I have a friend called Molly. She’s very cool. Serene. And she goes to concerts all by herself.
I’m thirty-two and I’ve been in 5 bands now, so you’d think I’d have some modicum of confidence when it comes to stepping into a live venue. But until this year I haven’t found the courage to do what she does. Being alone in overtly social situations is really scary.
‘Are my hands in a weird position?’ ‘Am I smiling or grimacing?’ ‘How long have I been staring at that woman’s odd earring?’ ‘Someone farted, will everyone think it was me?’ These are just some of the questions I might ask myself when I am left alone in a large group of people I don’t know.
Attending a concert with only yourself as company can feel less like a casual outing and more like floodlighting your insecurities in a room full of strangers. You never see quite so many couples or groups of friends who look like they’ve stepped out of a stock photo shoot as when you go to a gig alone. The wall becomes your friend and you stick to the shadows like a latter day Bela Lugosi.
I don’t know when I first noticed Molly at shows. A couple of years ago at least. She wasn’t always by herself. More often than not she’d be with a group of friends, a couple of them mutual. But when she did come alone, she would always stand somewhere near the front (showing Herculean strength of character in and of itself). I’d wonder who she came with, where was her crew? So one night I asked: “Who are you here with?”
“Just me,” she answered with a smile.
I was floored. How did this quiet, serene, peaceful individual do what I would never do in a million years? Me, who bounces off walls and is comfortable standing in front of a crowd wearing head-to-toe lycra?
The thought of milling around a dance floor alone was enough to give me back sweats. I mean, when a band’s playing it’s one thing: the stage is a point of focus, a liferaft in the sea of thunderous awkwardness. But between sets? In the endless minutes while the next band sets up? What do you do?
In Molly’s case you just stand there, looking cool, which is to say: definitely not looking at your phone.
Her brand of ‘cool’ is not lighting a cigarette while she leans, one foot resting against a wall. It’s not a beer bottle held artfully between thumb and forefinger, taking sips and watching people mingle with hooded eyes. Maybe it’s exactly her quiet, her serenity and her peace that makes her cool. The fact that she wants to hear live music and will go to see a band regardless of who goes with her. She just goes to gigs. Simple as that.
I’m trying to figure it out and not let friends’ prior engagements keep me from shows. I made it my mission to Molly the shit out of 2016. And I’m doing okay. I am now the girl who goes to shows alone. But the cool – I mean the phoneless, confident cool, the Molly cool – I’m still working on: I’m writing this on my phone as I wait for the next band to set up.