Sex + Love

You Will Not Hook Up at the Show

Learn from my mistakes! Don’t even try it!

Illustration by Caitlin.

Illustration by Caitlin.

You heard that your favorite band was coming to your town for a show. You made sure the show was all ages, you figured out which of your friends are also going to the show, you dealt with the meaningless Ticketmaster convenience charges to secure your place at the show, you looked forward to the show, and maybe you even planned an outfit for the show. Now it’s Saturday night and you’re at the show, surrounded by all the other people who also went to the show. People who also love this band that you love, and who you might have other things in common with. Maybe you should talk to a few of them, you think. Some of them are cute boys/girls—maybe you could even hook up with someone at the show. You might find LOOOOVE at this show!

Listen to me: You are not going to hook up at the show. Yes, you are surrounded by people who share, at the very least, your taste in music. One or more of them could very well be best-friend/significant-other material. But if you go to the show trying to make that happen, you are going to be disappointed.

This isn’t your fault. You are a catch, I know: You’re interesting and funny and smart. You have very important opinions, you look great in whatever you’re wearing. People are missing out, seriously. But the truth is, shows might be the worst place in the world to meet people. You are watching a band making a lot of loud fucking noise. Even the conversations you have with your best friends at a show come out stilted. There are just so many distractions. It’s crowded, it’s smelly, it’s dark, and it’s full of strange people. How can you be expected to talk a cute boy/girl into giving you their number when you have to lean into their ear every time you want to make a hilarious joke?

It doesn’t make any sense, but somehow, culturally, we have this idea that your local rock club is a prime spot to mingle. There are so many shows/movies/zines telling us we’re going to go to a show and meet people to hold hands with, make out with, and (yes) fall in love with. Ever since Seth Cohen gave Summer Roberts a Death Cab For Cutie ticket on The O.C., I have spent countless teenage evenings saying, “This is the night”—only to return home after each show having acquired nothing more than a T-shirt. I would lie in my bed wondering if I would spend every night of my life like this, wondering what was wrong with me. I wasted so many valuable years working on a vast comic fantasy of some world-conquering romance that would begin with us locking eyes over a sea of sweaty fellow music fans. I would daydream about laughing with my hypothetical girlfriend, reminiscing about how we met at that fateful show. It never started anywhere else, because in my head, EVERYONE ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE was finding love at shows, and I was the ONLY PERSON IN THE UNIVERSE who was going to shows and not finding love.

I defined the entirety of my teenage life by knowing exactly what was being recommended on Pitchfork every day, and I went to a high school that wasn’t overflowing with likeminded children. When you are in high school and spend most of your afternoons reading music reviews, it immediately becomes “your thing.” I bought a boatload of band shirts, I may have used the terms post-rock, chillwave and freak folk in casual conversation, I searched the basement until I found my dad’s old record player (second shelf, next to the INXS LPs,) all because I thought once I completed the indie rock uniform, a theretofore hidden herd of alterna-teens would suddenly pop out of their secret lair and beg me to join them.

Obviously, this didn’t happen. School remained the same, only now I was the kid who ordered his jeans off the internet. This is not to say I had a miserable time in high school—far from it—it’s just that jumping into music like that didn’t make me feel any less isolated.

That’s why I put so much emphasis on the shows I went to. Watching live music was the only time I felt surrounded by my “true” peers. Even if I was rumbling the family van down to the Ché Café (an all-ages DIY punk space at UC San Diego with an unreliable vegan buffet) every weekend or getting sequestered on the under-21 balcony at the local House of Blues (couldn’t see Baroness, was literally standing in front of a pillar), it still felt like I was finding my community. The full extent of my romantic potential seemed entirely dependent on how I looked and whom I talked to during the brief moments where all the kids like me were in the same room, and it felt like I was constantly missing my chances. Maybe it’s because a small part of me believed that The O.C. was based on true events, but deep down something convinced me that my social life was going to live or die with the shows. Unfortunately it’s an awful lie of being young and interested in music that you have no chance of finding true happiness until you meet someone with the exact same taste as you. If you buy into that notion like I did, you are doomed to repeat my mistakes.

