FEAR AND FEVER CITY
Lovely heart drawn on me at the Bovine Sex Club.
Might make a nice tattoo!
I have a fear of crowds.
Specifically of being in a crowd for some time and not knowing anyone. Perhaps my actual fear is of meeting new people? I'll have to delve into this, but for now I'd like to elucidate upon my adventure in Fever City tonight in the hopes of exposing more of my fears to my waking mind.
For the past few weeks I've been really excited to see my friends play their next gig, which happened at The Velvet Underground this evening, a venue that I hadn't been too before and which I was always hesitant to visit because of the 'heavy metal' exterior. I figured it would be a bunch of bikers and hardcore chicks covered in tattoos who would sooner rip my loins off for smiling than have a friendly convo about the best place to get a tattoo. I also thought I would be the only one there who held that opinion, and to my surprise one of the band members expressed the exact same feelings!
So even though I've been excited to see my mates play, who, by the by, are a seriously TIGHT band live, I have also been afraid to some extent. I've seen them play at least 6 or 7 times now over the course of less than a year, and during most of those shows I was in a wreckless frame of mind and usually either drunk before the show or drunk very soon into it.
These are some really fantastic, warm, and friendly guys who are just super fun to be around, so even though I have a fear of being in crowds, I suspended that fear because I would hang out with them before their shows and sometimes afterwards as well, and during a few shows I got to know some of their friends and had people to talk to when they weren't around.
The last show was at the Horseshoe Tavern, which is maybe a 12 minute walk from my house, if that, and so I was super pumped to go. The difference about that show was that it was the first I had been to of their shows where they played during the week. Not a problem for me since I could easily walk there, but I knew going in that I might not know anyone there. Couple this with my latent fear of crowds (at this point I'm beginning to suspect it's a fear of mingling/meeting strangers), and I was nervous. At the same time, these guys put on such a great show and their songs are fun and inspiring that I powered through my fear and made the plunge.
Previously, I had only been to the Horseshoe one time so it was partially familiar, which helped a little bit since that I'm a spatially oriented artist/person. As an aside, I could describe a location to you in surprising detail after having only spent a brief time there. So I had a slight advantage, in that I was a tiny bit comfortable going into the location but I didn't know who would be there that I knew.
Whenever I see these guys live I have to be as close to the stage as I can be. Sonically these guys are great, and I love strumming and air drumming along with them and just beaming smiles and love at them to just show them support.
So I got there a little before their set, found one of the band, said hi, and proceeded to watch Taylor Knock rock the fuck out. Afterwards, they were setting up and the crowd were mingling, and I didn't see anyone that I knew. Perhaps awkwardly, maybe stubbornly, I stood in the mostly open space about 10 feet from the stage waiting for their set to start. I tried to ignore the entirety of the crowd who were standing somewhere behind me, secure in the fact that I probably had the best 'seat' in the house.
It was awkward. For me. I felt there were a hundred imagined eyes scrutinizing the way I was standing, what I might be thinking, why I wasn't talking to anyone, why I was there alone, and on and on and on immeasurably. I downed my drink right quick, popping off to the bar for a second and returning to my 'spot', which, on the one hand, I was happy to have, and on the other afraid of. There was almost a defiance to going back to the same awkward spot, which I knew to be a really great spot for watching the band, but not a great spot when you were there alone and only had about 1% confidence.
The show, as always, was stellar and I had a great time regardless of my worries and uncertainties. I can always count on these guys to keep their end of the bargain :)
Tonight held more reason for worry because I knew for certain that I wouldn't be accompanied by any 'close' friends and that a situation similar to the last show would almost certainly occur.
I started out by going into the wrong venue, the Bovine Sex Club up the street, and having to ask the lovely and understanding host at the door if I was in the Velvet Underground or not. She informed me that that it was just past the Subway down the street and kindly gave me my Tenner back.
Having virtually chugged a pint of Okanagan Pale Ale whilst waiting for my dinner not long before, my pride was merely grazed by the minor snafu of ballsing up the locale. I proceed down the road and in I went, attempting to focus my mind forwards and to not over-analyze what had just happened.
