Tell me how to go to a concert by myself
April 10, 2015 8:14 AM   Subscribe

So there's a concert I want to go to at a dive-y bar in my big city (for Toronto folks: Lee's Palace). None of my friends like the music that's going to be played, or at least none of my friends here. I want to go anyway. How do I go to a concert by myself? Do I?

- I am a tall woman who has no fear of harm in this situation
- I am okay with being in public by myself for things like movies, coffeeshops, etc.
- I don't go to a ton of concerts and when I do, I am not a dancer. I like to stand/sit and watch the music.

Will I stand out like a sore thumb? Is this something you have done and enjoyed? Should I do this? Any tips? Thanks.
posted by hepta to Society & Culture (36 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Doing stuff by yourself is awesome! I've gone to amusement parks, gone on touristy boat rides, and gone to outdoor concerts by myself plenty of times. The only advice I really have is to just be there and get in the moment - you're all there to enjoy the band, so enjoy the band! I've never noticed anybody twittering over my solo presence (how do they know I'm not just with someone who's, I dunno, stuck in the bathroom?), and hell, even if they were, they're probably not going to demand that the band stop playing until your solo self is driven from their presence with whips and scourges.

Go, grab a beer and enjoy the music.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:23 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've done this often. I either dress down so that no one will look at me and I stand off to the side or I dress up very sophisticated and I'm usually picked up by a group of girls who feel sorry for me standing on my own (I'm a tiny woman in her 40s). But, I never go to a sketchy place alone where there won't be anyone there that I know. It's been easy for me because I usually at least know one of the musicians. You want to have someone there who knows your name in case something goes wrong. The only times that I have done it were at an upscale, collage bar, where I was always adopted into a group. If you must go alone, make eye contact with the doormen. Look for the tallest, scariest man in the room and go stand by him. Wear sensible shoes. Sexy heels aren't good for walking fast.
posted by myselfasme at 8:23 AM on April 10, 2015

Totally doable, pretty much the same way you'd go with friends. The only real problem I've ever encountered attending concerts solo is that when you've got a headache or are generally irritated/moody, there's nobody there to distract you from it, so it tends to impact your enjoyment of the show a lot more than it would otherwise. So be sure to bring your own headache meds, earplugs, eyedrops, or anything else you could possibly need to be comfortable. Consider getting there early so you can stake out a good spot to watch (people familiar with the specific venue may have more suggestions for that). Have fun!
posted by asperity at 8:24 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not entirely sure how useful the opinion of a short man in a different country is, but I've attended lots of shows on my own (probably the majority in the last five years) and I've enjoyed them all. Or at least being by myself didn't hamper my enjoyment and everyone else there was paying attention either to their friends, their phones or the stage.

There are people who go to shows to socialize and there are people who go to watch the performance and if you're in the latter, you'll watch the performance, maybe have a beer, and split. Dudes might try to talk to you/offer beers/bug you between sets, but it sounds like you have that sort of thing under control.

Honestly, if you're cool with going to the movies by yourself and have a smartphone to stare at between bands, this isn't going to be that much different.
posted by griphus at 8:24 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

You just...go? I prefer going to shows with a friend but I am a big music fan so I have been to tons of concerts on my own and have not even the slightest regret about any of it. I don't think you will stand out and I'm sure plenty of other people will be alone too. Even if you did, who cares? Is that really a reason not to go?

To pass the time, I usually just look things up on my smartphone. Maybe have a drink if you'd like. Attempt to chat with someone if you're the kind of person who does that (I'm not).

Just go, enjoy the music, and have fun!
posted by cosmicbeast at 8:24 AM on April 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

Not a woman, but I've gone to concerts by myself before and had a blast. You... just go. There will almost certainly be other singletons there, but once the place starts to fill up and particularly once the music starts, no one will notice. And I've never had anyone give me grief about it.
posted by asterix at 8:24 AM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Of course you can go to a concert by yourself! As a tall person, try not to push your way directly in front of a short person (unless you got there first). Smile companionably at the other people standing around watching the music. Buy yourself a drink. Be nice to the bartenders and bouncers so you can catch their eye if something weird happens. But you'll be totally fine! Just make sure your phone is charged so you've got something to do during breaks or before the show starts, if you don't want to strike up random conversation.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:25 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah just go. There's not much to it. Just get a drink and listen to the music. It's not substantially different than a restaurant or movie. Esp. since you aren't a dancer, you won't stand out; probably some people will notice that you are there alone and won't care.