The situation didn’t improve when I went to college, even though I picked a school in the alternative-culture mecca of Austin, Texas (city motto: Keep Austin Weird)—a city I had literally never visited until the day I moved there. I had no friends or family within the entire state. I knew nobody, and that was kind of the point. That’s OK, I told myself. I’ll just meet people at shows. I went to a lot of shows that year, some I didn’t even want to go to, because it was literally the only thing I could do that didn’t involve hanging out with the people who lived in my dorm, who at the time I thought were “weird” because they didn’t like the same music I did. It takes a certain level of arrogance and self-delusion to believe that the people around you aren’t worthy of your time because they don’t share your superior tastes, and that only the hypothetical people you’d meet at a show could possibly meet your exacting standards—but that’s exactly where I was in the summer of 2010.

Needless to say, I didn’t meet a single person, not even a friend, at these shows, and I most certainly didn’t find love at of any of these shows. Most of the time I was either standing awkwardly in the general-admission area or haphazardly trying to inject myself into conversations without having been invited to do so. I remember one Thursday night when I saw some poor girl who I thought looked lonely enough to consider talking to me, so I approached. I said my name was Luke, and she misheard me and thought I said “Ruth,” which caused me to try and make a Ruth Prawer Jhabvala joke. Do you not know who that is? Neither do most people—including this poor girl. (Indian novelist, check out Heart and Dust.) This girl did not get my Ruth Prawer Jhabvala joke, because she wasn’t the type of alien who’d catch an oblique literary reference out of fucking nowhere, and she didn’t want to be talking to me in the first place. I’m pretty sure that’s when her boyfriend returned with their beers anyway.

Now, I’m not saying that no one has ever found their soulmate at a show. I’m just saying it’s really, really unlikely, and that you therefore shouldn’t pin your hopes on it. For one thing, you’ll be disappointed, and for another, you’ll enjoy the show less if you’re constantly scoping the crowd. And shows are fun! They’re a communal experience, where you get to feel the energy of a whole bunch of people loving the same music at the same time, and that is magical. But don’t confuse communal with social. You wouldn’t be looking for romance at the movies, or at a live-reading, so why should a band be any different? If you go to the show just because you really like the band and you want to enjoy their music with a bunch of strangers (who will remain strangers), things get a lot more enjoyable and a lot less anxious. It’s amazing how simplifying the expectations can make your night so much happier.

So, one more time: You are not going to hook up at the show. And thank god, because can you imagine how lame the show would be if everyone there were looking to hook up instead of enjoying the performance onstage? You would hate it. Go to the show and sing along with your favorite songs, dance or just close your eyes and get caught up in the music. But if you’re looking for love, you’ll probably have better luck at the mall. ♦

Luke Winkie is a writer and former pizza maker from the hills of San Diego, California. He currently lives, studies, and cries in Austin, Texas.

48 Comments

  • THRILLHAUS August 19th, 2013 7:18 PM

    My boyfriend and I met at a Jeff Mangum show a year and a half ago; we live together now. We are the exception to the rule.

  • taste test August 19th, 2013 7:29 PM

    “…I thought once I completed the indie rock uniform, a theretofore hidden herd of alterna-teens would suddenly pop out of their secret lair and beg me to join them.”
    “Watching live music was the only time I felt surrounded by my ‘true’ peers.”
    this article was too damn relatable. I felt like I was reading about myself in high school except with guts, because I never got around to actually buying myself a Alternateen™ wardrobe or trying to meet anyone at a show. but those are both definitely ideas I entertained.

    even though I now understand that nobody will ever have the same tastes as me, I hold out hope that one day someone I meet irl will not back away slowly when they hear my favorite bands. I’m not asking for sameness, but a little bit of mutual interest would be nice…

    http://xyzzyzzyzx.blogspot.com

  • laureate August 19th, 2013 7:48 PM

    I just went to a show the other night and sure enough, while it was fun, I left feeling disappointed for this VERY REASON- didn’t hook up at the show. Thank you for this reality check!!

