Playing and attending live music is part of the job of being a musician, but going to live shows as an introvert presents many social interactions that I normally try to avoid. Almost nothing will make me more uncomfortable than an impromptu conversation with a stranger in the checkout line at Publix. Its nothing personal, Bud Light & Mayonnaise Guy - I'm sure you're great – I would just rather buy my black beans and get back to making tacos. Being a hermit, while sometimes an attractive option, isn't one that I want to pursue. I've met some really great people at venues like New Brookland Tavern; I have family, friends, and relationships that I really care about; and shows present the opportunity to hang out with some people that I only get to see a couple of times a year. With so many people in the world, awkward social interactions are unavoidable, but if you know the lay of the land, you can get by with minimal damage.
When you arrive at the venue, there's a 50/50 shot of there being a line at the door. If theres no line, its your lucky day. If there is a line, its best to have a friend with you. (If fact, many of the social problems are alleviated, if not totally avoided by attending with a friend or two.) If a co-attendee is not a luxury you have and a line is inevitable, take your place at the back of the line and hold on tight. This is your chance to check Instagram, read Twitter, or look through pictures of your cat. As you approach the door, have your money ready for any cover charges. To avoid an embarrassing interaction with the employee at the door, its best to have cash, because many venues won't accept card for cover charges. If you're under 21, the price may be higher, and you may have to get a wristband or have your hands stamped. Policies vary from venue to venue.
Now that you're inside, the real fun begins. These first couple moments can be mildly traumatizing for an introvert. If you're meeting people there, find their group or table. Otherwise, head to the bar and get a drink. Holding something can serve as a solid safety net, even if its a bottle of water. If you're flying solo, find a place to sit or an out of the way table. A table at the back of the floor with a clear view of stage is a prime location, and will be the the envy of fellow introverts for the night. This period of time before the show starts is the wild west of social interaction. These are the points to be on high-alert for people you kind-of remember from high school, or that one really overwhelming person you met the last time you were at this venue, or Bud Light & Mayonnaise Guy from earlier in the night. If you find yourself stuck in one such conversation, its best not to employ the "I'm going to be rude and uninterested" approach. Its mostly effective, but isn't a very kind way to treat another human being. Just be polite, and try to find an excuse to leave the conversation when its appropriate. Having a friend with you will help. A partner-in-crime well acquainted to your personality will be able to pick up on the situation and help diffuse the situation if needed.
Once the music starts, you can rest easy and enjoy the show. If you didn't snag that table at the back, try to find a wall or pillar to lean against. There are only two main dangers to look for here, and they're both pretty minor: Dancing, and Public Displays of Affection. Dancing, if there is any, can mostly be avoided by remaining in the back, but the back of the venue is prime real-estate for PDA. If you're stuck uncomfortably close to Bud Light & Mayonnaise Guy and his...friend, just move further away. They won't mind, or probably even notice.
Its at this time that I would like to become an old man and mention the importance of earplugs. No matter who you are, you only get one set of ears. Treat them right. Your ears will thank you when you're 70.
Having hung out with some of your favorite people, seen some awesome music, and successfully avoided Bud Light & Mayonnaise Guy, head home to Netflix and refuel for another day.