There are about 20 strangers in my house, plus a few folks I actually know. Every time I host a house concert I get people from all over the city and beyond. I cast a wide net — Facebook ads, Twitter appeals, neighborhood newsletters, and regularly pestering my own personal network — to gather an audience for the wayfaring songwriters I invite into my living room, so I never know exactly what’s going to bring them there other than the promise of free cheese dip and beer.
I’ve been scurrying for a few days getting ready for the show and it takes me a few minutes to settle in and enjoy the music, but as I finally do, something dawns on me:
These people are old.
Not all of them, no. But most. I’m 40, and they’re well beyond my peers. They’re in couples and foursomes, gray heads swaying along with songs they’ve most likely never heard before (I host great artists, but not necessarily greatly known). I wonder what it was about my marketing effort that particularly appealed to this age demographic.
As I sink deeper into the vibe of the show, it hits me — that subtly brilliant NextDoor event listing had nothing to do with it. These people just don’t give a f*ck.
I envy them. Deeply. My relentless social anxiety is part of the reason I spend a disproportionate amount of my limited resources putting on each show instead of just going to hear music at bars and coffee houses, or even fancy ticketed concert venues (that and the murderous rage that overtakes me when people talk over performers).
I wish I could just head out into strange new situations whenever the urge strikes me, not giving a thought to awkward small talk or what will come out of my nose during my weird exhale-laugh.
They’re free of all that. They’ve lived long enough to realize life’s too short. Because that’s what it takes to go to a stranger’s house on a Friday night to hear music from an artist they’re just barely familiar with. People who say to themselves, yeah, that sounds fun, and don’t worry for a minute about who’ll be there, who’ll see them, what they should wear, or which Snapchat filter to use.
They’re the ones sitting in the front row and beaming at every song set-up and clever turn of phrase. They’re not scanning their dates’ faces to see if they thought that was funny, too. My show photos are marred by 20–40somethings suddenly realizing they’re on camera and making a deliberate effort not to look like they’re having too much fun.
My happy old guests give me hope. Even now, I can feel my f*cks slowly drifting away. My FOMO is fading. I only check an evite’s guest list 2–3 times before RSVPing. I frequently leave the house without a bra or makeup (and one of those is actually noticeable). And maybe someday, I’ll let go of the idea that I have to perform an arbitrary social role perfectly and just enjoy the music and slight risk of unintended snot rockets.
As the show ends, you can guess which demographic lingers over the desserts, engages the artist in conversation, and drops their empty wine bottles in the recycling bin before buying one of every CD on sale. I love having them in my house. They change the entire atmosphere with their joy. They’re my heroes.
Not that they’d give a f*ck.