43: Solo Gig

43: Solo Gig

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Solo Gig

Alone time is when I distance myself from the voices of the world so I can hear my own.

~Oprah Winfrey

A flier was stapled to the telephone pole by the Q76 bus stop. It featured a grainy photo of a rock band, a hand-drawn logo, and some information about an upcoming gig. The group was probably a bunch of high school students who played cover songs, but I was thrilled to see their flier. To me, and to my enthusiastic twelve-year-old mind, it represented possibilities.

I’d grown up with my mother’s albums — a colorful cornucopia of ’60s and ’70s rock and folk — but I had my own musical style. I’d started to refine it when I was in elementary school. When I’d stayed up late one night, I’d spotted a new band, Guns N’ Roses, on MTV. They weren’t yet superstars, but they were already in the press, and I’d followed their activities with an almost religious fervor. Guns N’ Roses had opened the door to an entirely new and novel world for me, and they had helped me expand my horizons. I’d started reading Rolling Stone magazine when Axl Rose appeared on the cover, for instance, but I’d kept reading it whenever I could because it was fascinating.

There was one impediment to my budding career as a rock aficionada: I never got to see any of my favorite bands perform in concert. The arena shows were just too expensive, and the club gigs were off limits due to my age. My mother once took me to CBGB during the day so I could see what it looked like, but there was no way she was going to let me set foot inside that club, or any other, at night. In hindsight, I suppose I can grudgingly admit that she was being a responsible parent, and that as a twelve-year-old I would have been out of place at the Limelight, but it stung at the time.

This band flier, though, seemed like a breakthrough. The venue was the fellowship hall of a local church. The tickets were cheap. It was in the neighborhood. Best of all, there wasn’t any age limit.

My mother agreed that I could attend the concert… on the condition that I went with a friend. The trouble was — and maybe she knew this, and was being sneaky — that nobody I knew was able to accompany me. I asked friends and classmates at school and at dance class; I broached the idea with my neighborhood pals and my best friend. In desperation, I even asked the acquaintances who waited for the bus with me. Most of them wrinkled their noses at the very idea. They were into New Kids on the Block and the like; they detested my music and I loathed theirs. The few friends who were receptive were unable to get their parents to agree to it.

That meant that I couldn’t go either, because Mum wouldn’t budge. No friend… no show. On the night of the gig, I slumped morosely on my bed at home. I opened my journal and wrote a screed about the unfairness of it all. I drew a picture of myself crying. It didn’t even dawn on me that I might not have cared for the music; I was bereft about missing a real concert.

I also made a promise to myself: when I had things my way, I would not allow other people to dictate what I was able to do. If my friends didn’t want to go to a concert, a museum, a play or any other event, I would go alone. The idea of flying solo did not faze me, and I didn’t see why I should let other people’s reluctance to participate hold me back.

As I grew up, I had many opportunities to follow through on this resolution. Throughout high school and college I attended plenty of concerts with friends, of course. We went to talk shows and Broadway musicals and took advantage of all New York had to offer. However, I also struck out on my own on a regular basis. I decided, on the spur of the moment, to check out off-Broadway plays and performance pieces. When Zucchero, a famous Italian rock star, played at the Beacon, I didn’t even ask anyone to go with me; I simply booked myself a fabulous ticket and went alone. I had a wonderful time. By the time I was twenty-one, I was entirely comfortable doing everything and anything by myself. I traveled around the world, ate in restaurants, and went to amusement parks alone. I was amazed by how much my perspective changed — for the better — when I could focus on the sights and sounds around me, and not have to worry about anyone else.

In 2006, my love of music returned in force, and I started going to concerts again. Ninety-nine percent of them were solo ventures. I discovered that even when I was alone at the gigs, I could have as much — or as little — interaction with others as I wanted. At some shows, I chatted with my neighbors. At others, I didn’t talk to anyone. Whatever I decided to do, I minded my safety and had a wonderful time. When you’re on your own at a concert, you have a chance to really explore the environment and learn from it. In a lot of ways, it’s better than going with friends.

When I was alone, for some reason, I had a knack for falling into interesting situations. Often, I inadvertently got up close and personal with the bands. When the B-52s played a small club in New York, for instance, I accidentally ended up in the VIP area and watched the concert with the Bs’ friends and spouses. At a Cure show, I somehow managed to get backstage when I was only trying to get from one level of the venue to another, and spent a panicked five minutes trying to find my way out again. After a performance by The Cult in Boston, I decided to wait around to meet the band. When Ian Astbury finally emerged from the theater, I was too tongue-tied to say anything. One of the friendly strangers nearby grabbed my camera, explained that I was shy, and asked Ian to pose in a photo with me. And he did.

I am still out there, and I’m still going to shows as often as my budget allows. I still fly solo most of the time. It gives me the opportunity to truly lose myself in the music, to drink in every bit of the ambiance, and to quietly process everything I see and hear.

Every now and then someone will be disturbed by this, and will offer sympathy: “You’re here all alone? That’s too bad.” I always smile and nod at them. Being alone at a concert doesn’t mean I’m antisocial or friendless. It simply means that I’m enjoying a night to myself. My friends will hear all the details about the show the next morning. They always ask, and they’re always entertained. And secretly, they’re probably also grateful that I’m not trying to drag them off to see bands they don’t like.

~Denise Reich

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners