Someone once said the best thing about getting older is you can stop pretending to like things just because you think you’re supposed to.
If that’s true then I’d like to add something to my personal Becoming An Old Fart list, and call bullshit on going to gigs.
Gigs are shit.
I don’t mean certain gigs, or bad gigs. I mean all gigs. Every gig. Gigs in pubs, gigs in stadiums, gigs at open air concerts (though at least at those, you can actually breathe).
Growing up I was in the gang who had long hair and listened to ‘real’ music, and we all tried to be in bands. Like Bryan Adams before us, those were the best days of our lives. But even then, actually going to gigs was horrendous.
You’re supposed to love live music because it’s so raw and authentic, because it brings you closer to source of the songs you love in a place where you can enjoy them with like-minded souls, all lost in a lovely moment of shared euphoria.
If only that were true.
Unless you’re one of the certified psychopaths who are punctual/pushy enough to end up at the front, being pressed against a metal railing by a few thousand jabby, beer-spilling bodies while being eye-balled by a goatee-sporting bouncer dreaming of his MMA career, just to be within a few feet of your heroes – who, by the way, are getting their kicks from looking out at the furthest row of people there to adore them, not the desperate, demonstrative singing in the front – unless you’re doing that then you’re nowhere near the source of the music you love at all.
In fact, you’re probably several hundred feet back, trying to glimpse some tiny figures on a stage, being pushed and pulled and trampled on by a set of pogoing, sweat-drenched knobheads determined to prove they’re The Best Fans.
They’re singing along, The Best Fans, meaning you feel obliged to as well, just to show you know the words. Only it doesn’t feel good, does it? Not like it does when you’re in your house, drinking wine in your underwear (underrated) or walking down the streets with your headphones on, startling old ladies. No – it feels forced and self-conscious, like singing in church, only with stickier floors.
This, of course, is jumping the gun. Because before the show even starts, you have to spend between 1.5 and 3 hours just waiting, because thanks to overdoses/egos/private helicopters, musicians are almost always late, and the ticket always warns you to get there insanely early – which you dare not disobey, in case you miss the opener – so you have no choice but to endure an endless stretch of time just wandering around some dingy shithole, looking down on the sweet, pasty couples queuing at the merchandise stand, paying £6 for a plastic cup of flat Carling, standing at the urinals torso-to-torso, thigh-to-thigh with a guy in a muscle shirt, hopping from foot to foot trying to ignore the ache in your calves, fretting about your place in the crowd, hating the sound check guys for not being the band, wanting, deep down, to cry.
Yeah, gigs are shit. All, that is, except for about five minutes in the middle or at the very end, when the band stops playing the new songs no one cares about and plays your personal favourite from their now twelve-year-old debut. And even then the only way you’re going to enjoy those five minutes is by being so completely off your head you can ignore the multitude of annoyances and neuroses that comes with being British, and alive, and at – of all things – a fucking gig.
Here are the conditions under which I think a gig would be fun.
It takes place in my own home, with no one else there unless I invited them. I can drink as much of my own booze as I like, out in the open, without queuing. And Bob Dylan is playing all of my favourite songs – in the exact order I choose.
In other words, watching YouTube.
Worst of all is that no one will admit any of this. People would rather look you in the eye and tell you, without smirking, that a gig ‘changed their life’ than admit they spent most of their night tired, irritable and praying there isn’t a third encore. Nowhere in life is there such a gulf between what we tell ourselves about an experience and what that experience is actually like.
Arrested development, or misplaced nostalgia: are there really any other reasons to attend a gig once you're out of your twenties?
Oh OK, probably a few, all that require being less of a boring, joyless twat than me. But personally, it feels good to finally admit there is nothing in the gamut of designated human leisure activities I’d rather do less.
Oh – except go to a nightclub. Don’t even get me started on nightclubs...