This is not something that's bizarre or totally unprecedented in our culture. Think of all the old-timey movies where the hardboiled gumshoe sits alone in a jazz bar.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:25 AM on April 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

I used to go to concerts alone all the time when I was in my 20s after I broke up with my abusive boyfriend and had literally no friends anymore, and I continued even into my 30s when I was traveling without my husband. I actually kinda loved it because I didn't feel like I had to react a certain way to avoid being a downer to the friend I was with; if I thought the band sucked or whatever, I didn't have to pretend otherwise. Occasionally I felt slightly strange being alone when everyone was paired or in groups, but that was completely self-imposed; I never noticed anyone give me the side-eye or anything, and I'm pretty sensitive to that. Once I struck up a nice conversation with another woman who was also alone, so that's a possibility too.

Data point: I really like doing stuff alone, and go to movies and plays and so on by myself all the time even now that I'm married and have plenty of people who would go with me.
posted by holborne at 8:26 AM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Going to a concert alone is awesome! No need to try and shout to be heard over the music if the other person wants to have a conversation for some reason, you can go to the bathroom without having to try and find the person once you get out, you get to pick the place to sit/stand/dance all by yourself. It is great.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:27 AM on April 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

I used to do this fairly often! The most annoying part of it was not having someone to hold my coat or my bag and save our spots while I slipped off to the bathroom or got drinks/checked out the merch booth.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:28 AM on April 10, 2015

Go, have fun. Stand mid back. You will not stand out any more than you would normally as a tall woman anywhere. (Said as a fellow viking.)
posted by travertina at 8:31 AM on April 10, 2015

You are hearing from people who love doing this. I will be the contrarian and say for me (woman, 40s) it's no fun at all. I am happy to do all kinds of things alone, but live music is such a communal experience for me that going alone is just weird. I've been to roughly seven hundred million shows in my life - music is a big deal for me and small clubs are the best - but the few I've gone to on my own have been big duds. Hopefully your experience will differ.
posted by headnsouth at 8:35 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have been to probably a dozen concerts at Lee's Palace by myself over the years. It is a dark room that will likely be quite crowded. Nobody stands out. It's impossible to tell who is with who in a crowd of people.

The fact that you won't have anyone to talk to means you won't be one of the assholes yelling over the music and keeping other people from enjoying it.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:36 AM on April 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Not only have I been to a[t least 100] concert[s] alone, but I've been to a concert alone at Lee's Palace, and I drove 10 hours from Wisconsin to get there. It was one of the best nights of my life and I reminisce about it fondly all the time even though it happened a decade ago. Not only that, everything that was amazing about the entire experience could have only happened because I was there alone. It was very fairy tale-esque. So I am always telling people to try to have an adventure whenever they're flying solo.

I used to go to shows two or three times a week, and I've always gone to about 75% of them alone. I vastly prefer to go to shows alone because then I'm free to stay out as late as I want if everything is clicking or leave as early as I want if I'm just not feeling it. (Plus I'm a dancer and a singer and a crier so I'm always embarrassing my friends.) When you go to shows alone, there's no need to worry that the person/people you're with is/are having just as awesome of a time as you're having, or have to sit there grumbling because they're having an awesome time and you're not feeling it at all. You can just rock. Or not!

Bonus (offer only applicable for extroverts): You can meet all of the other people who are there alone! Once you introduce yourself, you can form a little alliance and hold each other's spots whenever one of you has to run to the bathroom, bar, merch booth, etc. I've met countless people this way and while most of them stayed in the pleasant but fleeting 'single serving friendship' boat, I've exchanged numbers with a few who I still consider friends to this day.

tl;dr - My vote is yes, you should absolutely 100% for sure go. Have a great time!
posted by divined by radio at 8:37 AM on April 10, 2015 [9 favorites]

No one cares and anyone who looks askance at you can be written off as a jerk. It's a bar, so most people will be drunk and self-absorbed anway. If I go out alone, I slowly sip a drink (so I don't get drunk, and my hands have something to do) and check my phone a lot.
posted by desjardins at 8:43 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Going to see a show by yourself is exactly like going to see a show with friends, except for the fact that the person sitting next to you that you turn to when the music is awesome and say "damn, this is great, isn't it?" is someone you don't know yet. But that could be a way you become friends, so yay.

Seriously, go and have fun. I think about 2/3rds of the times I've gone somewhere to a show I've been on my own, and not only was it not weird, that also let me do awesome things like dance freaky with a college kid to the B-52s, join a spontaneous ceili at a Waterboys gig and flirt with the drummer of this awesome Irish trad rock club band.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Small woman here. I probably go to 40%ish of shows alone, 100% when I'm single. (My friends don't tend to share my musical taste but it's something I filter for heavily in partners.) It's no thing at all, tons of people at a small club show will be there by themselves. Putting yourself near the stage helps make it feel a little more communal, especially if you're a dancing type and don't want to dance all by yourself.

