I used to need live music like I needed oxygen. Trekking up to London from my little town, sometimes three times a week or more in order to see the latest band or attend a must-see gig. I was never a large venue girl, enjoying the stickiness of spilt beer underfoot and the sweat of strangers dripping off the ceiling onto my spirit-level straight indie fringe. I harangued minor celebs. And some major ones. My antics ended up in the NME because I was a total pillock who couldn’t negotiate a curb. I drank inappropriate types of alcohol for a young woman living in England because American drummers can be very generous.
Some people go running. Others sky dive, bungee jump or surf. They’re all making a horrible mistake. If they really want a buzz to end all buzzes, then they need to be sat on the edge of a stage while several daftly-attired, sweaty musicians turn a tiny, bleak room into a dirty salon of Sex, Dreams and Sexy Dreams. It’s the sort of magic that if Dynamo: Magician Impossible could actually simulate in a hygienic environment without roadies, then he’d be King of the World and guitar manufacturers would be fucked.
However… I Recently watched The Cure on Sky Arts 1 performing to a fucking HUMUNGOUS crowd. Periodically, as is the slightly uncomfortable wont of concert footage, there was a pan across and close ups of the audience. These people paid silly money to stand in a HUGE field and watch the frankly, epic Robert Smith perform. I was at home watching this and could still sense the awesomeness but the crowd looked bored.
Where was the dancing? The swaying and reverently singing every. single. word? Back in my gigging days I sniggered at earnest boys taking themselves and their musical heroes incredibly seriously – their doe-eyed worship was at the absolute opposite end of my fun spectrum. Dancing, fucking about, enjoying ourselves, having a shit-storm of an attitude that would compete with anything that was going on onstage. Karen O screamed and we all screamed with her. I once landed on my arse after slipping on a banana skin as I pursued the lead singer of a band that no-one remembers through a tent at Reading Festival, THAT’S how little I gave a fuck about being cool. The world enjoyed a wealth of pillockry at my drunken gaudy hands…all plastic, leather and velvet, screaming colours and patterns, fag burns, fishnets, Southern Comfort, whiskey, vodka and amyl nitrate.
We had no iPhones, we had no reason to care what people saw of us, let alone thought of us. We drunkenly stumbled, fag-in-hand with a brazen confidence that no-one would remember or give a fuck in the morning. We exercised little caution and danced. A lot.
Things have changed. Not least in that I have a miniature version of me around. I have a societal obligation to ensure that she doesn’t say ‘fuck’ as much as I do (I’m fighting a losing battle) and to stop her prodigiously honest gob from translating into a black eye for me (so far so good). I also cannot allow myself to just chuck her into the care of others so that I can jump up and down and then feel incredibly guilty because I’ve always taken my daughter everywhere and I know she’d love this and I probably ought to find a quiet spot so I can call and make sure she’s ok and my heart hurts because I miss her and…I’M GOING TO GET DRUNK. And then realise that I’m not a bouncy young fucker anymore and I need a Rennie and someone to restrain me from clouting the cocky little cunt who has just spent the entire gig so far holding his shitty statement non-iPhone up in the air. And his quiff is making me murderous.
Now we are Grown Ups. Responsible human beings with season tickets, security passwords and little cards in our purses to remind us of our cervical smear schedules and hygienist appointments. And the more time passes, the less I give a fuck about standing in a sweaty room that no longer smells of Marlboro Lights and the more I want to be Miriam Margolyes.
Whatever happened to my rock and roll? It’s still here. I still dance on the coffee table to the Ramones, land on my arse when drunk and feel something akin to transcendental hysteria when I hear an incredible, palpitation-inducing piece of music. Rock and roll is more than just vicariously living through other people’s talent and attitudes. It’s about being part of something, rather than just attentively observing. It’s the eye of the storm, the worm in the tequila. You can see it, but most people wouldn’t want to get too close. It’s that sense of risk and the creation/destruction conflict that makes it so damn sexy even if you don’t know why. It’s like modern-day witchcraft with electric guitars.
Those Solemn Participants (COR, that’d be a great name for a band!) aren’t seduced by fender-trickery or bite-your-lips-hot lyrics breathlessly delivered. They are collecting the experience, not indulging in it. I used to have a fantasy about bathing in Guinness because it looked like it would feel incredible. TSPs would never understand this. It would horrify them.
Initially I was FURIOUS at these bored, ungrateful dickheads, standing silently, faces upturned and motionless. I am now a Middle-Aged Stroppy Woman, rather than the stage-clambering bandaholic of old, but I still know how to coat myself in vodka, smear lipstick across my face and crash headlong into any gig like it was going to be my last. Those poor fuckers will no doubt have an awesome collection of ticket stubs, but I’m willing to bet they’re not covered in scrawled lipstick telephone numbers, dubious chemicals and crystallised Southern Comfort. And like the best sex, you need to dive right into live music with utter abandon and FEEL it, not merely observe. The other way round is for creepy fuckers.