  • Ellie August 19th, 2013 8:05 PM

    i guess i needed that.

  • la fee clochette August 19th, 2013 8:22 PM

    hmm-I actually met my bestfriend at a show.

  • Elva August 19th, 2013 9:02 PM

    hmmm, i’m unsure if your not-having-met-anyone equates everyone else won’t.

    valid points though, trying to “socialize” at shows is generally a tricky one

  • Joy August 19th, 2013 9:08 PM

    OR you could meet a real jerk :(

    I went to a Flaming Lips concert and, during the show, I broke up with my boyfriend at the time because he was cheating on me. Then, I met an unfortunately handsome, yummy, cute, everything of a boy and after talking, he called me cute and we hooked up during the show, doing some sesssssuall stuff. It got pretty heavy, so he tried doing something farther than my comfort zone allowed, which I said no to. A little after that, he said he had to use the bathroom and he left me with his weird, but sweet, friend the entire rest of the show, leaving me to wonder when he’d come back. After the show ended, I looked for him but when I was right in front of him, he walked past me like he had never met me before. I spent an entire month thinking about him and wondering what we could have been, which was a waste! Because if a guy does something gross like that, you should def forget about him.

    Once I did, I saw a while later that he was one of my recommended friends on Facebook and boy did I dodge a bullet. He was an uber conservative, Obama-hating, NRA member, Planned Parenthood hating jerk WITH A GIRLFRIEND AT THE TIME HE MET ME and I knew that that would have never worked for me. So you might hook up too, but remember that concerts are horrible places to meet people because you really don’t know that much about them, and just because they like one really good band you like, doesn’t mean they’re your soul mate. Plus, Wayne Coyne in a giant plastic bubble is way more interesting than anything else ever. Seriously have you seen him? It’s great.

    • rottedteeth August 19th, 2013 9:45 PM

      Perfect example!
      that sounds like it really sucked. I will keep your story in mind every time I go to a show

      http://empassant.blogspot.com/

      • Joy August 20th, 2013 8:23 PM

        Awesome and thanks! It can happen, but also finding a cool and amazing person who’s hella rad can happen too. Life is life and it’s not perfect (like in my story), but it can sometimes be awesome and cool and you can find love like Summer and Seth and just soak up your awesome cool love together while making out and everything. Everything’s just kind of unpredictable, ain’t it?

  • ohclemence August 19th, 2013 9:19 PM

    I wish my thirteen year old self could read this.

  • ashleeeybash August 19th, 2013 9:26 PM

    hahahaha, I love this so much. In high school, I would attend so many shows and my first thought, “Alright. Who will be my boyfriend after this? How can we make this happen?” and after I heard that song by Iration where it states, “We met at a concert, you were wearing converse” I thought it was destiny.

    But you’re right. It’s way too loud. and the person you thought was staring at you is probably staring at something way past you. This made me laugh so much. Thank you for this.

  • CatWitt August 19th, 2013 9:39 PM

    While I would agree that it’s not the best idea to go to a show looking for love, here’s the thing: if you’re at a show and you’re enjoying yourself and being wonderful and amazing, you can open yourself up to finding someone by accident. My boyfriend of almost three years and I met on the shuttle buses back from the Austin City Limits festival, and we live together and have a dog and are, as the great Bey has said, “Crazy in Love.” So yes, don’t set yourself up for disappointment by trying to force something instead of enjoying something for the sake of enjoying it. I chased after a relationship for a long time, to no avail. But if you’re in your element and being amazing, you may very well find the love of your life by accident.

  • abby111039 August 19th, 2013 9:48 PM

    Damn. Reality checks are always so darn painful.

  • sungiant August 19th, 2013 9:54 PM

    ive been to che cafe! its so hard to find good all ages places in san diego ughhh. can anyone recommend others?

