This day, one year ago, I was walking through London in the dark with sore feet, covered in someone else’s beer, with ringing ears and tired eyes. It was amazing.
I had gone to see my favourite band at The O2 Arena London, something I had been looking forward to for months. Gorillaz first came onto my radar when they released their second album, Demon Dayz, in 2005, and their cartoonish videos were strewn across the music channels; bright, fast moving channels which my ten year old brain was only just learning about. It was when they released their 2010 album Plastic Beach that I fell hard and fast. I absorbed all that I could about the band and the lore behind the characters; the creators Damon Albarn & Jamie Hewlett and their previous projects; the musicians who inspired them and the musicians who were behind the band. My parents bought me tickets to see the Plastic Beach tour for my fourteenth birthday, so I knew the level of spectacle and showmanship to expect the second time round.
I did, and still do find, going to large arenas and concert venues an oddity. Gorillaz may have been the introduction to the music that made me me, but the concerts I attended from then on in were much smaller, grubbier, and low key. As a teen, I frequented Cardiff Student Union, attending the NME Awards Tours and performances by the likes of Two Door Cinema Club, surrounded by people who were always cooler than me and who I desperately wanted to be. I caught Bastille at Solus before they hit the big time, getting pushed and shoved as the lead singer vaulted the stage, no security to stop him at such a small venue. I felt the balcony floor shake and bounce at the O2 Academy Bristol as White Lies played, my insides plunging with each jump. When I moved from Wales to Winchester, my evenings would be found at The Railway Inn, watching unsigned acts and open mic nights. Amongst the gigs in pub backrooms and one thousand capacity venues, I did find myself in arenas, for names like Paramore, Coldplay and Gorillaz, and in festival crowds at Reading and Green Man.
Each time I go to a concert or a gig, I leave it feeling ecstatic. I could have been on my feet for hours, waiting in the cold, being pushed and shoved by thousands, leaving with sticky shoes and beating ears, but the feeling of a concert is like nothing else. To be immersed at a concert is to be both totally alone and be enveloped. You and hundreds of others, maybe thousands, are all here together, all jumping and moving in unison, experiencing the lights, the sounds, the scene, together. And yet, you can be so alone. No-one else in this crowd has the same specific emotions evoked by these songs as you. The memories you have with each song, each lyrics is solely yours. This is a moment between you and the performers, and this goes for every person there. A concert is a sensory overload; sight, sound, and touch are being beautifully bombarded from all angles. The lights are bright and rapid, making the crowd and musicians glow and shine. The screens fill your vision allowing all that is subtle and miniature to be broadcast to the world that is this room. The welcoming, opening note always reverberates through the crowd, pushing and pulling.The sound verges on deafening, but that is the reason you are here. And when you leave, you leave with that experience on your mind, and ringing in your ears.
People go to concerts for so many, individual, subjective reasons. To tick another off their list, to see their childhood favourite, to admire musical talent, to have the the feeling of closeness, to forget the world around them, to remember the world around them. I find concerts to be a place of togetherness and subjectivity, an overall unique and dynamic experience you cannot find elsewhere. I enjoy the impressive atmosphere, the emotional connection to the music, and the constant moving and rhythm. I leave gigs and concerts feeling pure electricity running through my body. I don’t mind the sticky shoes, the waiting around, the aching body the next day. Heck, I don’t even mind the crowds of people. To be honest, it’s not a successful concert until a beer cup has been thrown in the air and you get soaked in overpriced Carlsberg. It’s worth it.
Tell me, what’s your favourite part of seeing live music? Is it the atmosphere, the musicians, the company? What’s the best gig you’ve been to? Let’s get this conversation about live music going!