10 struggles (and 1 positive) of going to shows with anxiety

Going to shows with anxiety is rough. Even reading the title of this article stresses me out… You too?

And, before we dive in, the piece below is what happens with me personally. When I’M going to shows with anxiety. You may have similar thoughts, you may have completely different experiences (I hope so), but this is me, and my brain does whatever it wants. Trust me.

That being said, I’m one of the lucky ones who can push the anxiety aside enough to actually participate in live music, but alas, many cannot. And for those, I’m so sorry. Maybe in time, after recognizing these ten, you can slowly step out of your comfort zone and join me.

Ten struggles about going to shows with anxiety

1. The Crowd

Picture this. You walk into the venue. Immediately, 3 people are touching you. 3 strangers. You have no idea where their hands have been. Do you think they took the subway? Did they have hot wings before they got there? Why is your arm wet? This and 3.5 billion other questions hit me the second I walk into a venue.

Crowds are possibly the worst part about live music for me, but they tend to come with the territory. Especially if you like bands with fans. In a lot of venues, you do have hope. Usually, you can find a spot where no one is hitting you. Or, a place by the bar that you can still see the band. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to find an upstairs spot to look down on the masses and enjoy from above. If none of this is available, training yourself, one small show at a time can be an option.

2. A song

You know the song I’m talking about. The one you heard with your ex all those years ago. The one that the instant it’s played, feelings climb into your brain and lay eggs like some kinda freaky deaky cockroach? It’s possible that the song isn’t even from the band you’re going to see. It’s just a song, and it’s played over the speakers before they go on. Or in the cab on the way over. Or you’re just walking, minding your own business and it finds you, somehow, with no sound waves necessary. This is what going to shows with anxiety is all about.

For me, this is an everyday occurrence, not necessarily just when I go to shows. I have one of those brains that remembers where I was and what I was doing, specifically when a song comes on, or when I’m at a location, or I see a picture. With this one, we have to remember that there are a lot of other songs, and if we can step away from this particular song, for even a second, we might be able to latch onto another one. Maybe even one of the songs being played right in front of us.

3. That person

What if I walk into the venue and see the one person I don’t want to see OR what if I walk into the venue and see the one person I do want to see? What if the person I’m going to the show with doesn’t show up. What if they don’t like the music? What if they don’t like me? A lot of times, it’s not the massive crowds of people or the even the band you’re there to see, it’s just the thought of a single person. Being there, not being there, it doesn’t really matter. The thought of one person can change everything.

Anxiety is a double-edged hand grenade. Most of the time, you lose if you win and lose if you lose. So, you’ve got that going for you. When my brain starts going down this road, which is long and full of people agreeing with the jerk whispering to my brain, I have to remember why I’m there. I’ve got the amount of love for live music that I can usually tell the people I meet on that road to “shut up,” and that if they’re quiet, their favorite song might be played soon. They argue, but then again, when don’t they?

5. Being excited

I know, what you’re saying, “how can you get anxious about being excited to go to a show?” Well, sit down friend, because it’s real. Sometimes, I think about a show so much that it takes over everything in my brain and by the time I actually get there, there’s no possible way that it could ever live up to the expectations I’ve put forth inside. Anxiety 1. Jason 0.

I’ve been to shows that were ruined because of just how excited I was. That excitement turned into anxiety about even going to the show. The anxiety turned into depression. And at this point, even if the band puts on the perfect performance, my brain will say that I didn’t have a good time. Welcome to the balance that is anxiety, reality, and depression. All I can say with this one is to try and embrace the excitement. Talk to someone about it. Remember how you feel when you listen to the band. If you’ve seen them before, how you felt the last time (especially if it was a positive experience).

6. Not being excited

That’s right. This isn’t a one thought pony. My favorite bands have played in my city, I’ve had tickets, and I didn’t go. It doesn’t happen all the time, or even often, but for some reason, sometimes my head tells me to give up. One of the most stressful parts about anxiety is the fact that even to the person experiencing it, they often know that their thoughts don’t make sense. You have to remember, even while thinking that, it doesn’t make the thoughts any less valid.