    • teenidle August 19th, 2013 11:52 PM

      House of Blues, SOMA, Che Cafe are pretty good.
      Also sometimes M-Theory Music and Lou’s Records will have in-stores with artists playing at 21+ venues.

      The Casbah has started to put on All Ages shows in other venues, most often at The Irenic, Birch North Park Theatre, Porter’s Pub, Epicentre, Queen Bee’s, etc.

      There’s also some bigger venues:
      Valley View Casino Center, Humphrey’s, SDSU Open Air Theatre, RIMAC (UCSD arena), Viejas Arena (SDSU arena), Jenny Craig Pavilion (USD arena), Sleep Train Ampitheatre, and then there’s a couple of theaters downtown that will have artists occasionally.

      Unfortunately it seems that most bands will wind up at The Casbah, The Griffen, Belly Up, 4th and B, Soda Bar, etc and it’ll be 21+ =/

      • abigail emma August 21st, 2013 1:37 PM

        never been to the Irenic but planning on it, for Hostage Calm with Saves The Day and Into It. Over It. have you been there, and if so, is it a good venue? i feel that some people think it’s kinda lame.

        • teenidle August 21st, 2013 5:27 PM

          The Irenic is interesting because it is/was a church.

          The biggest/weirdest thing is that there’s the stage itself, and then there is a wooden platform in front of the stage, and then the floor (which I seem to remember sloped down which was nice.)

          When I was there it was for The Evens, so Ian asked the crowd on the platform to sit down so that the people not on the platform could see, and since it’s Ian Mackaye asking you that, you listen and sit down (also The Evens are a band that you can sit down for). But for other bands where you’ll be moving around/a pit happening (I know Titus has played there/is playing there soon), I’m not really sure how it works with the weird platform? I don’t know if they play on it?

          Overall, it’s not a bad venue. it’s one big room pretty much, with carpeted floors. Parking isn’t great because North Park though. The best thing about it is that it’s All Ages and for that, I’ll take it, weird platform thing and all.

        • teenidle August 21st, 2013 5:29 PM

          It’s also very clean (because it is/was a church)! I remember I liked that. Very clean and pretty lighting. It’s intimate, or at least felt that way because of the nature of the show I was at.

  • Flyer August 19th, 2013 10:13 PM

    That is my favorite author bio, btw.

  • teenidle August 19th, 2013 10:33 PM

    I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN.
    I mean, literally.
    I know that pillar at the House of Blues (though lately they’ve been making the balcony 21+ instead of the floor? weird). I know the Che and the hell of parking there. I know the heartbreaking pain of finding out that that super awesome band you’ve been dying to see forever is playing at The Casbah of all places.
    San Diego wasn’t the easiest place to be an under-21 music fan.

    • sungiant August 20th, 2013 12:22 AM

      ughh seriously with the casbah i cant even look at their website anymore because SO MANY good bands play there

      • teenidle August 20th, 2013 4:19 AM

        They’re getting ~*slightly*~ better though. They’re starting to branch out and host events (Casbah Presents I think they are calling it) elsewhere and have them be all ages. They’re putting a fair amount on at The Irenic which is nice.

        http://www.casbahmusic.com/under21/3/

        But it’s also still like, there are bands UNDER 21 that play there (The Orwells, The Frights, etc.) and they can’t even see a show there.

        I was talking with the guys in Japandroids about it and apparently when they played the Casbah once this kid like waited outside the venue for them and they managed to get him in but the only spot he was allowed to be was in the corner behind Dave’s drum kit and the process of getting him in involved like crawling against the wall? So I guess it’s possible if you’re dedicated. Some of my friends have floated around the concept of pretending to be with the band (dressed up in all black) and trying to sneak in! They never actually tried it out, so I can’t report on whether it works or not.

