We have all been there. You meet some groovy thing out at a show and before you know it you have given into the chemistry and find yourselves back at your place. Everything seems perfect as you find yourselves dancing, road-tripping, and combining your friend groups.
Then, as things often do, you find it coming to an end. And yet, it’s not all that simple. Your formerly-significant other and you still like all of the same bands. You still share the same friends, and you still want to hang out at all of the same haunts. With the world of live music being as small as it can sometimes be you now find yourself nervous and gun-shy to do the that things you love the most.
So what do you do? How do you handle seeing the person you want to be with out dancing with everyone else? How do you enjoy festivals when you both are planning on going with the same group of friends?
I would love to pretend that I am some kind of guru on this, that I have all the answers, but the truth is that most of my experience in this field comes from getting it wrong. Nonetheless, perhaps through my own experiences, I can shed some light on ways to enjoy your favorite bands, exes be damned, and help you get back out on the dance floor where you belong.
Remember why you started going to live shows in the first place.
While some of us may have enjoyed our first live show because we were invited by a person we were interested in, most of us have learned how to enjoy shows for what they are, and not just for the people we are going with.
Sure it’s a blast to be out with a group of friends or a girlfriend but focus on what things can be. This is a chance to intelligently enjoy your favorite bands. For the first time in a while, you have no one to check in with, no one to keep you from dancing where and how you want to. You can show up late, leave early, sit in the back or dance right up front. Whatever your preference is, you no longer need to check in when you head to the bar or restroom.
This is an opportunity to build new habits, to learn to enjoy shows again for the music and not the camaraderie. The music scene is full of possibilities; your newfound freedom may just allow you to experience them all.
Be willing to take a break.
FOMO is real. Especially if you live in a place like Asheville or Minneapolis or Boulder. It can be difficult to have the self-control to skip shows everyone else is gong to but it can also be rewarding.
Maybe it’s time to stay home for a few weeks and listen to all the new albums your favorite bands have dropped recently. Maybe it’s time to take the old canine camping or spend some time with your musically-challenged friends.
Many towns have companies like IAMAVL (the Asheville version) that stream the majority of local live shows. Couch tour your home town. Drink cheap beer. Make yourself some dinner. It’s very possible that you will have a better time sitting in your easy chair than trying to avoid the one person you want to be with all night long.
Find some new music.
Were you and your ex-die-hard jam band fans? Death metal? Country? Now is the perfect time to start broadening your horizons. Look for shows you know your ex has no interest in being at and go find your new favorite band.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, especially when you are sharing all of the feelings with someone you love. Take the opportunity to seek out something new and different from your usual status quo.
Be brave and hold your head high as you walk in to see bands whose music you have never heard. Give yourself the freedom to explore. Go on a musical adventure. You will probably find yourself right at home.
Start making new friends.
You know the people you see at every show but never talk to? Go say hi to them. If you need an opener try this: walk up and tell them “I just came out of a bad break-up and am trying to find new people to hang with.”
Odds are, in this scene, that is going to lead to some kind of spectacular group hug and give you a crowd to hide and dance in all night long.
Don’t be creepy.
This one is harder than it sounds. Your gut tells you that you should stand about 10 feet behind your ex and watch them. That you should step outside when they smoke and hang by the bathroom when they are in there.
DON’T. DO. THAT. For one, there is no way you are going to enjoy the evening if you spend all your time following your ex around. For two, no matter how sneaky you think you might be being, the truth is you are ruining their evening too.
Most of us know where our friends like to stand in the crowd. If your ex is a Paiger Rager then head over Gordon side. If they are a soundboard hoverer, then head down front. Give yourself and your ex the opportunity to enjoy the show without looking over shoulders all night long.
Be kind but stay within your boundaries.
There is never any reason to completely ignore someone. I know, they broke your heart, they cheated on you, they ran off with your best friend. None of that matters. Your ex, like you, is a human being who deserves respect. If you pass them in the hallway while going in, don’t be afraid to say hi and give them a hug.
At the same time, you know what you can handle. Now may not be the time to dance or to go around the corner and smoke a bowl with them. Figure out what you are comfortable with and stick to your guns. Don’t give away your autonomy for a chance to spin someone around the dance floor when you know, that home alone later; you are going to hurt yourself even more by doing it.
Don’t get too lit.
I know how it feels. You walk in and your ex is standing by the door. Your first thought is to go order a boilermaker and forget about everything. Still, this may not be the most prudent course of action.
I mean, let’s be realistic here. Your emotions are already raw and it isn’t about to get any easier while you watch your ex dance with everyone else in the room. And while sometimes drugs and alcohol can be calming, they often have the exact opposite effect. Trust me; you don’t want to eat that L and then spend the back end of your night in, as HST would put it “hours of catatonic despair.” You don’t want to dip that molly then go home alone to a cold bed.
And you most certainly don’t want to get shit-faced and then end up behind the wheel of a car because, let me tell you, going to jail isn’t going to make anything better. Let yourself take it lightly, enjoy the show, and drive home sober and hopefully tired enough to fall asleep when you get there.
Be honest with your friend group.
Your friends are your friends for a reason. Hopefully, it is because they care about you and don’t want to see you hurting. Don’t be afraid to tell them that you just don’t have it for this show or that festival.
If you don’t think you will be able to enjoy yourself, be honest about it. Don’t try to change their plans, just let them know kindly and sincerely that, while you had been planning to ride and camp with them to such and such event, you think it is in your best interest to skip it this year.
Hopefully, they know you well enough, to be honest with you as well, to help you work through the thoughts and fears you are having, and to not peer pressure you into doing something that won’t be good for you. Still, sometimes our friends see the picture clearer than we do. Listen to them as well when they tell you it’s time to start getting back out there.
The truth is that each of us, deep down inside, is self-sufficient. You don’t need a relationship to enjoy live music. You don’t need date insurance. Learn to believe in yourself again. Realize that you have all of the strength you need within you.
Don’t doubt how beautiful and loved you are by those around you. Sure, getting broken up with can take a toll, and it can make you feel worthless and unlovable. That is just your brain talking shit. Your worth is not measured by who you date or who you are with but by your character.
At the end of the day, we are responsible for our own happiness. Be the person that you want to be and love yourself for it, and I guarantee you, when the time is right, someone else is going to love you for it too.
Live for the moment.
The Infamous Stringdusters have a song, “It’ll be alright,” that I have listened to many times when I have been in this scenario. Since they already said it better than I can, I’ll leave you with their lyrics.
“Take your chances when they come
Don’t wait for something of someone,
You hate to miss a chance at life,
Go ahead; it’ll be alright.
Just say yes, it’ll be alright.”