“You’re Not the Only One” – Going to a Concert Solo

JT Encore
Encore at the James Taylor concert, Washington, DC. July 2017.

Your regrets aren’t what you did, but what you didn’t do. So I take every opportunity.
—Cameron Diaz

American society still makes a big deal out of doing things solo. Table for one? It can be done, but you’ll still get looks. At the movies alone? We’re getting better at accepting this practice, but it’s still strange. Going to a concert by yourself? Hmmm.

My five years spent living overseas taught me how to quickly get over any insecurities about doing things alone. I ate out by myself often. When my friends weren’t available or interested in seeing a particular movie, I’d go by myself. Traveling alone (even if it was on the way to meeting someone somewhere for vacation) also meant doing things solo temporarily. The point being, I got used to it very quickly and brought my comfort in this practice back with me to the United States. Since then, I have gone to weddings alone, movies alone, dinner alone and art galleries alone, but until this weekend, a concert alone was a first.

When you think about it, a concert is probably the perfect thing to do all by yourself because who really sits through such a thing and has a full conversation with friends? If it’s a good show, people will be captivated by the performance and not the party of one sitting next to them, right?

Yes, that’s right for the most part.

This weekend I went to see the Bonnie Raitt/James Taylor concert in Washington, DC. Now I do realize the majority of people my age and younger have no idea who these people are. They are artists of my parents’ generation, and unless your parents raised you on their music as mine did, you likely have never heard of them before. So when I heard they were going to be in town playing a Friday night concert, I was determined to go and so I put feelers out among my friends to see who wanted to join me.

Not surprisingly, the response I received was crickets. Pure radio silence. One person dared to ask who these people were. Others didn’t really see James and Bonnie as the most exciting show to see live. A few friends who lived far away expressed envy but other than that, no one in my peer group here in DC seemed to know who these people were, nor were they interested in paying money to find out. For a moment, I considered not going, because it’d be weird going to a concert alone, right?

It wasn’t until a blues musician friend of mine from Utah, living in South Korea, encouraged me to go to the concert by myself. “Don’t miss this opportunity,” he told me. “Bonnie Raitt in particular puts on a great show.”

And so I did it. I bought a ticket for one to see live two legends I grew up listening to in my rural Minnesota childhood home.

The day of the concert, I was excited, but still a little weird about going to the show alone. I’ve done a lot of things solo, but for some reasons this seemed to weird me out. I was also also receiving every possible sign that day telling me to just stay home. For one, the weather was unbearable and for an outdoor concert at a ballpark, it really did take dedication to be willing to endure near 100-degree heat with over 70% humidity. Determined to see the show, I didn’t let the weather deter me and made my way to the ballpark with plans to grab dinner at a nice area restaurant before the concert began.

But then just as I was leaving the subway station on my way to the restaurant, the skies grew dark, the wind whipped up eddies of dust that stung my eyes and lashed my sundress in every direction, giving anyone looking a free peep show. Then on cue, the heavens opened up and literally vomited down upon those of us mortals walking around on earth. Belches of thunder, horizontal rain, winds strong enough to knock down trees—if there was ever a sign that I should not be going to this concert, much less alone, this was surely it. And of course the mayhem outside wouldn’t stop. It wasn’t like a Florida storm where it rained for 10 minutes and ended. This storm kept on going.

Braving the elements, I ran to Osteria Molini, the Italian restaurant by the waterside that I was planning to dine at before the show. Of course it was crowded; it was raining down hell upon everything outside so even those who weren’t planning for Italian that night were now considering it given the weather. Despite the crowd, I figured surely they could set a table for one. But it was not meant to be. They were backed up until 8PM and with a 7PM show time, it was clear I wasn’t going to get a table.

So what to do? Go back outside into the torrents of rain and try and find a place I could grab something to eat at? Or go home and call it a night? At least I tried, right?

My stomach spoke louder than my insecurities so I hovered around the bar until someone left. Then I grabbed a seat where I was served from the full restaurant menu a decent plate of rigatoni and yummy polenta. (I opted out of the wine and instead chose to hydrate myself with agua.) Despite the downpour that continued outside, things were sort of looking up.

It was nearly showtime when I decided to head over to the ballpark, but unfortunately the rain was still coming down steadily outside. I had originally told myself that I’d likely skip the concert if it was going to storm as they were predicting (which it did), yet as I stood in the downpour outside the stadium, about to give them my ticket, I kept thinking of those early Sunday mornings at home as a kid when my dad would make me a pancake breakfast while James Taylor would sing how “Sweet it is to be loved by you” on my dad’s record player. I couldn’t turn back right now, even in the rain and even without a friend to share in my misery. Surely if he were there with me, my dad would want to sit through this mess because it would be worth it in the end.

So I took a deep breath and walked through those gates, only to walk out of them hours later dry and totally jazzed about seeing two legendary performers from my childhood days perform my favorite songs live.

Would it have been more fun with a friend there to share in the experience? Certainly. Was it awkward sitting by myself waiting for the show to begin when everywhere around me there were groups of friends and families there to enjoy the concert together? Of course. Was I a little self-conscious of the fact that almost everyone there was Caucasian and I was not? Sure, it’s not like James and Bonnie attract an ethnically diverse crowd. But despite all this, I learned to put that all aside and simply enjoy the show.

As I told my dad about it over the phone the next day, he agreed that it was likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience given how old both Bonnie and James are, further confirming for me that the choice to see these two perform live, even if I had to do it alone, was worth it.

In the end, my musician friend was right. You take these opportunities as they arise for you don’t know when they’ll come your way again. I’m so glad I did.

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