  • lyssagrltx August 20th, 2013 12:36 AM

    This is so true. I was at a concert the other night trying to make some friends, I went alone and was there 4 hours before hand to be in the front,honestly we had no other common interests than the band itself. I was honestly”haphazardly trying to inject myself into conversations without having been invited to do so” When the concert actually started I had fun though, because you don’t talk at a concert you jump around and sing/scream lyrics.

  • eremiomania August 20th, 2013 1:17 AM

    ~SAN DIEGANS UNITE~

  • Jacklyn August 20th, 2013 1:32 AM

    That settles it. You folks at Rookie can read my mind. I was seriously just at a concert a few days agowhere my friends and I were joking about finding my soulmate! I remain single.

  • Chelsea Reich August 20th, 2013 2:55 AM

    when i was 13 i had my (really bizarre) first kiss at a show. so that can happen i guess.

    i’ve also met many friends at house shows or other smaller shows within my local music scene, which is really powerful. i definitely wouldn’t throw out the possibility of meeting friends at shows! <3

  • xisxis August 20th, 2013 2:56 AM

    So true… btw it’s Che Cafe at UC San Diego ;)

  • bitcherry August 20th, 2013 9:24 AM

    True words of wisdom – Thanks, I really needed that ♥

  • maxrey August 20th, 2013 10:52 AM

    “a lot of loud fucking noise. Even the conversations you have with your best friends at a show come out stilted. There are just so many distractions. It’s crowded, it’s smelly, it’s dark, and it’s full of strange people. How can you be expected to talk a cute boy/girl into giving you their number when you have to lean into their ear every time you want to make a hilarious joke?”

    Someone should write this about bars and release it to the whole world. I’m honestly not sure where this “meet people in bars” thing comes from?

    • Majel August 21st, 2013 4:10 PM

      So true! And at quiet bars, no one is there to meet people.

    • Johann7 September 10th, 2013 2:32 PM

      Truth.

  • Wisteria August 20th, 2013 11:56 AM

    @Joy
    What is so terrible about hating Obama and being a member of the NRA? Guns are an enjoyable pastime for MANY people, and have been for hundreds of years. It does not make you a sociopath or bad person to enjoy collecting and hunting or target shooting with guns. I understand you may like Obama for his stances on equality, but many people dislike him for what he has done to the economic structure of this country, among other reasons. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and this is especially so on a subject like politics. I get that that guy was most likely a jerk, but if he was it wasn’t because of his hobbies or stances on politicians, which it is the right of every American citizen to have and differ on.

    • Joy August 20th, 2013 8:17 PM

      I completely agree that everyone should have the right to their own political opinion. A lot of my friends have very different views from me, but we still manage to maintain really cool relationships. However, his hatred went as far as making racist “jokes” against Obama, which is way far from having a differing opinion on his political stance, and I really wasn’t feeling it. And I completely agree that guns as a hobby does not make you a sociopath, because my amazing older sister frequently goes to the gun range. But I just do not agree with the NRA in a lot of issues, and I do believe I have the right to my opinion, also. His Facebook posts stating his opinion on people and politics were rude and offensive. And as he was very out-spoken about his opinions, I can be very out-spoken about mine, which is why it wouldn’t have worked out also because I have very strong beliefs that were polar opposite to his.

      So I do believe in what you are saying, Wisteria. America is hella awesome because we can have opinions and hobbies and still go on. Our beliefs and our hobbies don’t always make us bad people. But sometimes we also look to have people with similar beliefs when wanting something with a guy/girl. Knowing that I was making out with a guy who said some horrible stuff about the LGBT community makes me feel bad, because I have gay and lesbian friends and his beliefs are way opposite from mine. So to answer your question, there absolutely nothing terrible about it. But there is also nothing terrible about wanting someone who has similar beliefs as me. And who’s not a poop head.

  • Lauramv11 August 20th, 2013 12:42 PM

    I’m kind of an old lady at this point, I only occasionally go to the punk bar in my hood to crash into the crowd but….

