TRIGGER WARNING: Emotional material ahead.
GETTING MORE TALE #696: Confession
Music is the most wonderful of hobbies. Scratch that — it’s not a hobby when you love music. It is your lifestyle. It’s healthy, it’s fun, and it can open up feelings you didn’t know you had. I’m glad that music is my life.
As much as I cherish music, and try to spend some time with it every single day, there is one huge hole in my life: The concert experience.
You could argue that music is best enjoyed at a good concert. There is magic in a live performance; a kind of telepathy that occurs between the players on stage. Then their collective sound and vision is pumped at 120 decibels to the hungry audience. The crowd is like a single entity with one voice. There is no substitute for the live concert experience. No Blu-ray could ever hope to match it, not even at 1080p with 5.1 surround sound.
Yet, I’ve seen only a few dozen concerts over the years. I can’t even remember my last one.
I would love to have new concert reviews for you every single week. The most popular post on this site in its six years of operation is a concert review.
It’s true that I don’t get out as often as others might. Some of this is because my beautiful wife has been battling with uncontrolled epilepsy for the last decade. Her health struggles have turned me into a bit of a homebody. I’m not complaining. Being her support is a privilege. I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, but it’s certainly gotten worse as her health got worse. The good news is that not only has Mrs. LeBrain beaten cancer, but she has also managed to reduce her seizures to one or two a week. A regular week, anyway. A week with stress or lots of travel can cause more.
How has she managed to handle her epilepsy so well? Lots of self care. Plenty of pre-planning for every outing, a few taxi cab rides, lots of caution, and a little bit of Canada’s best prescription marijuana. I’ve seen it work.
She can’t go to movies and she can’t go to concerts, and we’ve accepted that. It hasn’t been easy. When Jen worked at Research in Motion, their free company concert was U2 in Toronto. She wanted to go so badly. She was willing to go blindfolded if she had to. Every U2 Blackberry ad on TV was a bitter reminder that Jen could not do what other people take for granted.
But that’s no excuse for me missing out on shows. Maybe I lost my concert wing(wo)man, but I’m a grown up. Right?
So we get to the crux of it: my confession.
I’ve never really gotten into any of this in public before. A few friends know. I’ve lived with it long enough. I used to care what friends, random strangers, or potential future employers would think of me. I was ashamed of myself.
Over the years I’ve developed a severe fear of crowds. It’s always been there, but it got a lot worse in my 20s. If I was with people I knew and trusted, I could control it. I first confessed my fear of crowds to T-Rev back when we were roommates in 1998. He used to like to go clubbing at the Flying Dog up in Waterloo. I went with him twice, and it was OK. I had a good enough time. But I needed my wingman. T-Rev was wise. “The best way to beat your fear of crowds is just to face it. Try to have fun.” He’s right to a certain degree. The Flying Dog just wasn’t the best place to try and beat a fear of crowds. Packed with douchebags and girls that I thought were way too hot for me, anxiety piled up on top of more anxiety.
I did better at small concerts. There was a joint in town called The Banke. A lot of our friends played there. The more often I went, the more comfortable I was. You start to recognise other faces, and familiar faces and places are soothing for anxiety. It was good while it lasted. T-Rev’s life path took him to a lovely wife and two kids, three hours away in Sarnia, Ontario. He was a good wingman, because he understood me.
Having a wingman is really important. A few weeks ago I went to TF Con in Toronto. My buddy Jay asked me, “So how does this make you feel with your fear of crowds?” I told him it didn’t bother me at all because he was my wingman. (Also it’s not a very intimidating crowd. I could bowl them over with a sneeze.) I’ve had a panic attack at a farmer’s market, but not a TF Con.
There have been a couple incidents that happened at concerts. Jen had a fall at Rush — that one was upsetting. She had a seizure at Trailer Park Boys, which was the last time she went to any kind of show. The association of these events with concerts just made me…more sour.
When Jen got sicker and sicker, so did I. I became a tense, nervous mess, and it was almost all the time. Something had to give, so when I couldn’t take it anymore I sought help. Family and friends made sure that I did. It took some pushing, because I am stubborn by nature. Help is available, but you have to work at it. Medication doesn’t fix everything, and it has its own costs on both your body and your wallet. You have to unlearn what you have learned. Then, you have to practice better ways of dealing with situations. It’s hard work. It’s also life long work. You will stumble and there will be pain.
In spring 2016 I was in Ottawa visiting family. By coincidence, both the Killer Dwarfs and rock journalist Mitch Lafon happened to be in town that weekend. The Dwarfs were playing the Brass Monkey, and Mitch was going to check them out. Knowing I was in town, Mitch asked me if I wanted to come and meet him at the show.
It’s painful remembering this.
Of course I wanted to go see the Dwarfs. Of course I wanted to meet Mitch! I have been a fan of both for a long, long time! Mitch is the premiere go-to guy in hard rock today. Not only would it be a personal thrill, but meeting Mitch and taking a selfie with him would have been a fantastic bonus to top off a Killer Dwarfs concert review.
I turned him down.
Out of respect for the man, I told him the truth. I wasn’t prepared to handle a crowd that night.
Mitch promised to keep my secret, and he’s been really supportive to me.
It might be frustrating for some, but it helps me a lot to deal with anxious situations if I know in advance, and I can prepare myself mentally for it. I admit I can be very frustrating sometimes. I’m lucky that Jen gets me. She’s one of the only people in the world who truly gets me. Jen and my grandmother really know how my brain works.
It barely works, but it works!
I have my ups and my downs, and it’s largely dictated by how I respond to daily challenges. I confess that I have not tried to challenge myself in a long time. When was my last concert? I used to love going out to see stand up comedy, too.
I’ve been itching to see live music again. I think I can handle it. I’ll go slow. I won’t start by going to see Bryan Adams at the Arena.
Something smaller and more local would be good.
Hey! Would you look at that?
It looks like I have to be ready by February. Sasquatch is coming to town! Sasquatch: The Opera that is, composed by Roddy Bottum of the band Faith No More. Four shows, February 14th through to the 17th, 2019 at the Registry Theatre in Waterloo. And I happen to know the promoter. I’ve been promised an interview with Roddy about the musical, and ideally I would like to see all four shows. I’m not worried about the interview, but I do need to beat my anxiety to go to the shows.
This is called having a “S.M.A.R.T.” goal.
Is my goal specific? Yes. I want to see the Roddy Bottum show. Measurable? Yes. It’s as simple as go/don’t go. Achievable? I believe a realistic goal would be to make it to, at minimum, one of the four shows. Bonus points for anything more. Is my goal relevant to my situation? Absolutely. It is a big part of it. And is it time-based? You bet. Can’t procrastinate on this one, February is gonna come one way or the other!
I believe in baby steps so I think a good plan would be to try and see a small show in advance of the Bottum musical. It’s exactly like building up a tolerance. My tolerance has slipped a lot over the years so I have to build it back up again. I’m trying to be proactive.
That’s my confession, and I have to admit, it really does feel good to get it out! Did I have to do it publicly? No, but I’m sick and tired of lying to people every time the subject of concerts comes up. Here’s the truth. Think whatever you want to. All I really want to come out of this is somebody out there to read it and say, “Hey, I get it too.” There are bullies in the world who would pick on me if they read this. I don’t care. They can pick on me for a lot of things already.
I accept that crowds and I might never be good friends. I just want us to get along.