Gig Anxiety

Gig Anxiety

How the Covid Pandemic affected my outlook on music

Today is the start of Mental Health Week and it is quite appropriate that on
Saturday night I attended my first concert in two years.

Prior to the pandemic, 2020 was to be an exciting year for music with loads
of gigs booked throughout the year.

January 2020 started off with three concerts – two in Belfast and one in
Dublin. I went to see And So I Watch You From Afar premiere their unique show
Jettison at the Belfast MAC. Not often do I go to a seated gig, but this was
one that required that experience. Covid feels so far away. I am aware of the
news coming from China, but I am thinking it is not going to happen here.

A few weeks later it is a road trip to Dublin with my friend Paul to see
Slipknot at the 3Arena. Strangely enough, he booked seating tickets for it and
for some reason I was not complaining. It is the fact that I am getting older
that standing is not a good option anymore.

The show was good and even in the middle of January the pandemic seemed a
long way off.

Next up was The Wildhearts at the Limelight in Belfast. It is the end of
January and Covid is slowly creeping towards our borders. It is going to happen
eventually, but we were both content to head down for the show and enjoy it.
Little did we know for both of us that was going to be our last prior to
lockdown.

For me, my last gig should have been Supergrass at the Ulster Hall in
February. Covid was slowly coming to the fore but that night I was not feeling
good. It was not Covid related, just felt a bit of a cold coming on and feeling
downright miserable. Could not pass my ticket on to anyone so it went to waste
but there was no way I was heading out not feeling well.

By the middle of March, we all went into lockdown eventually. I was getting
ready to prepare for working from home and not knowing that the future was
going to hold.

As the weeks progressed one by one every concert or festival, we planned to
go to was getting cancelled either outright or gig being rescheduled for 2021.
There were only a few shows cancelled outright with no chance of rescheduling
so the process of getting your money back for the gig tickets began.

There was sense of disappointment with the cancelled gigs but there was
also a sense of hope for the rescheduled ones for 2021. Once 2020 ended, the
new year was meant to be brighter. Alas, that was not to be either as the
pandemic continued to drag on throughout 2021 with restrictions still in place
and shows got moved forward again to 2022.

Throughout the pandemic I started to feel very anxious, being careful of
where I was going to be so that I did not bring anything home. When some of the
restrictions did start to lift in 2021, I did not really rush out to embrace
the newfound freedoms. I was still anxious about it no matter what the event be
it going to the cinema, out for a drink or even going to a gig.

As 2021 was ending most restrictions had been lifted and Belfast was coming
back to some sort of ‘new normal’ for shows. Some were all seated with reduced
numbers, some you still had to wear face coverings, but I was still not
convinced. The anxiety really crippled me that once I looked forward to a show
to now, I was petrified of the thought of going to one.

December 2021 – Christmas is just round the corner. I knew I was not going
to want to go out for Christmas parties or dinners but one important part of
the gigging calendar for me was going to a Belfast gig and one of my favourite
bands, Ash had managed to reschedule one of the cancelled gigs from earlier in
the pandemic that both myself and Paul had tickets for.

In all honestly, I was nearly tearing myself apart about going. The closer
the gig was becoming, the more my anxiety was increasing. Part of me wanted to
go, part of me did not. I did not know what to do. But something did take it
off my hands as I came down with something prior to Christmas. Again,
thankfully it was not Covid, thanks to checking both lateral flow and PCR
tests. But that night the gig was a no no and Paul managed to find someone to take
the tickets off us.

A sense of relief or a sense of despair? Being a huge fan of Ash I was
gutted to miss a show, but health became more important and for occasionally I was
not beating myself up for not going. One of the big lessons that I learnt about
myself during the pandemic was to be more kind to myself.

I knew some friends that were going to the show and was really shocked when
I heard they got infected by Covid at that gig. Was this a narrow escape or good
fortune to be not feeling well with a non-Covid related issue?

2022 – two years later and bands are starting to get back on the road again
and I have not even booked any new shows. Most of the ones I would like to go
to are either sold out and I missed the chance to get tickets, but I am not losing
sleep over it. I have still to go to a rescheduled gig!

A few weeks ago, Paul purchased tickets for The Wood Burning Savages at the
Ulster Sports Club. The gig was due to take place on the 7 May and this time I
am ready to test the water. A few weeks previously I had been to the cinema
with my wife for the first time in two years and felt ok. I was nervous
beforehand but finally got more relaxed. By this stage I am back in the office again,
so it was feeling like small baby steps in getting back to normal.

So, Saturday came, and I am feeling ok about this. The Ulster Sports Club is
a small venue. It was not completely full, no more than one hundred punters at
it if I could hazard a guess. Most people were not close to the stage, and we
stayed back a bit near the mixing desk to watch.

As the gig started, it was not long before Wood Burning Savages lead singer
Paul Connolly encouraged the crowd to come forward towards that stage which
they did. We both ventured a wee bit from the sound desk but not towards the
front. I was quite content at where I was and was really enjoying the show from
where I was standing.

After the gig I went over to say hello to Paul as the band were getting
ready to take their gear off the stage. I told him that this was my first gig
in two years, and he really appreciated the fact that I was overcoming anxiety
to come to the show.

This was the second time I had seen them at the Ulster Sports Club. In 2019,
they played a blinder of a show and announced to the crowd they would be
heading to the famous South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Texas, USA in 2020.
They were gutted that Covid put paid to that, but they had a blast at it this
year which I was really pleased to hear.

I mentioned to Paul about missing the Ash gig which they were supporting,
and he confirmed that quite a few people had come down with Covid after that.
But was upbeat that this was a new year with a new album coming out and getting
back on the road.

After the gig Paul and I headed home feeling great to finally get to a show.
We both enjoyed it so much that two further rescheduled shows with Iron Maiden
next month at Belsonic and Therapy?’s long suffering 30-year anniversary show
to look forward to in September.

Over the last two years I have learnt so much about myself and how I tackled
my anxiety. I could have let it take over my life and not want to do anything,
but I realised that one day I was going to have to do something about it and
Saturday night confirmed that I could overcome it with no pressure.

Some things to think about during Mental Health Week and one of them is to
be kind to yourself. I have been more at peace with myself by not feeling bad
about missing out. I was not ready to go back to the live arena then and I just
need to bide my time to go back at the right moment and Saturday night was that
moment.

Gig anxiety is real, and you should not let it dominate your life. Speak to
a friend, get them to go along with you and remember to be kind to yourself as
you embrace going to see a band again. I am looking forward to the future.

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