Saturday, 7 April 2012

G is for Gigs

It's one thing to sit at home with your stereo keeping you company or to amble your way to work in the morning with your iPod blaring, but it's something altogether different to be totally immersed in that sound, to feel it reverbrating through you. There's nothing like experiencing live music or feeling the atmosphere of the room as your favourite bands completely kills it. It's addictive.

Out of the hundreds of bands I've seen live over the last decade and a half, I am forcing myself to pick my top five - five?! - for this post. It's a task that is so challenging I've been sat here for several hours debating with myself over which should be included. We've fallen out about it more than once.

Anyway, it has to be just five - why five is the magic number will be explained in tomorrow's post - so this is what I've finally decided to go with:

* Manic Street Preachers - V99, a field somewhere in Staffordshire, err... 1999

Hey, before you judge me for going to this festival can I just point out this was in the days before fame hungry dicks and people who shag footballers started to swamp it. Secondly, the Manics owned it. I know it's not technically a gig, but this one has to be included because it was the best I've ever seen them play out of more than 10 performances I've witnessed.

A set littered with classics, all stomped along to while wearing my feather boa, spraypainted skirt and Doc Marten's. I remember shouting and pogoing all the way through it and also have vague recollections of some equipment being smashed up at the end. To the 16-year-old me, it was one of the best things I'd ever seen and actually, the 29-year-old me is inclined to agree with her.

Also, check out the price... £35 for a day ticket to a festival. Ahh, them were the days.

*  Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros - Rock City, Nottingham, 1999

Not quite The Clash, but being within spitting distance of a punk legend is an experience that will stay with me for a life time. The set was an equal measure of Clash and Mescalero, and while the stuff from his new band was great, it was pretty clear that everyone was there mainly to hear the classics. The Mescaleros didn't have that gang look and feel that The Clash so effortlessly pulled off, but their renditions of 'Rock the Casbah' and 'Tommy Gun' were pretty meaty and certainly proved a hit with the crowd.

A true gentleman, Joe's first task upon entering the stage was to get all small people to the front and the tall ones to the back so we could all see. As the crowd was made up of about five women, all of us down the front, and a few hundred men aged from about 30 to 50, things had already kind of ordered themselves that way. Yours truly got to see the whole set from the front barrier, where I got completely battered and bruied. But it was totally worth it.

I still have Joe's towel from that night stashed in my emergency box of stuff I'd save from my burning house.

* The Bronx and Mariachi el Bronx - Rock City Basement, Nottingham, 2010

A double dose of LA's greatest band and an exceptionally sweaty evening was enjoyed in the Basement. The thing with seeing bands in this room of the venue though is that you end up being almost on top of them, which is great, but also pretty terrifying when you're watching someone like the The Bronx. They're a scary bunch, let me tell you.

The evening kicked off with a gentle romancing from Mariachi el Bronx, a band of true beauty who bust every myth going about punks not being able to play anything but noise - these guys are amazing musicians and are tight as fuck. Not only that, they're also the best dressed band I've ever seen, just don't tell the Manics' Nicky Wire I said that.

Mariachi el Bronx - scary looking, but the best dressed band you're likely to come across 

MeB was followed by a ferocious, face-shredding hour of The Bronx proper. I was down the front for this one too and remember getting kicked in the head several times, particularly by a lad who stood next to me for half the set before deciding to launch himself into some sort of backwards crowd surfing manuever. It was pretty impressive.

* Gaslight Anthem and Frank Turner - Rock City, Nottingham, 2009

This was a special post-birthday gig, which made it all the more exciting as it's rare bands play any venues near me around the time of my b'day. It just so happened that this year was an exception, with The Bronx playing round the corner, with Rolo Tomassi and Fucked Up, at the Rescue Rooms on the same night. I opted for Turner and Anthem, which was a bloody good decision as the show was incredible.

Gaslight Anthem were touring 'The '59 Sound' at the time - an album that bows down and kisses the feet of both Springsteen and The Clash - and were on fire that night. Another songwriter who successfully sculpts his songs into stories of love, loss and life, frontman Brian Fallon weaves together his musical influences
to create beautiful songs with real characters at their heart.

This night in particular, the band had the crowd at their mercy and the place went completely mad. They played 'I'da Called You Woody, Joe' as part of their encore - a tribute to Joe Strummer - where support acts the Polar Bear Club and Frank Turner ran on stage in their pants.

Turner was equally awesome, playing a stripped down, solo set of favourites.

I am somewhere in this picture, but can't remember if this is from the gig
I'm talking about above or the headlining show Turner played
at Rock City a few months later. I have a feeling it's the latter.
Either way, demonstrates his live awesomeness.

* Alkaline Trio and Crackout, The Charlotte, Leicester, 2001

This was more than a decade ago, so my memories are pretty hazy. However, I do remember this gig was completely rammed and ridiculously sweaty. Pals Crackout got my friend and I in on the guestlist as they kindly used to do back in the day and I remember Alkaline Trio changing the words of 'Stupid Kid' to 'Birthday Kid' for some lad in the crowd. There was also a lot of crowd surfing going on, which was risky considering how loe the ceiling was at this place.

Thinking about this gig makes me feel sad because Crackout and The Charlotte are no more.

Anyone got any good gig memories to share?


  1. I am not familiar with any of these bands, with the exception of Joe Strummer. I grew up in Kansas and I loved the Clash and had a homemade Clash t-shirt when I was about 13. I think the last concert I went to was Green Day and that was two years ago in Denver. I felt really old, but I had a great time.
    My best concert memory is being in the second row on the floor of David Bowie's Glass Spider tour at Kemper Arena in KC.

  2. Thanks for introducing me to some new bands.

  3. I loved this post, there really is nothing in the world like a gig. I took my 14 year old daughter to her first gig in January, that was a brilliant experience for both of us, it was Panic at the Disco her second favourite band, I'm not so keen but just being there and seeing her total awe at seeing and hearing her band in the same room was one of the best experiences ever. I'm very grateful she let me take her, not so sure I'll be allowed again!

  4. Ah, the generation gap (might've also worked as a G post)... I know none of these bands. The only one that sounds remotely familiar is the Mariachi ones--and then only because I'm Mexican and Mariachi is a household word that has nothing to do with these people (judging by the video, although the outfit is authentic) :D Sorry about that. But I love your zest for life and for intensity--it comes through in every word. You're right about the only people worth anything being the mad ones, the burning ones. Whatever else you do before turning 30, make sure that--*that*--stays with you. Can't tell you how, just do it.

    Thanks for the visit to my blog earlier. A *gezellige* weekend, mad burner!

  5. Very interesting take on the A-Z Challenge. I am always learning new things and today have learned names of groups I not heard of before.....yay for me!!
    Great take on the challenge!!!
    Patricia, Sugar & Spice & All Things ? Nice

  6. love the Manics - thanks for your recent visit. I am only catching up now

  7. Enjoying your blog - great to read about music though fresh eyes! I work in music management so gigs are part of my 9-5, so to speak. :) But it's always amazing to get out in a crowd and really lose yourself in a show... Mariachi el Bronx opened for the Foo Fighters last fall but sadly I didn't get to the show in time to catch them. Some day!

    Loved the imagery of you dancing with your feather boa and Docs! Best of luck A to Z-ing!

  8. Ooh, the Manics! I'm so jealous. Still haven't seen them live. I really wanted to go to that Holy Bible anniversary gig in December.
    No one ever comes to Montreal. Well, almost no one.