I’ve been away from the gigging life for a few months due to ill health, but last night, I was BACK! It may have been a half hour acoustic set in a cramped and stuffy record store, but it was still a gig, and much more importantly, it was a gig by the amazing Paul Draper.
Happy 50th birthday to this incredible icon.
Kylie’s music has been a part of my life since I became a music fan in the late 80s. I must confess that at the time, I didn’t quite appreciate her wonderfulness. It pains me to admit that I was a massive music snob back then, but my excuse is I was 14 and didn’t know any better. But I grew out of that, thankfully, and by the time “Confide In Me” came out, I was an avid fan.
Exactly 21 years ago today, I went to my very first gig at the Manchester Arena. It was a truly monumental night, with my two favourite bands in the world on the same bill: Manic Street Preachers and Mansun.
It is one year since the terrorist bombing at the Manchester Arena, at the close of a concert by Ariana Grande. Twenty two people were killed, and over 800 injured. 2017 was a horrible year for terrorist attacks in the UK, and while I was lucky not to be involved in any, this one hit me much harder than the others. Like many people, I woke to the news the following morning. I also had an email from my mum in Canada, who just wanted to check that her gig-obsessed daughter hadn’t been at that particular gig. I was a tearful, nauseous, anxious wreck at work that day, and took advantage of a quiet workload to book the rest of the week off. I just couldn’t face the world for a while.
The loss of life from any terrorist attack is hard to bear, but this time, with so many young people involved, the pain was doubly sharp. It felt personal to me on many levels. I’d just been at the Manchester Arena three months previously to see the Pet Shop Boys in February 2017, and the attack occurred only two days away from the 20th anniversary of my first gig at that Arena, the Manic Street Preachers on the 24th of May 1997. This attack targeted people like me: music lovers, gig-goers, and more particularly, women and girls celebrating their individuality, their freedom, their joy of life, all through their love for music.
On top of the devastating loss of so many lives, I felt certain that the survivors of the attack would be so traumatised that they’d never be able to go to a gig again. Those young girls who found joy and expression and connection and affirmation in pop music would now connect it only with images of terror and death. But I was wrong: less than two weeks later, we saw many of those girls and young women smiling, dancing and singing at the Emirates Stadium, and it was all thanks to the remarkable young woman that is Ariana Grande. I don’t think anyone would have blamed her if she’d gone home to rest and recuperate amongst her family and loved ones, and not returned to the UK for a long time. But by coming back to Manchester so swiftly, and staging the One Love concert for all the fans who’d been at her show, she did so much to help heal the wound inflicted by the bomber. Given that I was a barely functioning human at her age, I am in awe that such a young person could have so much dignity, compassion and strength of character. My respect and admiration for her is huge.
So today I’m thinking about the 22 people who lost their lives a year ago, and the many more who were injured or traumatised by that horrible event. And I’m also celebrating the joy of music and of going to gigs, which remains undimmed despite the efforts of those who would shut us down, silence and subdue us. And I’m saluting the amazing woman that is Ariana Grande, whose wonderful, uplifting new single “No Tears Left To Cry” currently sits like a glittering diamond in a Top 5 full of coal.
All my love to Manchester.
Having just seen Placebo at the Brixton Academy the night before, I arrived in Manchester on a sunny Friday morning in May ’97 to find they had followed me there. So what else could I do but go again? However, I got a lot more than I expected that night.
These past few weeks, ill health has caused me to miss three Manic Street Preachers gigs that I had bought tickets for, and was greatly looking forward to. Luckily, I was able to sell two of the tickets to other fans, meaning that I got some of my money back, and those fans were able to enjoy the gigs that I couldn’t attend.
This week, tickets for Suede’s upcoming tour went on sale. I’d eagerly signed up for the fan presale and was all set to buy myself a ticket on Wednesday morning – until I saw this on Suede’s website:
LEAD BOOKER MUST PRESENT PHOTO ID TO GAIN ENTRY INTO THE VENUE
The name of the lead booker will be printed on each ticket.
The lead booker must be in attendance and photo ID checks will be made on entry into the venue. If the ID does not match the name on the ticket, entry will be refused.
If you are booking more than one ticket your guest must arrive at the concert at the same time as you. Failure to do so will result in the guest being turned away.
Failure to adhere the terms and conditions may result in the customer’s order being cancelled.
There are no exceptions to this rule.
These kind of rules are coming up increasingly frequently when buying tickets for big-name bands. And I fully understand the need to block the scourge of tickets being resold at inflated prices. But this kind of policy penalises the fans almost as much as it does the touts.
I have multiple health issues that can flare up at any time. I have no idea what my health is going to be like when Suede’s October gig comes around. So, despite the fact that I’ve eagerly anticipated Suede’s next tour since I last saw them in 2016, I’m not buying a ticket for this gig. If these ID policies become the norm, people like me have to weigh up the risk of losing often upwards of £50 should our bodies decide that a gig day is in fact a curled-up-in-bed-with-the-hot-water-bottle-day. And it’s not a risk I’m willing to take.
But it’s more than that. This policy means that parents can no longer give their teens the greatest possible birthday or Christmas gift – a ticket to see their favourite band – unless of course said parent is going to tag along to the gig too. It means that a whole group of friends has to miss out on a gig just because the person whose name is on the tickets is suddenly ill, or has a family emergency, or has to work late.
What galls me most about Suede’s note above is the final, officious line: “There are no exceptions to this rule.” I am pretty disgusted that absolutely no attempt has been made to make allowances for people with circumstances like those I’ve described. At least the Arctic Monkeys, who issued a similar policy for their upcoming tour, are allowing resale through Twickets – not a perfect solution by any means, but at least it shows they’ve thought about the ramifications of this policy for the fans. The fact that Suede clearly haven’t thought about this disappoints me greatly.
Surely there can be a solution to this which doesn’t penalise the fans? Can it be that hard to devise something like an official form that a ticket holder can fill in, declaring that they’ve passed their ticket on to someone else? Because to me, it seems pretty awful that fans should potentially miss out on gigs purely because of the actions of touts.
Here’s a song I wrote in 1992, when I was 17. I was heavily into the shoegazing indie bands of the time – Ride, Lush, Curve – and this was my attempt to write a shoegazing song on the piano. Lyrically, I think I was trying to say something about the apathy of my generation – simultaneously distracted and guided by pretty ephemera, with no major cause to unite behind. Thankfully, the young people of today seem much more engaged in the the world than we Gen X-ers were in the early 90s.
Recorded this year on Garageband. If only I’d had Garageband in 1992.
I’m having some vision issues at the moment which are making typing up long blog posts difficult, so in the meantime, here is a quick roundup of some of the music I’m mainlining at the moment. This really is a pretty exciting time for new tunes. Continue reading
In May 1997, I had epic plans for the Spring Bank Holiday Weekend: travelling up to Manchester for the mega Manics/Mansun gig at the Nynex Arena on the 24th of May. I decided to make an even longer weekend of it, travelling up on Friday the 23rd, returning to London on the Tuesday. And then, I decided nothing could be better than to start it all off on the Thursday night by seeing this new intriguing band Placebo.
Election Day 1997. A new dawn for Britain was approaching. And I celebrated the best way I knew how: by going to a gig.