There was a sign and everything and I knew that I was finally in the right place. I took off my toque, had a quick gander around, noticed that my mates were setting up on stage and dove to the bar for some more liquid courage.
The shite thing was, as I scanned the crowd pretending to look for someone I was supposed to be meeting, I didn't spot a single recognizable face. I scoped out a choice spot up front, dead centre, and then quickly ended up glued to the ledge on the wall opposite the bar and proceeded to become a wallflower.
Because of my research into overcoming social anxieties and the lot, I was finally aware that my normal reaction in this situation was the one which I had been reading about for ages. I AM a wallflower! With this knowledge front and square in my thoughts, I tried some of the 'techniques' which I had read about that would give me an air of 'openness'. I won't lie; I felt awkward. But my mates were setting up their gear and that was something interesting for me to look at, so I angled my body a little more towards the stage and watched them puttering around with their kit.
Then they left the stage. Lo and behold I was facing NOTHING with the entirety of the crowd behind me and to my right. The imagined 'hundred eyes' were once again upon me, albeit that I had a wall and a ledge to keep me company this time. I turned my whole body to face the bar and tried to keep a smile on my boatrace as best I could. There were a few people I noticed, more specifically ladies, who were either alone or in smaller groups of two or three. My mind flitted through situations where I went over and somehow ingratiated myself into their grouping and we had a nice laugh before the show. None of these situations happened, however, because I was afraid. I was standing in my own blasted way again, all because of imagined scenarios where the worst possible outcome could not only happen, but would definitely happen, at least in my brain.
So I stood around with one hand in my pocket (and no, the other wasn't 'giving a peace sign') and holding a beer in the other hand, patiently waiting for my buds to start playing and take some of the spotlight off of me.
Likely we can all agree that imagined fears are the worst because they are never actually happening, but you feel so strongly that they are that you make them real in your mind. Bloody hell, eh?
The guys fired up and the sound was just fantastic. I enjoyed a great show and had a laugh at a couple of really minor fuck ups by the guys (the bassist's glasses at one point ended up on his pickups while he was still playing!) and just had a blast. Even though I was having fun, I was still ruminating on all of the things I had been worried about since arriving, and I was overly concious of how I was standing or how I was grooving to the music or what my hands were doing. Suffice it to say that if I weren't worried I could have had an even better time.
What I want to be able to do is focus entirely on simply enjoying their shows and not giving a single moment of thought to the entirely anonymous crowd behind me. I want to rock the fuck out with these guys and not give a care about how silly I might look to some random stranger standing five rows deep behind me. Who, by the way, is probably also overly conscious about themselves that despite wanting to be standing right up front where I am having a blast, they play it 'cool' and stand a few rows back merely bobbing their noggin' a bit.
Aside from yet another amazing and entertaining show, my saving grace for the night was when a friend, whom I had only met at Fever City shows, approached me to say that they had been trying to follow this blog and were impressed with how open I have been in my posts. This is a very intelligent person whom I admire and I was honoured to have any sort of praise for my meagre efforts. I have and will continue to write these posts for myself as a way to face my social and personal fears and anxieties, but the idea that anyone would actually read these and comment on them only ever sat in the back of my mind as a distant possibility. To have been in a social situation where my guards were up and I was battling my 'fight or flight' response, and to have someone come up to me and say that they appreciated the personal flaying I've been doing on this blog was like a brick flying through the paper thin phial that contains most of my fears. Okay; maybe the 3 or so beers and elevated hormone levels from watching the show was also aiding my interpretation, but fuck it if it didn't feel great!
To sum up this evenings events, and bearing in mind that in the grand scheme of today's Earthly rotation, nothing truly cosmic happened in the space which I occupy, I had a nice burger and a pint for dinner, saw a great live show, and somehow, from a crowd of people where I knew less than probably 3 or 4 per cent, had two offers to hang out with some really cool and groovy people.
At the moment I'm focusing on two thoughts which are helping me maintain the minor (all things considered) excitement of today; "live in day-tight compartments" and "the worried person must lose himself in action, lest he wither in despair."
My fear of crowds is still exists, but I can see that if I'm able to crowd out all of the other obtrusive and pointless thoughts, I can get to the source of the issue and face it head on. With perseverance, I hope I can detach myself from walls in the future :)