I am not the kind of person who goes to live shows. I’m not the kind of person who leaves the house, to be perfectly honest; I have that potent mix of autism and anxiety that can make things difficult. But over the last few years I’ve got my life into something approaching emotional stability, and so I occasionally, tentatively, venture forth with the support of my partner to try things that were impossible for me years ago.
I am also not the kind of person who does music. At least, not the way other people do it. I can find it grating and there’s a puddle rather than a pool of things I will listen to. But when I do listen to music, I listen to it with intensity. One song over and over for days or even weeks. That’s just how it works with me.
So considering I don’t like noise and I only like music under very specific conditions, it will perhaps surprise you that I was drawn out to go listen to live music. It certainly surprised me.
But while absently scrolling through twitter, I saw this:
And, you know, I don’t often like music but I always like the Doubleclicks. They have the kind of clever lyrics and fun songs that make them a delight to sing along to. I stumbled across them years ago through a Tumblr blog and a song titled ‘Love you like a burrito‘ and I’ve been hooked ever since. They sing with joy for all things geek, love for the cute and the weird, rage for the patriarchy, and sometimes all of the hurt they have suffered. If you don’t know them, they’re two siblings — Aubrey and Laser — and their music is unexpectedly and compellingly earnest for a band introduced to me as musical comedy.
So I saw ‘touring Europe’ and thought … wasn’t Worldcon on in Dublin last week? Maybe England isn’t too far of a leap.
I did a quick google search and sure enough they were going to performing in Bristol, only a little over an hour away.
In 3 days’ time.
In the long list of things I am not the kind of person who does, spontaneity is somewhere near the top of the list. I need time to adjust to an idea, to plan, to panic. I need time to back out.
But the Doubleclicks were performing somewhere I could actually get to and for all I knew would never be back again. It was never going to be any closer or easier than this.
And as for my desire to try new and difficult things: there was never going to be a musical event I would find less distressing than a Doubleclicks one.
Still deliberating, I looked at the website and saw that the support acts were queer as well, including Nervous Rex, ‘the UK’s first Trans/Non-binary dinopunk band’. Since my partner and one of my siblings are both non-binary (UPDATE: I am also non-binary!) and I and many of my siblings are queer, this made me think it would be quite a fun and safe space.
So I booked tickets for myself and two of my younger siblings — one who is also a huge Doubleclicks fan and just as anxious as me, and one who is just awesome loves going out (there’s a black sheep in every family after all). The tickets were very reasonably priced but this was still a lot of money for us. I was already so anxious that this was barely a drop in the bucket, however.
My partner was stunned that something this outgoing had originated with me, but also excited. They tried to prepare me: ‘It’ll probably be a standing gig,’ they said, and just the word ‘gig’ made me nervous. ‘This sort of thing usually is. You might have to stand for a long time, and there’ll be a lot of people.’
‘Close enough to smell?’ I asked in extreme concern. If this seems like a strange question to you, then you are not sensitive to smell. It is terrible.
‘Close enough to touch,’ they replied gravely. I shuddered at the thought.
‘Do you think there will be seating available at all?’ I asked. ‘They said there was limited seating.’ If I could make a base somewhere and put a bit of space between me and the people, I would find it all a lot easier.
They didn’t know, so I did my research and ended up emailing the hosts, Pigeon & Bear Productions, who had kindly said to contact them about accessibility needs. I felt quite awkward about this because I have mental health disorders, not physical disabilities, but I explained the situation to them and they assured me that there would be some seating and they could reserve somewhere for me if needed. This massively lowered my anxiety about the whole situation, so well done to them.
‘They’ll be Doubleclicks fans,’ my partner said. ‘It might be packed, but at least it’ll all be queer, feminist geeks.’
‘Will it, though?’ I was unsure. ‘How popular are the Doubleclicks over here?’ While of course they were legends to us and something we excitedly shared with friends and family, I hadn’t met anyone local who’d discovered them independently.
‘They’re the Doubleclicks,’ they said. ‘I think it’ll be fans.’
I still wasn’t sure. As an indie author, I’m extremely aware that there are levels and levels of success. Yes, they’re amazing, and yes, they were successful — but that didn’t necessarily translate to them being super well-known worldwide. So I quietly prepared for the worst, still determined to go no matter what.
