One of my favorite concepts that I’ve seen discussed in a movie is that of the “single serving friend” in Fight Club. We’ve all had it happen; we’ve ended up next to a total stranger on a ten-hour flight or in a massive queue and we’ve struck up a conversation. For those spare few hours, we’re actually friends. We’ll trade stories, personal details, and family history, but once we disembark from the plane or the line starts moving, we’re back to existing completely outside of each other’s personal bubbles. Those friendships can be built on just about anything, from the title of the book you’re reading to the fact that your in-flight meal looks like something you ate on Mystery Meat Day in your high school cafeteria.
But if you want those friendships to actually mean something, if you want them to stick out in your memory, then I say that there’s nothing off which to base a single serving friendship than music. It doesn’t matter if your surroundings have to do with music – like a concert – or if it’s just another usual place to share space with a stranger. Find a common ground when it comes to music, and I think that even if your friendship is still just a “single serving,” it becomes a whole lot more fulfilling. Music, for whatever reason, provides the perfect base to jump straight into a friendship with someone, however short it might be.
I’ve had this happen to me on countless occasions. On my flight back to the States from Japan last Christmas, I’d ended up with another American heading home for the holidays. We’d gotten along well enough from the start, but it wasn’t until halfway through the flight, when he suggested that we swap iPods for a while, that our conversation really took off. Amongst his August Burns Red and dozens of other metal bands (which, admittedly, I could only wince through the first few seconds before hitting the ‘next’ button; I’m an alternative/indie girl, through and through), a Sigur Rós song shuffled up. Boom, instant musical common ground. And when I spied him jotting down names of bands he’d want to download later – Imagine Dragons, Pendulum, Ghinzu – I knew the next few hours would fly by. Once the headphones came off, we got into each other’s favorite bands to see live and which of the many tattoos between us were based on music.
When your surroundings are music-based, those single serving friendships get even stronger. I’d much rather go to a show by myself, rather than drag along a reluctant friend who doesn’t have the same affinity for a band. And is there any better time or place to strike up a short friendship than when you’re shoulder-to-shoulder with a total stranger, totally jamming out to a song, and then you catch each other’s eyes and share a silent “dear god, but this is awesome”? That right there is the perfect spark for a single serving friend. The foundation has already been laid, so when you’re waiting for the next band to come on stage or between encores, it’s easy to start something up. True, sometimes it’s more like a recipe for “single serving arch nemesis” if somebody starts stomping on your feet and throwing elbows, but I think you’re far more likely to make a friend.
As good as my plane buddy was, he doesn’t match the friends I’ve made at shows. I’ve made friends at shows for Bayside, Anberlin, and Grouplove. There was the pair of girls I met while we were bemoaning the awful guitar lines of a band opening for Interpol. And the guy I met at a Porcupine Tree show. And the guys who sat behind me at a Muse show in Philadelphia. And the guy from a White Lies gig in Tokyo. (That’s actually one of my favorites…we were the only two enthusiastic ones in a fairly tame crowd, and had easily sought each other out when waiting for the band to come out afterwards. The obvious “What other bands do you like?” question had been asked. His answer: “Two Door Cinema Club are pretty good…but Muse are definitely my favorite.” For me, that was like hitting the single serving friend lottery.) I might not know any of those people’s names or their life stories, but I know that we shared a few pretty awesome hours simply because we loved the same music.
I don’t really know why music serves as a better foundation for these kinds of one-off friendships. Maybe it’s because, unlike if you share a hometown or an alma mater, you’ve got more than just a place in common; you’ve got guitar lines that send shivers up both your spines and lyrics that evoke deep emotions. Maybe it’s because, unlike if you both love the same book or movie, you can move beyond reciting favorite lines onto comparing favorite lyrics and how they rip your heart out or give you strength. Maybe it’s because the music you love can be a huge part of our character, and by crossing paths with a kindred musical spirit, you’re meeting someone who shares the same sort of emotional makeup. Whatever the reason, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll make a better single serving friend for me if we both love Elbow or Girl Talk than if we both love the same restaurant or celebrity.
And the beauty of musical single serving friends is that they sometimes don’t stay that way, seeing as you’re probably going to end up going to the same shows. After all, I ended up running into the Muse guy from Philly eight months later at another show in Columbus. Get music involved and “single” sometimes changes to “multiple.”