Finding a perch at the bar, if there's one in the same room as the band, makes it feel completely normal to be there by yourself, in my experience (and maybe you can strike up conversation with the bartenders if it's not slammed).
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:55 AM on April 10, 2015

I go to a lot of shows, and I've been to plenty alone. The one thing I'd say about it is that the weirdest part is figuring out what to do with yourself between sets. I go to a lot of shows with 3-5 bands on on a bill, and there are usually 20 minute breaks in between. Be prepared to fill the time, otherwise it can be kind of isolating. Bring a book, or something to do on your phone, or get chatty with those around you.

If you can handle that, you'll be fine! Have fun!
posted by soy_renfield at 8:56 AM on April 10, 2015

Oh...just saw that you're definitively not a dancer. In that case, disregard the first half of my advice. To the bar with ye!
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:57 AM on April 10, 2015

I recently went to a show in a dive bar with my boyfriend. I am a dancer/dork, but there were plenty of people there who seemed to be alone and were definitely just chilling to the music. None of them looked out of place. Most of them were just standing with a drink in their hand and bobbing their head or taking it in. It seemed totally par for the course (especially in a dive where people are really there for the music).
posted by easter queen at 9:02 AM on April 10, 2015

I have gone to lots of concerts alone, including concerts at Lee's Palace. It's totally fine. I used to bring a book to read in between sets but now I have a smartphone so I play on that instead. No one will think you are weird for being there alone. Show up, get a drink, if possible find a seat (easier to find if you only need one!), and enjoy the show.
posted by kyla at 9:22 AM on April 10, 2015

I go to concerts alone a lot and I am not a dancing sort of person. I am a really short lady so sometimes I even stand near the front and don't dance and no one has ever cared. It is totally fine. Beats going with someone who doesn't really wanna be there!
posted by ferret branca at 9:43 AM on April 10, 2015

Will I stand out like a sore thumb?

Almost certainly not, unless maybe you're going to a show for a genre that tends to be super sausage-festy, like death metal or something. But tons of people go to shows alone, no one is going to notice that you're flying solo per se. Although it's certainly possible that some Dude might notice that you're alone and think that means it's a good opportunity to hit on you, but you sound pretty confident of being able to handle that.

I like to stand/sit and watch the music

Lee's does have some table-ish things along the walls & around the perimeter of the floor where you can sit on a stool or lean on the table, so you might want to get in early in order to snag one. Although I dunno if you'll be able to keep it if you get up for a drink or the bathroom. Then again, a space will probably free up when people crowd down front when the band plays.

at a dive-y bar in my big city (for Toronto folks: Lee's Palace)

From my admittedly very U.S. & male & music professional perspective, Lee's isn't actually all that dive-y and the area around it seems pretty copacetic and safe. The couple of times I've been to Lee's the staff has been totally cool and helpful, so if something/someone is really bothering you it seems likely they'll have your back.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:05 AM on April 10, 2015

I'm a large male, so safety hasn't been a concern for me, but I've gone to tons of shows alone, at venues ranging from the local undergroundy dive with a 300 person capacity to festivals like ATP and Coachella. I was a bit apprehensive the first time, as you seem to be, but after the first couple it was totally apparent that it was not a big deal for anybody at all. Since I'm tall, I'd usually hang out around the perimeter of the room to keep from blocking people's view, so I may have been a bit less conspicuous. Once the band starts up, everybody will either be watching them or still talking to their friends and won't pay you any notice. After a number of times going to shows alone, I started recognizing people I'd seen at similar shows, so in a way it didn't quite feel so much like I was alone, even if I never actually spoke to those people. At the dive I went to most often, there was a back room with another bar, pool tables, and some video games, and I'd go there sometimes between sets. If the show was crowded I'd usually just hang out in the main space or grab a beer, or step out in their enclosed patio for a smoke since I did that back then. Nobody seemed to care what I was doing.

One not-so-serious warning: after going to a ton of concerts by myself, I got really leery of having friends tag along, since I was always way more into whoever was palying than they were and I didn't want to deal with them wanting to leave early, complaining about the noise or anything, so I actually came to greatly prefer going alone. As others have said, I could stay as long as I wanted or bail if I got tired or things were just off.
posted by LionIndex at 10:40 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

The first 19+ show I went to, right after my 19th birthday, was by myself at Lee's Palace for Spirit of the West, December 30th, 2003 (I think it was sort of inadvertent, as I remember my friend showed up way late without a ticket and couldn't get in). I remember it really fondly; I had a great time, nothing creepy happened, I could actually listen to the music and dance a bit, nobody bothered me, and of course it's right on Bloor and practically next to the subway so for the most part I don't think this is a "tell five people where you are and when to call the police" situation. Plus, if you're more extroverted than 19-year-old-me was, you could maybe meet some people who like the same music as you do.

