A Fun Time At A Music Show

Joel Golby

It took me basically forever, on the scale of human maturity, to attend my first gig, for two primary reasons; firstly, as a youth, I was just chunky as all hell and had a completely nude, bumfluff-wise, face [1], and so with the paunch of a thousand Penguin bars weighing heavy on my middle I basically looked like: a lesbian, meaning I was not an especially cool kid and as such did not especially leave the house, and; because my musical development was basically just completely stunted, all over.

[1] my facial hair has progressed, glacially, but is still basically the major issue I face from waking to sleep. ‘Lustrous’ is not the word. ‘Ginger’ and ‘sparse,’ perhaps.

I feel like, as a rule, the formative years of my personal generation were spent in a musical mire – MTV, for us, was not Nirvana or the Arctic Monkeys, no, it was such as Linkin Park and KoRN and &c., so I can firmly predict that no musical good will come from anybody born in 1987 [Cases in point: Zac Efron, Ke$ha, Li’l Bow Wow]. I am not the musical genius to save 1987’s generation from itself, no – I spent one afternoon playing the guitar, taught by my sister’s incredibly patient boyfriend, where I learnt G# and that my fingers hurt when I did it and then that was about it. Sixth Form was not, for me, spent strutting powerfully around a sticky-carpetted stage on open mic nights, no. It was spent listening to Feeder almost exclusively on basically the last CD Walkman to ever be sold.

Feeder, in a nutshell, for those lucky enough not to know: a mediocre guitar band whose main selling point is ‘their drummer totally died’ and ‘their website is nearly impossible to find without being roundly traumatised.’ I had every Feeder album, changeable though they were – from the unremarkable not-angry-but-somewhat-ticked-off lite-rock of 1997’s Polythene through the whiny blip on the musical landscape that was Yesterday Went Too Soon and their high-point, Echo Park, notable for being in the era of their two best songs (Buck Rogers and Just A Day, which inexplicably was not on any of the albums goddammit) and then, my favourite, the retrospective yawn-fest that is Comfort In Sound.  I had all of these, where possible, in their Special- or Limited-Edition formats, immaculately maintained cardboard sleeves housing just the most inoffensively bland music. Since realising, epiphany-like, that this band were no good in circa 2005, my life has just been one long wince.

The first full gig, then, came a few months after my friends, all badly grown hair and black t-shirts, had an intervention and forced me to augment like at least one CD come on now into my Feeder collection, which was The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster’s The Royal Society [2]. Here was my immediate reaction on listening to this album for the first time, crashingly predictable 16-year-old that I was: I grew my hair without foresight to greasy shoulder length and started wearing black t-shirts. This completely exacerbated the lesbian vibe I was rocking at the time, yes.

[2] I used to listen to that album and play a pirated copy of Crash Bandicoot 3 on the PlayStation and typing that sentence has made me just nostalgic all over*

*UM I mean I used to listen to that album while TOTALLY HAVING SEX WITH LADIES because MY ADOLESCENCE WAS JUST LIKE SKINS

We were getting a lift to the gig with the main protagonist organising this whole sorry jolly, Chris, who, as we were boys and from the North, was known merely by his surname, ‘Lacey’ [3], and so it was me, him and [Leakey], driven to Nottingham by his Dad. DISCLOSURE: Nottingham is a like 40-minute drive away. DISCLOSURE: Lacey Jnr. And Lacey Snr. have what is known in the trade as ‘a totally difficult and therefore silent relationship.’ You can add these two things together, if you like, but it always equates to ‘sitting cramped up in the back of a teal-coloured Volkswagon estate wondering when in your life you will die.’

[3] A whole complex thing is invoked when this naming ritual becomes rote, in that; it is impossible to mentally sieve a surname that you know a face by back to its original forebear. Here is the thing: when you phoned up Lacey’s house, you (me), (an idiot) would say, all brave and polite and squeaky, “uh hello yes Mrs. Lacey is Lacey there please?” and the patient woman on the other end of the phone would survey her home, littered with two energetic dogs, a camping equipment salesman and four teenage boys at various stages of clumsy-legged incubation, and say, without irony: “which one?”