The day arrived far too quickly, as all things do. I carefully cleared my schedule in the 3 days leading up to it, staying home and sticking to my routine so that I would have more emotional spell slots (I like D&D, okay? A lot more than I like spoons) available when the night arrived — and going to my first ‘live music thing’ was unquestionably a 9th level spell slot.
I prepared as best as I could. A dress that was long and witchy and comfortable as hell. Sparkly gold antlers to set off my blue hair. My antlers are an important part of me going out to do scary things: they make me feel braver. Less like a weird human and more like a fey being. It’s hard to be afraid when you look like you’ve just stepped through a portal from a fantasy world.
When we arrived (half an hour after doors opened and before the support acts were slated to start), there wasn’t a table actually reserved but there was one still available. My siblings and I scurried over and took up the seats we wouldn’t budge from for the rest of the night. Not long after we got there, a photographer asked for our picture. We were quite the nerdy crew, with blue hair, antlers, a hat with cat ears, some extra-large glasses, and a Hogwarts T-Shirt between us. We declined, to the photographer’s puzzled disappointment.
We made nervous conversation while a light machine sent multi-coloured pinpricks spiraling around the room and the bands did sound checks. I was close to tears many times and nearly bolted every time feedback screeched from the speakers. I constantly asked myself: ‘Am I really okay with this? Everything is already so loud.’ I had a backup plan that if I couldn’t cope, I’d go lock myself in the car and wait until the event was over so I wouldn’t ruin it for the others.
But we’d come this far and I didn’t want to let my siblings down (one of whom was definitely also struggling against anxiety). That wouldn’t have been enough 5 years ago, but I knew myself better now. I’d prepared. And I had the agency: all of this had been my idea. Nobody had dragged me along. I would see this through.
It was also … surprisingly quiet. The venue was far from full, people had room to stretch out — which they did, once the live music thing got underway. My partner insisted that it would fill up by the time the Doubleclicks were slated to start and while more people did trickle in, it was never that crowded. I was disappointed on the Doubleclicks’ behalf, but also deeply relieved. It was already a lot to handle.
I made it to the support acts, clutching my J20 and trying to make it stretch. My siblings thought their lemonade tasted weird and started to worry that it was alcoholic, which made my partner do the same. It wasn’t, thankfully, but it was a sign of how out of place we all were. The venue was small and sparsely-seated, a basement room with bold lettering on the low ceilings, which I kept accidentally scraping my antlers against. No windows or ventilation, and I’d have to scoot past the stage if I needed to escape. The kind of venue people describe as ‘intimate’. It was unquestionably cool. Unquestionably a real live music experience. Still, I was uneasy.
The support acts were incredible. The event hosts, Oliver Assets and Kurt Sovain of Pigeon & Bear Productions, were fun and friendly. Royal E Blue was a confident, goth, and gorgeous Drag King. He crooned beautiful, poppy songs before startling us with a sudden joke or backstory. Nervous Rex, looking nerdy and awesome in dinosaur masks, got cheers from the non-binary contingent at our table — especially for their iconic song ‘Do I like You or Want to Be Like You?’, which was well-agreed to be a Mood. Between both we had songs about Remus/Sirius Harry Potter shipping, Jurassic Park, and the unfair division of labour in the Flintstones. Honestly, a pretty amazing queer and nerdy prelude to the Doubleclicks, though I struggled. It was just so loud and unfamiliar and also every time someone hit a cymbal I felt like I was going to have a heart-attack.
It was good, but it wasn’t easy.
Then the Doubleclicks came on and everything changed. First, they opened with a firm favourite: ‘Cats at Parties‘, a song about social anxiety. I knew all the words and so did my partner and one of my sisters — we sang along with the whole thing, not just the chorus. I could sing along with every song they did and it was a complete joy. But it was more than just getting to experience their music live — Laser and Aubrey are entertainers. Everything they did was so polished. So smooth and funny and charismatic.