Go! Have fun!
posted by ilana at 10:50 AM on April 10, 2015

I think you should totally go. You will be fine. Don't bring stuff you don't really need and make sure your phone is fully charged. All these answers saying you will meet other people... well that really depends on your personality. I am quite shy and the in-between-sets periods used to be really boring especially when it's a packed show and I don't want to lose my spot at the front (I am short), but it's much better now with a smartphone. It's usually too dark to read paper books. I haven't been to Lee's Palace but if you are not a dancer and don't care to be right up close, consider finding a seat if there are any.
posted by bread-eater at 10:55 AM on April 10, 2015

the area around it seems pretty copacetic and safe.

Just to clarify my own statement, Lee's is pretty much smack in the middle of a busy & thriving arts/culture/shopping area - for blocks in either direction on Bloor St. are tons of restaurants and bars and clubs and book stores and beauty salons and clothing stores & etc etc etc. You're definitely not headed to some kind of urban wasteland where there's nothing around the club but abandoned warehouses and falling down houses.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:02 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I went to see GWAR by myself last year, since none of my friends were into it, and I had a great time. Like you, I prefer to stand to the side or at the back of the crushing crowd so that I can actually enjoy the band.

No one seemed to care or notice that I was by myself. So if it's a band you really want to see, you should just go. You'll have fun!
posted by burntflowers at 11:47 AM on April 10, 2015

Just go. You'll make new friends!

And/or, post a meetup?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:58 AM on April 10, 2015

Lee's Palace is quite a nice venue. Ever since they scraped the 30-year-old layer of punk spittle from the walls and gave it a slap of paint, it's pretty civilized. It's near a subway, some decent, quietish restaurants, and has a great atmosphere. The toilets are ... well, different. Best avoided.
posted by scruss at 1:01 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've had some luck searching for interesting people on OKCupid that are fans of specific bands and interested in new friends and dropping them a note asking if they're interested in platonically chatting before the show and between the sets. I'm male and clearly listed as partnered, which might help cut down on people ignoring the platonic part and thinking it's a date, but has led to some interesting conversations.
posted by Candleman at 1:08 PM on April 10, 2015

Obviously we are probably outliers because internet people, but I have learned over the years that I actually greatly prefer doing most things like this alone. On the one hand, having someone waiting for you is more motivating for getting you out of the house, and it's simpler to have someone automatically available for amusing small talk while waiting, but I find I am so much more fully present in the moment of an experience when I do it alone.

For concerts in particular, I find that it helps to show up early enough that you can get your beverage of choice and find your loitering spot of choice, and then it's fun to just make conversation with whoever else nearby seems amenable if you feel like talking. You might feel SUPER AWKWARD at first, but that is fine and normal. I've made casual friends this way. There will most likely be other people doing the same thing - either none of their friends like Band X, or their usual concert partner wasn't available, or they just like going to shows alone. Or there's just a cool couple/knot of people hanging around who like to talk because you all obviously have at least one thing in common. This is a good opportunity to people watch, meet new people with the same interests, or just enjoy the pleasure of being able to fully absorb yourself in this thing you like without having to chat about mutual acquaintances and worry about your company's comfort and whatever else. Go! Have fun!
posted by bowtiesarecool at 1:34 PM on April 10, 2015

One of the cool things about flying solo is it's much easier to go where you "don't belong", e.g. standing next to the sound guy or walking around back to help with the load-out afterward. You may have to slip a twenty to a bouncer, or just be really good at looking like you belong, or be ultra-charming, but it can be a fun bonus adventure once you've mastered the basics.

But yeah, even at the beginner level, it's much better to go alone than with someone who's not into it. Go!
posted by whuppy at 2:31 PM on April 10, 2015

I went to a show the other night -- my brother and his wife in town, went to an early show -- we got there early enough to get a great seat, off to the side yet close enough to be right in the scene, plus right in front of the sound booth, so we had a good mix. As the show went on, a woman came and stood tucked in between where I sat and the sound booth, just totally enjoying the show; in between songs we talked about how much fun the venue and singer are etc and etc blah blah blah. She was most definitely alone.

She stood in that place for a while, couple songs or three, then moved to another place in the club, then another. (I wasn't gaping -- she was tall, and had her hair pinned up such that she was even taller, hard to miss.) I don't know where she disappeared to on the bands (long) break but she was back in the second set, and again posting next to me, then over here, then over there.

I've been here in Austin since 1992, she's been here but two years, she told me she's out getting all the live music Austin has all the time and I'm sure she is and I'm glad she is -- she sure was having a great time, adding to her happiness and that of anyone around her.

So. Go. Find some outposts with good line of sight to the band (easier for you than for others, what with your being tall) and maybe a few people to chat with between songs, get friendly with the barkeep and/or waitress and/or soundman etc and you need not be totally alone at all, yet get to have the fun parts of being alone.

I sure hope you go to the show and have a great time.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:04 PM on April 10, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone - this chorus has convinced me that I should go and enjoy :)
posted by hepta at 8:18 PM on April 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

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