Last week I went to see Vampire Weekend. It was a bit of an exciting outing – through a combination of laziness, crowd-related anxiety and quiet rage about how bloody expensive the things have got these days, I don’t go to gigs that often any more.
Which teenage me would find horrifying. In February 2002 I went to nine gigs, and that wasn’t that many more than usual (although I was so proud of the tally that it’s ingrained in my brain as a badge of musical pride). Quite how I paid for it, or indeed got any A Levels, I’m not quite sure. I think my Saturday job in the local bookstore may have had something to do with it; it was the only job where sitting behind the counter catching up on your reading works in your favour and makes you less likely to get fired and lose your only income stream.
And when I was 16, I had a proper gig routine down. I would get there early and queue up so that I could get as close to the front as possible. I would take minimal stuff with me so as not to be the dick with the backpack in the crowd, or to lose valuable post-gig hanging about time queuing for the cloakroom. I’d wear layers that could be tied round my waist, and I would come fully prepared to be kicked in the back of the head repeatedly by crowdsurfers. And if I didn’t leave with at least one minor injury, I felt a bit cheated.
By uni I’d grown a little tired of living in a perpetual state of mild concussion, and so began a new routine. I was still near the front, but now I was at the side so that I could run in and leap about when I wanted to, and run to the bar when the support band were dreadful. I may have had fewer head injuries, but I had more hangovers.
Over the years, I went to many, many gigs. I tried to list it once in 2006 when I was avoiding doing my dissertation but I couldn’t agree with myself on what actually counted as a gig and what didn’t, and then I couldn’t remember how many times I’d seen Idlewild or whether I’d ever seen Hundred Reasons headlining the Astoria or just as a support act and in the end it became more stressful than the dissertation so I just gave up.
And now, I am old and boring and have the silent price rage. But in the times when I have gone to gigs over the past few years, I’ve generally felt a bit nostalgic for the glory days of headaches and weirdly unpleasant vodka lemon limes and disco neck (a serious gig affliction in the era 2003-2007).
But last week none of that happened. I’ve been going for seated tickets for a while now, but this was the first time I didn’t have even the faintest nostalgic pang when looking at the standing crowd down below. Because they had to stand up for HOURS. And standing up is clearly inferior to sitting, especially when instead of getting smushed about by strangers you get to do some really good chair dancing.
And, in perhaps the greatest joy of all, having those once-boring seats allowed me to sit there and have a nice cup of tea while waiting for the band to start.
A nice sit down and a cup of tea at a gig. 2002 me would’ve been horrified.
2013 me thought it was the greatest thing of all time.