They have this energy that is a delight to watch — they’re silly and extremely polite to each other and just full of encouragement. It was very much a comedy act, watching them riff while Aubrey sorted the audio, or watching Laser introducing Aubrey’s dancing. Comedy, but refreshing and kind, with no bitterness or mean-spiritedness. Even when they sing about people putting them down or the hurts they have suffered — such as in Sensitive Badass, a song that never fails to get an emotional response from me — their music is uplifting, and live it was even more so. I will forever be grateful that I got to watch Laser sing about their gender euphoria in ‘I’m Winning‘ while Aubrey supported them with ribbon-dancing.
It was amazing to witness people discovering them for the first time as well — watching audience members startled into laughter and applause at the many clever lyrics, jokes, and punchlines which for me were still hilarious but very much familiar. It was surprising how new they were to most of the audience, actually — there was a scattered handful of us who knew the songs, but Aubrey and Laser assumed the audience largely didn’t know them, and that seemed to hold true.
Even weirder was that I’d come prepared to not actually see them. It was a standing gig, and I was sitting at the back. But it was relaxed and most people actually sat on the floor, so I had a clear view of the stage. It was a mix of wonderful and uncomfortable, as was the whole experience — I had a better view than I had ever expected, but also the paranoid and squirmy feeling of making eye contact, though I’m sure that wasn’t actually happening. But I sang and I rocked in my seat, and I looked when I felt able and I looked away when I didn’t, and it was lovely, in its way.
The whole audience was disappointed when they were done — no-one less so than the 8 year-old who’d been chatting animatedly to them through the entire performance, and to whom Laser had been responding with sweetness and encouragement edged with exasperation (well-hidden from the kid, though, for sure)! I’m grateful to that kid — even though they were essentially heckling the Doubleclicks with praise — for loudly requesting ‘Lasers and Feelings‘, a song about having a crush on a supervillain.
For their last song, Aubrey donned a banana costume, because why wouldn’t you wear a banana costume if you wanted to, and it was just as silly and joyful as the whole performance.
When the gig was done my siblings exclaimed their excitement about the whole event. My partner asked if we could go get a selfie, which caused me and all my blood relatives to immediately panic. But we followed them up to Laser, trusting them to speak.
Laser looked right at us. ‘You know us,’ they said. ‘We can tell.’ They called over Aubrey and we got a picture with them, and then they both signed a poster for us without us even needing to ask.
When they finished signing, Aubrey quietly said, ‘I like your antlers. And your hair.’ And then was gone. Just a quick and encouraging affirmation even though I was being awkward as hell and probably looked semi-murderous from emotional debt. It had me smiling long after we got home.
After, we got some merch because it’s important to support indie artists and because I wanted my siblings to have something to remember the night by. On the walk to the car, one of my siblings proudly admitted that they’d told Laser they loved them, which is a weird thing to say to a musician you don’t personally know but then also maybe it isn’t. Music is a bit like that, and so is seeing someone who looks like you on a stage.
The hour-long journey home gave us lots of time to reflect and share our experiences. I don’t think live music is really for me. It was overall a positive experience, but with a heavy pre and post-event emotional debt. There are less stressful and more enjoyable ways for me to discover new music.
Seeing the Doubleclicks live though? I’d go again in a heartbeat. And if they don’t come back — if touring so far from home is too expensive, too exhausting, too any of the many reasons not to come back — at least I’ll know I seized the opportunity when it arose. In spite of the many reasons not to.
I am sensitive, but I’m a badass too.
BONUS: V’s Tips For Surviving a Live Music Thing
- Earplugs! Because noise-cancelling headphones aren’t subtle enough.
- Know where the exits are. Hopefully you won’t have to sneak past the stage.
- Find a spot. THIS IS YOUR SPOT. It really helps to have a spot.
- Backup plan! Where will you go if you can’t stay but you’re still waiting on friends? (Example: waiting in the car. Bring a book!)
- Bring emotional support! You know, the people who know what you’re like and will support you if things don’t go well.
- IT WILL BE LOUD. Prepare for how loud it will be. However loud you think it will be, it will be louder.
- Contact the venue/hosts about accessibility. It helps to know what to expect, and they might even help out. (Example: reserving seats at a standing gig)
Hopefully this will help you, too, survive a Live Music Thing.
Cover image background by StockSnap from Pixabay, used under Pixabay License.
Lyrics background image by Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay, used under Pixabay License.