Getting to the gig itself was a two-pronged and impossible affair: firstly, we had to silently traverse this just impenetrable one-way system that Nottingham had recently installed, which actually caused Lacey Snr. to utter such as ‘ugh, this one-way system!’ and ‘who designed this one-way system?’, and; when left to our own devices in Nottingham, the short walk from being dropped off at a bus-stop to us walking into a pebble-dashed building that was in no-way exhibiting signs of life and indeed had boarded up windows and doors was just totally complex with us, three suddenly very self-aware teenagers, all shyly peering around corners and staring fruitlessly at closed doors until, twenty minutes later, we actually figured out how to get in and it was up some totally obvious stairs, as it turned out.

All this mental effort, exerted, both not talking in a car and then finding a door, left me almost too drained to talk, basically, so I leaned against a wall and felt my hands go clammy, balled up in my pockets as they were (a classic and dangerous ‘talk to me, ladies!’ stance) while Lacey bummed clove cigarettes from similarly teenaged girls and roped us in to force chit-chat with their plain friends while he targeted their ringleader, Antonia [4].

[4] I remember her name, vividly and painfully, because for the next about five years actually Lacey had this stubborn obsession with her (Antonia), whose name he pronounced repeatedly and wrong as An-TON-yuh* whenever he made attempts to meet up with her for those kind of fruitless dates teenaged boys end up going on, which start out as all ‘Let’s meet up!’ but in real life turn out to be ‘You can walk behind me and carry bags while I shop for clothes,’ and he would announce these treks to us, our group of knuckleheads, once every six months or so, and I can still see the hope brimming in his eyes each and every time he steeled himself to spend a day in Meadowhall, cracking the knuckles of his fingers as though they might ever get some use.

*Which just drove me insane

The main flashpoint for the gig, though, for me, was not even the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, who plainly set about playing their songs on guitar in a live appropriation of what was on the CD, and basically the whole crowd pointed at them in encouragement and one guy just went insane and sort of half-sat on another guys shoulder and leaned on a wall so he was some feet up in the air, and then ripped his shirt off and slapped his own head and just went as I said insane when they played Chicken, the closer; no, that was basically uneventful. The night was basically over by the time the opening act was done, what with the half-naked man trying to do a jump on me part-way through.

The half-naked man was not just any old half-naked man [5], no – he was the lead singer of the support act, Pink Grease. Pink Grease were and – thanks Wikipedia! – are a glam-punk band from Sheffield, which meant the lead singer was wearing pink lycra trousers and a faux-Bowie lightning strike and basically not much else and who clearly thought, mid-set, in a baffling boner just all of his own, ‘yes, this is going well, these songs: I should jump on the audience.’

[5] although I do take exception to them (any old half-naked men), too, just jumping all over me. I am not a playground, people.

Unfortunately the audience was mainly: me. Because they were the support act, most of the main crowd was at the bar or fashionably and deliberately late; also, as previously discussed, I was, by aid of far too many chocolate bars, a large target. The singer crooned something along the lines of ‘the Pink G-R-EASE are gonna make you SWEAT!’ and then leapt over the barrier onto the human landing pad that was my younger, lesbian-er self. Now, I was not a veteran of gigs. I did not understand. I will tell you my natural reaction to a sweaty dude trying to jump on me: it was flight, not fight. I just side-stepped the guy. It happened in slow motion, but basically I gazed down at him, blinkingly oblivious, while a mortified topless man wrestled with himself on the ground. I might have kicked an empty plastic cup at him, even.

The rest of the Pink Grease set, once the lead singer had gotten up off the floor and hopped a barrier at the second time of asking was somewhat deflated, and finished abruptly. We watched the aforementioned man slap his head while another band played songs and then filed sadly into a car for the trip home. Lacey Snr. dropped me outside my house, silently. “How was your FIRST GIG!” said my Mum. “Good, yeah.” We never did it again.

—August 5th, 2011

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