not to mention a decent amount of cash these days.

Proclaiming that I attend movies by myself isn’t meant as a grand statement about my level of cinephilia, or lack of concern with social norms, though if it is to be construed that way, I won’t object. I do like my movies, but I certainly am no expert. Also, like most people, I like to avoid awkward social situations which may involve me being pegged as a social pariah. But even the most insecure person needn’t worry about going to the cinema alone. I’m not revealing anything new by pointing out that watching a film is not the most sociable of activities (at least in the West – I once tried to watch a Bollywood film in India while pretty much the entire audience chatted amongst themselves, the man behind me bellowed into his mobile phone…snacks were also hurled across the room…but I digress). It is therefore not a big deal to buy a ticket and sit in a dark silent room for a couple of hours. People may expect you to be accompanied, but if they even notice you at all, it will be for a minute or two before and after the film. I think most people can handle that level of scrutiny.

Logic then, coupled with the findings of the informal poll (Gchat) I’ve conducted with friends (they think it’s fine) lead me to the conclusion that going to the cinema by oneself is generally considered as socially acceptable. As a rule, people don’t assume you’re a outcast for doing it. For those who remain unconvinced, the discrete nature of the venue is a safe setting where one runs little risk of being found out.

Apparently the same is not thought to be true about going to gigs alone, however. I discovered this harsh reality while informally polling friends once again more recently.

I first thought about attending a concert alone not too long ago – I saw that rapper Le1f is to be performing in town in June. I’ve only heard one or two of his songs, and am not a die hard Das Racist fan. But in keeping with my birthday resolution to start going to more shows, I figured that it could be a fun one to go to. When I sent a few messages out inviting friends to go, there was a pretty blatant lack of interest. So “fuck it!” I thought. I’m an adult. I pay rent and utilities! I know what I want.

I went online, added a ticket to a basket and started entering my bank details. This, the more I thought about it, would be quite the statement when compared to solo film attendance. It’s not that I thought attending a concert by myself was socially unconventional per se, but perhaps just a little more daring then booking a single ticket to the local Odeon. I was proudly telling my friend over Gchat about my commitment to the art, and growing indifference about the opinion of others whilst buying my ticket when he attacked my decision with a “dude, that’s weird”.

I was somewhat surprised by his dismissiveness, especially given his passion and dedication to seeing live music. I asked around, and it seemed everyone agreed – going to a gig alone is seen, amongst my, for all intents and purposes, self realized adult friends, as sad.

I wondered why is it seen as weird for me to attend an artist’s musical performance by myself. While an arguably more social event than going to the movies – alcohol is consumed, and there is an opportunity for swaying/dancing – doesn’t my commitment to the music trump all that? Apparently not: “I dunno, it’s just kind of lame”.

This all leads me to believe that it is only acceptable to attend cultural events solo if you can creep around in the dark without anyone seeing your face. That’s very limiting. You can make out people’s features at most social gatherings, let alone cultural ones. I can’t think of very many other activities than the cinema that involve said dim lighting, with the exception of dark rooms of the nightclub/bathhouse variety.

But then I wonder, for whose benefit should I refrain from attending a concert alone – if I’m ok with it, then maybe it’s that we make other people uncomfortable when we go to events without a date. Maybe my laissez-faire attitude would make others question the merit of seeking out friends and loved ones to accompany them to shows. Or maybe they’d think I was an important art critic and feel intimidated and threatened in my presence.

Clearly I was overthinking it all. Why again, would going to a gig alone be perceived as sad? My friend Dean put it succinctly:

maybe it’s simply because movies aren’t cool
and gigs are
and not having mates isn’t cool
also, gigs are more scene

That actually helps.


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