Only with their consent, obviously. If I’m entirely honest I lack the confidence to initiate a hug and so limit myself to reciprocating when young folk (or even those much older than me) start the process. While I was alive during the 1970s (yes, all of them), I have no intention of joining many of its stars in jail (or the grave for that matter, but I fear this latter project may ultimately prove beyond me).
Since I arrived in Southampton, nearly four years ago, my life has changed in ways that I never anticipated (despite a career in forecasting). A surprising amount of this change has been caused by my tendency to talk to people, especially bar staff. A couple of years back, I was acquiring liquid sustenance at Turner Sims talking to the young chap serving me when he invited me to a free gig his band were playing at the Talking Heads the following night. In the spirit of adventure, which is such a mark of my life (well, as long as there is no risk of physical danger or getting my hands dirty), I found out where the Talking Heads was located and went to the gig. How bad could it be? (Very much my ‘goto’ phrase when offered an opportunity – yes, I know I should be using subroutines).
I am probably now averaging 4-5 gigs per week and spend very few evenings at home (as I have other, non-musical cultural activities to fit in as well). So, be careful where your spirit of adventure takes you: some adventures can be addictive! Some of this upswing in activity can be explained by my desire to support the arts in the current financial climate and some from the Talking Heads having moved rather closer to my tiny garret. However, I suspect the primary drivers are the way I daisy-chain my life and the interaction between my tendency to chat to strangers and to prove oddly memorable to them (then again trauma can lead to particularly vivid memories being laid down).
I’m not entirely sure where my tendency to talk to strangers came from, as I’m fairly sure it was frowned upon when I was a child. I think some of it may arise from my attempts to simulate empathy (and thus more readily pass as human) but mostly because other people often provide a very cheap form of entertainment if you talk to them (just watching them can also work, but such observation does need to be performed with care and it’s best not to focus for too long on a single target: however funny they may be).
I am even less clear why I should be memorable – though the name must help (but I’ve found it is in no way a necessary condition for others to remember me). I do tend to sit in the front row in gigs – I claim this is for the legroom and it also obviates the need to wear my glasses (which we can probably put down to vanity) but I suspect a small part of me is always hoping to wangle a part in the show. However, I’m not sure why this should cause musicians, comedians, actors or bar staff to remember me – they must see far more audience than I see performers and I don’t think I’m that unique looking (so anonymous am I that I frequently fail to recognise myself in reflective surfaces).
Which brings us to the daisy-chaining… Whenever I see a band or musician I know, I will invariable see a couple of other acts that I don’t on the same bill – and I may well find I enjoy their music. Added to this, I’ve discovered that most musicians are in more than one band or group in addition to any solo outings. So my knowledge of the local music scene rose exponentially – well, it did until I ran out of spare evenings! This may have reached its apogee last Friday when I went to two gigs, but there were at least four others within a few minutes of my home which I also wanted to be at.
I have now reached the point where it is almost impossible to go to any cultural activity in Southampton without meeting people I know: either on stage or in the audience (usually both). One of the enjoyable oddities of my cultural excursions to London is the strange anonymity they usually offer.
When I see a band or musician I like I tend to follow them on Facebook as this has proved the most efficient way of finding out when and where they are gigging. However, as I now know a lot of these people to talk to and/or drink with I find myself as Facebook ‘Friends’ with them as well. While I am still some way off Dunbar’s number, my list of Facebook friends has risen deep into double figures in recent months. This has enriched my Facebook feed but also had a slightly odd effect on Facebook’s attempts to sell stuff to me. There are now fewer offers of singles in my area and catheters (hooray!), but more offers of trombone related memorabilia (modified rapture!). Much as I love the trombone, I fear I lack the room or embouchure to keep one myself. I also worry about the impact on my poor neighbours were I to take it up.
Whilst I do go to some gigs with musicians around my age, the vast majority involve musicians who are yet to clock up even half of my own orbits around the sun. A substantial proportion of the musicians I know are current or recent alumni of the University of Southampton’s music department – and what a fecund department it is! I am now friends (in some form) with more freelance musicians, peripatetic music teachers and bar staff than I had even imagined. The creative young have to manage matrix ‘careers’ in a way that I never had to – which I find rather impressive, though I fear it may not prove a workable option far into their thirties. It has been a real privilege to spend time with such talented young people, though it does cast my own rather more modest achievements – suspended as they have been over a much longer timeframe – into rather deep shade. Still, it is probably good for my soul (subject to its availability) and is almost certainly keeping my inner old codger at bay (or at least more frequently on the back foot).