Sometimes you have to dig deep. And sometimes, you’ll miss a show. Personally, I try to listen to my favorite songs from the band, talk to anyone heading to the show, or just try to remember my favorite parts about the venue. Anything that gives me an extra push to walk out the door.

7. Getting there/home

Even having the luxury of living in Brooklyn, and having one of the best transit systems in the world, I’ve talked myself out of shows over transportation. Getting to, and home from, a show fills me with anxiety. What if the trains stop running? What if I get lost on the way there or somehow on the way home? What if I’m too early? What if I’m too late? What if I get there and the band shows up late and I don’t get home until way late and I sleep past my alarm in the morning and — you get the idea.

“What if?” is anxiety’s best friend. And from the moment you think you’re going to a show, this one should be the easiest to fight off. If you know where the venue is and what time the show is at, you have to trust (or at least hope), that you will be able to get to and from the show with no problems. The time that it takes to do these things is what you’re really thinking about. So, let’s talk about that…

8. The time

Anxiety is a fickle mistress. It’s 4pm, doors are at 8pm, which means the main band won’t go on until 10pm or later, with opening acts, which means I won’t be able to leave until midnight or later. At its core, this one isn’t so much about going to shows with anxiety as much as the the anxiety that comes from thinking about time, at all. Where does it all go? Every time I think about it I wonder just how much I’ve wasted in my years, which brings us to how to fight it.

To combat this one, you just have to think to yourself, how much is your time worth and is this band worth that time? It’s not really about the time that you’re putting in as much as the enjoyment you’re getting out. In some cases, I’ve driven over 6 hours to see a show, in others, I’ve turned down free tickets to a show in my own neighborhood. Going to shows with anxiety is rough, but think of it as an investment. Is the show worth the interest you get from it?

*also, stop thinking about how much time you’ve wasted in your life. Look what’s next.

9. Alcohol

Hello whisky, my old friend. When you have anxiety, you see the bar as the perfect place to get rid of those pesky thoughts. Maybe it’s at the bar, maybe it’s before you get to the show, maybe it’s a trusty flask that will loosen your shoulders up, and bring them down from being tightly squished around your ears. We all have thought processes of just how alcohol will “fix” the situation, they’re rarely correct.

Everything from the top eight, above, is doubled up on with this one. If you’re super anxious, the drinks come easier. If you’re not anxious, the drinks come easier. If you think you might be anxious… you get the point. This one is all about being cognizant of yourself. Sometimes it’s not easy, but you can always trade that vodka for beer or that beer for a water. But you can’t trade the memories that you do or do not make after going too hard.

10. Literally. Everything else.

Welcome to my world. After all of the above, there’s literally everything else. Going to shows with anxiety can bring every question you could come up with before really allowing yourself to walk out the door. Questions like, will I go alone? Will I have a gig buddy to go with? What if the band doesn’t show up? What if their set is only like 2 songs? What if there’s a fire? What if my shirt gets a stain on it? What if I forget my coat?

Sometimes, you just have to roll the dice. Ignore everything in your head telling you to stay home and let the cards fall where they may. In no way is this an easy thing to do, but it can give you nights of unforgettable awesomeness.

One positive about going to a show with anxiety

It might be hard to believe, but there is an insanely positive part of going to shows with anxiety. Are you ready? It’s the moment a band starts playing and everything melts away. You may not even know the band, or normally like the genre that they’re playing in, but this time, this one glorious time, everything hits your earholes just right and you’re taken to a magical place where all the voices in your head calm down and just listen along with you.

THIS, is why anyone who has anxiety should try to get out there. THIS moment. At the end of the day, everyone’s had some form of anxiety about going to shows. You just have to get to the point where the voices calm down enough to hear the music.

Jason