Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River: Alone in a crowd – Navigating anxiety in the name of music

For years, I’ve had anxiety in large crowds. My love of music and my love of not being trampled to death have long gotten in the way of each other. Ever since I was 15 years old and ended up somehow in a split underneath a mosh pit, I’ve been reticent of rowdy masses. I spent the rest of that night alone watching the remainder of the show sitting atop a speaker for fear of dying under my friend’s feet.

Permanent ear damage aside, I thought I had figured out how to enjoy crowded shows in my own way. Not always on an amp but in the back at a safe distance to an exit. As long as I’m behind the majority of the crowd, or there’s plenty of personal space up front, I can usually enjoy myself at a concert. But, at least, half the time, despite my planning, something goes wrong, and I end up being miserable or anxious.

You think I would learn my lesson and avoid large events. For the most part, I do. But, sometimes the fear of missing out, or FOMO, wins, and I succumb to the mob. That’s right, FOMO: the very “real” and debilitating “disease” is usually the antidote for anxiety but some unfortunate and fun few suffer from both.

I have many other friends who don’t like crowds and are content to stay at home where it’s safe. It’s just not worth the all unknown possibilities. A lot of people would rather sit on their couch and listen to a band from the comfort of their home than to venture out into the unknown to see them live.

I know tons of people who would rather be at their house than anywhere else. And though I love my house and keep it decorated to my liking and fairly clean, I don’t want to hang out there more than four nights a week. I would go stir crazy.

As a comedian, even if I’m not doing (or seeing) at least a few shows a week I always have other obligations to be out with friends or whatever. In my everyday life, I don’t get anxiety when out at a bar or a restaurant or anything like that. I will say, however, that anytime you put me in a line, Ima FREAK OUT.

I think anxiety is only partially why I hate lines; I think it is impatience and ego that make me completely intolerant of them.

“Don’t you know who I am!?” is often what I want to yell when being forced to wait in a line for more than 15 minutes for a drink or bathroom. “No one,” would probably be the response though so usually I keep mouth shut and fume internally.

I spend most of my life avoiding lines so I overreact when I can’t control being in one. I avoid getting to Broadway shows (or literally anything) early because I know I’ll have to wait. I only go to Mardi Gras or other big events if I have access to a VIP pee and drink situation. Maybe that’s why I think I’m important, and people should know me.

So this past weekend when I went to the Mumford & Sons general admission concert at Zephyr Field in New Orleans and the line for a drink took over 30 minutes, I was surprised and unhappy, to say the least. With 16,500 recorded in attendance, and no one really even checking tickets, it was the largest event of its kind at the Zephyr Stadium, and it showed. It took over an hour to get out of the parking lot, and no one who worked there seemed to have any clue what was going on.

Most of the evening I tried to put the unexpected annoyances aside and have a good time. And if the band didn’t put on an absolutely amazing show I would have spent the rest of the night regretting the money and time I wasted. Even having seats couldn’t keep me content while having to sit back and endure what thousands of teenagers in Metairie consider “fashion.”

With another concert coming up this week I have to focus on the positive. Sure, I’m not the easiest going person at a show, but at least, I keep trying. Maybe, I’m stubborn for continuing but at least I’m not holed up in my house, content with my descent into complacency.

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