A gig is just like sex for the first time. It may sound ludicrous but bear with me.
I don’t mean losing your virginity. If yours was anything like mine then that was more like blindly walking into a pub that had some live music on which turned out to be a terrible covers band – opportunistic, very uncomfortable, somewhat embarrassing and wholly unenjoyable. If you are anything like me you made your excuses and bailed out early.
No, a gig is like third, or fourth base – whichever base having sex is, with someone you like. Something you have been working up to and with someone you see yourself having some kind of future with. Hopefully over a few dates – hopefully.
But don’t rush your purchase – take your time or you could find yourself at a Scouting for Girls gig!
You have spotted them across a crowded playlist, or picked them out of a crowd of terrible tunes on a radio show and made the commitment, grabbed the bull by the horns and asked them out. There’s just something you like about them: that’s buying or downloading and listening to the album.
The listening is the first date. You think you are going to enjoy yourself, you think that you know what to expect (after all, you have heard the single), you just hope that the rest of the album is similar. This doesn’t always work out. The first date could end up be all filler no thriller, i.e. you’ve heard all the good bits and you’re left slightly deflated, slightly disappointed in them and yourself, for expecting more. This is not always the case – sometimes you go on a date, or buy an album, but it turns out nothing like the single which, you first think is disappointing but it turns out much better than expected.
I’m thinking Supergrass’s I Should Coco. I bought the album thinking it was going to be something frivolous, momentarily exciting but ultimately disposable, a one night stand with a theatre studies student, but it developed into something much longer term.
So, second base is the next stage – heavy petting we can call it, use your imagination. Just everything but the deed. After all, you respect her and she respects you. It’s more than a fling. This is getting to know the album. You find yourself humming the tunes at work. You realise you haven’t listened to much else recently. You realise you have repeat played a few tracks, even remembered some of the lyrics, because you want that connection.
You want to show that it is meaningful. You feel compelled to tell people about it, so that they may feel the joy that you do – and you are bitterly disappointed when people don’t see it. You don’t want to mention the L word just yet but you are very fond and you can’t get enough. There is only a certain amount of time that you can last before you need to take it to the next level.
You know every detail, every nuance of the album.
You begin to hum the harmonies rather than the main part.
Your heavy petting has properly jumped up a notch and the next level seems the most natural thing to do so you take a leap of faith and you buy some tickets to see them live.
A simple coded text confirms the night that you are going to do it (the only difference being that planned sex has a shorter turnaround time – after all we are human and she probably isn’t in the Far East in the middle of a world tour). And there are no tickets to pick up or funds to be transferred (I hope).
In that time leading up to the deed, you start to feel anxious.
You get butterflies in your stomach. You’re not sure what to expect.
You can’t concentrate and a day or two before, you have flutters of momentary excitement and panic and nerves and paranoia.
Questions fill your head: is it going to be as good as I think it will be?
Will I be too nervous or excited to enjoy it?
How will the evening pan out?
Nearer and nearer and nearer it looms.
It is all-consuming and you can think of nothing else.
The day finally arrives.
(Editor’s note: I removed ‘comes’ to avoid confusion)
The fateful day when you both agreed to take this plunge. To bare your soul and to combine and intertwine in this sweaty, frenetic energetically wild shared experience that could change both of your lives forever.
Or alternatively, it could end in a pool of irrevocable shame.
Will it go down as one of the best?
Will they make it onto your top 5?
Will it set the benchmark for future comparisons?
Will there be sparks?
Or just elbows and friction?
Will it set in stone your relationship which could last for years henceforth? It’s a momentous time. And it all hangs in the balance.
You get dressed up, prepare well in advance to ensure there are no logistical hiccups.
You don’t want to arrive too early in case you look too eager and peak too soon, mentally exhausted by the time it all kicks off. You don’t want to arrive too late – in case they start without you!
The main event
The event itself, sex or a gig, is as intense and exciting as experiences on this planet get. It can be euphoric, life-changing, an epiphany of grand proportions.
It can leave you energised and exalted while simultaneously feeling exhausted, spent, fulfilled and somewhat overwhelmed.
It can make you babble incoherently. It can make you giddy, giggly and dizzy, talking nonsense for hours after like you have taken drugs (you may well have done).
But it can also be soporific, knocking you senseless and snoring on the night bus.
As the gig progresses you can lose the feeling in your limbs, engaged in an out of body experience, not knowing which way is up and it may make you do things your sober self would never engage in: launching yourself into the mosh pit, dancing with strangers, screaming obscenities or other things that might need a safe word.
By the end of the gig, if all has gone well, you are spent, exhausted and drained. You have reached some sort of peak together. There may even be an encore!
Hopefully, you didn’t miss it with a badly timed trip to the loo but if you did you just have to put it down to experience.
Post gig awkwardness
Once over, you cling to that feeling as you regain your senses. This church or heavenly cathedral you were just in comes back into focus and as you look around you you can’t help feeling a little seedy and dirty. You notice the mess that this frenzy has created and you want to stay and tidy up, but best just to cut and run.
The cleanup operation has begun and you are left with a tingling and a lingering memory of something groundbreaking having just happened. You will be talking about it for days, boring everyone with the details. You will be trying and failing to capture the moment, the excitement, the exalted feelings of awe and unity with words and share it with your friends. But they don’t want to know, they weren’t there. It’s all a bit awkward.
However, if the gig, like the sex, is disappointing, you feel used, short-changed and embarrassed that you built it up so much yet it failed to live up to expectations.
You can’t wait to get out of there and you slink off into the night, tail between your legs.
The quality of a gig, like the quality of the sex, makes or breaks that relationship and even if you still love the album, it will forever be tainted by that memory.
Like seeing an ex in Tesco metro.
My top 5 are:
1. Radiohead – Glastonbury 1997
2. Arcade Fire – Brixton Academy
3. Elbow – Newport Centre
4. Frightened Rabbit – Pukkelpop
5. Interpol – Manchester Academy
What are yours?