I Love Music But I Hate Concerts

I suffer from claustrophobia and history of an array of anxiety disorders, even typing about being caught in some sort of mosh pit is making me anxious.
Publish date:
October 2, 2013
music, writing, anxiety, concerts, fear, music festivals

I owe much of my start as a writer to a few humorous album reviews and write-ups on concerts that were usually made more interesting by whatever drunken shenanigans I got myself into while in attendance. Although I still enjoy it from time to time, in particular the experience of meeting and interviewing artists, I found myself feeling limited with music writing, and these days primarily write about social issues and my personal life.

However, there is another issue that makes me a less than ideal candidate for a music journalist, a confession that may cause some to question my character as much as my article on fear of babies: I don't love concerts.

Allow me to clarify: I love music, although saying you love music is like saying you love food.

Music truly does have the power to alleviate pain and transform your entire mood and state of being. It has pulled me from can't-leave-my-couch bouts of depression and prevented me from screaming at co-workers. As with my fear of children, I think my distaste for concerts boils down to social anxiety and discomfort around humans.

Some of my favorite memories exist at concerts, such as LCD Soundsystem's final show at Madison Square Garden, dancing uncontrollably grasping onto some of my favorite people in the world as James Murphy belted out “All of my Friends,” and standing still amongst a silent crowd as Sigur Rós played during the summer I spent living in London.

Yet for me to throughly enjoy a show it has to be one of my favorite artists of all time (I have already offered my orifices via Twitter for David Bowie to tour again) or a more relaxed crowd, or a venue with a balcony or some sort of spacious seating with room to breathe.

I don't request such accommodations out of pretentiousness, rather being shoved amongst a herd of sweaty bodies jumping and bumping into one another gives me major panic attacks. I suffer from claustrophobia and history of an array of anxiety disorders, even typing about being caught in some sort of mosh pit is making me anxious.

Aside from affecting my abilities as a music journalist, as I often end up leaving shows early (except when there is a VIP or backstage pass made available, always appreciated) my concert panic attacks have caused issues in the past with friends and romantic partners, who do not suffer from the same anxiety, and love being front and center, bass pounding in their ears and headbanging in coordination with the crowd.

At a DFA Records party a few months back, the extreme discomfort of a lost contact wedged in the back of my eye, further irritated by the smoke machines escalated into a full-blown panic attack as the crowd pushed against me.

I just had to get out of there. I was there with my boyfriend at the time and friends, who had all been very much looking forward to the event, and although my partner left the show with me, the knowledge that my own issues caused him to miss the end of something special only worsened how bad I felt.

For someone without anxiety issues, it is difficult to understand why you would want to leave a concert you paid for without catching the encore.

I wish I could be “normal” and enjoy shows like they do, rather than be the awkward girl who has to explain that she can't breathe and has to get out of there, but I've accepted this is just the way I am wired.

As a graduation gift, I spent a month in Mexico getting certified to teach yoga. Every night in my tent I would write in my journal profusely during this time of great spiritual and emotional growth. At one point during my experience, an elder in the program said to me “I see great potential in you, but also a lot of fear.”

I have accepted that perhaps I will never be a baby person, or always prefer to chill in the back at the occasional concert, rather than thrashing sweatily at the front of many. For me personally, sobriety has helped greatly with my anxiety and fear, as booze and other drugs, meant to self medicate, always ended up having the opposite effect, and would escalate my anxiety.

When I go to a show to report on it -- rather than get lost in my anxieties, I'll focus my energy on the job I am there to do, and produce a better article for it. As for attending concerts for my personal enjoyment, I've grown confident enough to turn down invitations and only attend those that truly feed my soul.

The best music is organic, that of soul and truth, rather than forced or fabricated. As an art form, the same should be true for the appreciation of music. Whether you're front and center sweatily headbanging, quietly tuned into a live record in the comfort of your home, or selectively enjoying shows from the back of the house with a seltzer in hand, the experience should one of comfort and self expression.