When I was younger, the majority of the gigs I attended were pop punk affairs. Think Paramore, You Me At Six, and We the Kings – such a teenage cliche, right? Back then, I always wanted to be centre front of the horde of people swarming towards the stage, and I received plenty of bruised ribs to show for it. As I remember it, people weren’t the nicest in the mosh pit. I had my fair share of wandering hands, received some jaw dropping insults and once had a drink poured down my back by a group of older teens who decided my scoliosis scar was something to laugh about. However, all of those memories were overshadowed by the magic of seeing my favourite bands performed live.
These days, things are a little different. Firstly, you’re more likely to catch me watching Ben Howard than Paramore. Secondly, you most definitely won’t catch me in the thick of it. Thirdly, gigs seem to have lost a little bit of the wonder that the teenage years cast on everything, and I find myself looking at the people around me far more often than I’m transfixed by the musicians onstage. This isn’t a bad thing though. In fact, attending an Alt-J gig last week taught me far more about human beings than numerous journeys on the London Underground have. I came away from the Brighton Centre with such a happy feeling about people, and for somebody who’s deeply cynical about the human race, that’s saying a lot! For that reason, I thought I’d share my happy thoughts with you today. Here are 5 lovely things I noticed about people at gigs.
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DANCE IS AN IMPULSE
There’s something about the human brain that means there is nothing you can do to stop yourself from moving when a good beat enters your eardrum. It could be the most miserable looking bloke who spends the entire evening scrolling through Twitter after being dragged to a gig they don’t really want to be at – but look at his foot! I guarantee it’s tapping away steadily, right next to the girl who’s dancing for her life. People seem to come alive and forget their embarrassment when their favourite tunes are playing – even the very worst dancers who would shrink away if you asked them to dance in any other situation! Bearded guys tapping their beer bottles, swaying dads embarrassing their daughters – whatever dance it is, it is a beautiful sight to behold.
MUSIC CHANGES PEOPLE
You know those obnoxious teenage lads who play their music on street corners and burp loudly and yell obscenities at one another in public? Yeah, well, they suddenly seem really endearing when they’re raving in a world of their own to a mid-tempo indie guitar song. I don’t know how it works, but either the music is changing them or the music is changing me, and suddenly existing in the same space as them is actually quite nice. Even more alarmingly as a Londoner, in the self contained universe of the concert hall, people talk to one another! They invite lone gig attendees over, share stories about the artist they’re seeing and discuss where they’ve travelled from. It all ends the moment the lights go up, but it’s really special to witness for a short time.
LOVE HAS MANY FORMS
Throughout the entire Alt-J gig, I couldn’t help but notice the couple stood directly in front of me. From the moment the trio entered the stage, they didn’t say a word to one another for the rest of the gig. They didn’t even touch one another, and if I hadn’t watched them closely, I would have assumed that they weren’t really into each other. However, as the gig went on, I noticed their movements were perfectly in sync. Despite being seemingly unaware of one another, each imitated the other’s step and sway perfectly, always moving in the same direction. When the gig ended, the young woman turned to her boyfriend to gush, and they nattered excitedly the whole way out of the venue. It goes to show that everybody speaks their own language of love in a relationship.
MUSIC HAS NO LANGUAGE
Speaking of languages, it’s been said before that music doesn’t have one. It transcends borders and backgrounds to become something that is universally enjoyed, even if you don’t understand the words that are being said. When I was younger, I was part of a YouTube community that enjoyed singing J-pop and K-pop, and we collaborated regularly, despite coming from all over the world. There was a Swedish girl, a French boy, an American girl, and even an Israeli girl who told us how rockets were hailing down on her city one evening. None of us understood the words we were singing, and we all came from vastly different backgrounds, but it didn’t matter. When you enter a concert hall, you get the same feeling of a shared passion that overshadows everything else.
PEOPLE WHO GO TO GIGS ALONE ARE COOL
Finally, I’m always surprised by the confidence of other people. We all show confidence in different areas and in different ways, but the idea of attending a gig alone and entering a room full of bodies, without the safety net of a friend, boyfriend or family member, is not appealing to me. Other people have different reasons not to attend gigs alone, and many cite not wanting to look like a loner. Well, I noticed a number of people attending the Alt-J gig alone, and more than anything else, I was inspired by them. How very cool it is to support your favourite band performing live music in the difficult times of mass streaming, demanding labels and counterfeit merchandise, even if you have to go it alone. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own anxiety that I forget cool, calm and confident people do actually exist, and I think they’re bloody great.
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Have you ever attended a gig alone? What did you learn from it?