You are packed in tight amongst a sweaty mass of humanity, eagerly awaiting the band to come on stage. Having already endured the support act - four pretentious hipsters from Brooklyn blasting out bland angular rock, who will no doubt soon be hyped as ‘the next big thing’ by the NME, the arrival of a seven foot giant who chooses to stand directly in front of you, is the first dark cloud on the horizon.
Then, some moron shoves past, spilling your £5 pint of tepid bland lager as they steamroll their way to the front of the crowd. You contemplate initiating a potentially embarrassing public confrontation but instead, take the intellectual higher ground, simply shaking your head before making the well trodden journey to the bar via the loo. After visiting the ‘gents’ which in reality, is a filthy trough overflowing with frothing piss and saliva, you are queuing at the bar. Eventually, you get to the front, but the minimum wage motivated barman, apathetically serves someone who clearly arrived after you first. Said person orders six pints, one vodka and coke, one vodka and diet coke, a Blue WKD, a Pear Cider, a coffee with extra cream and a bowl of Pistachio nuts (Ok this is an exaggeration… surely nobody gets diet coke at a gig).
After finally being served you make your way back into the main body of the auditorium and of course your spot has now gone. Time is ticking but with the stage currently occupied by a couple of losers trudging around in a marijuana daze, moving a few things here, turning a couple of knobs there, pressing a few switches and dragging out a pretty simple task for as long as possible, there doesn’t appear to be an immediate rush.
You drop back a little, sacrificing position, but taking comfort from the diminishing danger of being dragged into the mosh pit or God forbid… one of those vicious circles populated by meatheads living out a Fight Club fantasy. You manage to find an OK spot with a good vantage point and settle in trying to block out the looped bland music playing over the PA.
The Roadies waddle off and a palpable wave of energy spreads over the crowd. This is your favourite moment of a gig. That agonising period where the chance to see your heroes in the flesh is about to materialise but you don’t know exactly when. The guitars and drums are gleaming in the lights and the amps rise like powerful sky scrapers. Everybody is excited and focused on the stage... apart from those currently talking and texting their friends on their phones that is.
But you are focused. You might even roll back the years and jump up and down at some point. You watch the side of the stage like a hawk, hoping to catch that first glimpse, while running through the ideal set-list, which has been in your head for weeks…
Then, the guy in front turns round and holds out a large bag of kettle chips to his friend who is stood right behind you. An arm snakes out over your shoulder, plunges into the bag and grabs a fat fistful. The stench of artificial Braised British Beef and Caramelised Onion wafts over your face. The pair begin to exchange inane conversation, talking through you, oblivious to your presence. ‘How was Barcelona?’ ‘Fucking cool. It shits all over London’, ‘Hear about Henry at Boujis?’ ‘Yeah apparently Peaches Geldof was there… in the VIP section’
The dynamics of your position have changed. Who the fuck brings kettle chips to a gig you ponder as you walk away. Suddenly, the lights dim, the crowd roars and you are trapped in no man’s land. You panic and try to tuck into the side of a thin thoroughfare that has formed through the crowd.
There’s movement on stage and then the buzz of guitars being plugged in. People start cheering and you join in, but you are self-conscious of blocking someone else’s view. And after a few seconds of being knocked by everyone who passes by, you cut your losses and head further back.
The opening riff from one of your favourite songs kicks in but you are still ‘homeless’ and facing the wrong way. Your eyes light up as you spot a suspiciously empty gap next to the sound booth.
As you get closer it became apparent why. A young couple, the guy leaning against the rail, the girl facing him, are staring into each other’s faces in a nauseating act of intimacy. Their faces are so close that their noses could’ve been super glued together. They intensely gaze into each other’s eyes… a repulsive sight you can’t possibly stomach.
The song is in full flow now but the only place you can find is… back… right at the back… in the dark.
The clientele of this area is vastly different. Older. Less enthusiastic. More knowledgeable maybe but definitely more sedate. Gone are the desperate attempts to look cool. In its place are tired old Metallica t-shirts. You realise this is where you now belong. Gently tapping your foot to the beat. It’s a watershed moment.
You find a space, turn round and survey the scene expecting to see a crowd, ‘rocking out’. Instead a sea of electronic devices, stretching all the way to the stage, lies before you. People filming, recording, and relaying the scene in front of their very eyes rather than just enjoying the moment themselves. It remains the same throughout the show. Softer moments are drowned out by bland conversation and electronic beeps. Mobile phones replace lighters for the anthemic moments.
A spine tingling guitar solo is half heartedly applauded as most people are more concerned with sending texts and updating social networking sites.
Depressed and thinking of the £35 plus booking fees you shelled out to be there, the extortionate awful pints you are sipping, the fact that you are due at work in ten hours and that maybe… just maybe… you are too old for this (where did the last 15 years go?), you take the tough decision to retire from attending gigs - aged 33.