    I met my current hunnie at a Railroad Earth show, a newgrass band that is a staple on the folk, roots, jammy, festie scene, which is far mellower, I know. However, love can happen anywhere when you least expect it, and it was definitely a love at first sight situation. We met during the 1st set break, he bought me a light beer, and he went for the kiss during “Black Bear”. We’ve been inseparable ever since.

  • wallflower152 August 20th, 2013 1:16 PM

    Ahh this was me! My first priority was/is enjoying the show. My second priority was always meeting boys and or kool new friends. Never happened. I don’t see why it couldn’t happen though. Just never happened for me or our friend Luke. Lucky for me, my bf and I love all the same bands and get each other into new bands and go to shows together so it all worked out. Good luck to you Luke and fellow Rookies. <3

  • Sophie ❤ August 20th, 2013 2:47 PM

    This was pretty funny- and also, this is the perfect reality! Loved this!

    http://theneonpapaya.com

  • ThisCharmingMan August 20th, 2013 3:28 PM

    Ha! Where have I seen this before?

    “There’s a club if you’d like to go
    You could meet somebody who really loves you
    So you go and you stand on your own
    And you leave on your own
    And you go home and you cry
    And you want to die”

    Oh, right…

  • Ally_O August 20th, 2013 5:11 PM

    Two days ago I was at a concert of two of my favorite bands with my family, and I was just enjoying the show when all of a sudden this random bearded guy in his twenties put his arm around me (I’m 16). I didn’t really know what to do but after a minute he looked at my dad, who was standing next to me, and said, “Are you with him?”

    “Uhh… yeah,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to say. The guy said, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t know ” and left. I felt vaguely creeped out for the next couple songs. That guy should read this article.

  • jjjjj August 20th, 2013 6:19 PM

    as a matter of fact i started getting into punk and going out of my way to go to shows bc i had a crush on my now bf of 2+ yrs and met some of my best friends thru shows :o)

  • trassel August 21st, 2013 6:00 AM

    This applies to parties too. or any social event. If you just want to hook up you’ll just get disappointed and not see all the other amazing stuff that could happen.

    • all-art-is-quite-useless August 31st, 2013 8:21 PM

      this is really true, I went to a party aiming to hook up and then felt so disappointed that i didnt… but then the next party I ended up having my first proper prolonged senssssual makeout sesh, even though I didn’t go there looking for a snog, which makes it even better (this was like two days ago btw)

  • alyafp August 21st, 2013 8:39 AM

    i never go to a concert. that’s all

  • Ilia August 21st, 2013 11:03 AM

    OMG I CAN TOTALLY RELATE TO THIS POST.

    That was the first thing that came across my head while reading this post.

    I remember going to shows alone to have the freedom (because I thought that it would be weird if I brought my friend with me (and my friends in my high school have different interests with me)) , believing that I will meet someone (who would eventually hook up with me, or be my friend).
    This post woke me up. It could work out, but the chances are pretty low.

    Thank you rookie, thank you Luke, thank you everyone for the wake up call.

  • cassiecassie August 21st, 2013 3:36 PM

    while i don’t think anyone should make “hooking up” their main reason for going to shows, i think the argument that it won’t happen is totally untrue – unless maybe your concert-going experience is limited to arena rock concerts.

    i spent much of my teens and early twenties in the northern california punk scene, where i made not only countless friendships but met all of the boyfriends i’ve ever had! and i know i’m hardly an exception in this regard. in fact, if it weren’t for the shows (from warehouses and house shows to small and sometimes larger venues) that were such a major part of my social life as an adolescent and young adult, i would never have met my husband, whose band used to tour to the bay area from canada!

  • PJ Barker August 22nd, 2013 9:18 PM

    hehe once, my boyfriend and i almost hooked up at a man overboard show, beneath the stairwell. the gaurds kept looking over there though, so we decided not to

  • lilghostie December 16th, 2013 11:00 AM

    def met my boo at a show. but maybe bc it was a house show? more of a party atmosphere? i’ve met plenty of boys at shows but the scene in my city is pretty small so….