My first ever gig was in 1996 as a 16 year-old; Metallica at Earls Court, with support from Corrosion Of Conformity. I was only allowed to go if I went with a friend and we booked the tickets through a coach company offering a specific package. The curse of being a teenager living at home! Nevertheless I agreed and so it was that my best friend, Matt, and I headed to London not really sure exactly what we were to expect.
On the way, disaster nearly struck as the coach had to pull over on the A12 from Ipswich to deal with an ‘incident’. This incident was a drunk idiot who had decided to open one of the window hatches on the roof of the coach and throw debris at cars on the road. Police were called and the nutter was eventually removed from the coach. Needless to say, my parents were none the wiser for many years as I was desperate not to be stopped from future gigs! Unfortunately, this fiasco meant that we arrived late and we completely missed CoC. I remember vividly the feeling of nervous excitement and anticipation as we headed for our seats (coach trips didn’t offer the standing option, damnit). On the way, I was compelled to buy a t-shirt and used it to cover my eyes as I realised with horror that our seats were up in the Gods.
The horror was soon forgotten as Metallica eventually took to the figure-of-eight stage, blasting their way through a set that had me entranced from beginning to end. The likes of ‘One’, ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ at a volume previously unheard of, gave me goosbumps and hooked me forever. The guy running across the stage engulfed in flames was also a bizarre highlight!
About a year later, I attended my second gig, a completely different experience altogether. This time, I travelled to Norwich to see Machine Head. Taking place in the University’s student bar, it was something entirely different from Metallica at Earls Court. Small, hot, sweaty and intense, it was an awesome experience and, if at all possible, was even louder! My ears rang for a week afterwards but standing in the crowd headbanging along to ‘Davidian’ et al just cemented my love for live shows.
Since these early days, I have been to over 100 live shows and festivals and although my stamina may have dwindled a tad over the years, my enthusiasm has not.
Highlights include Bang Your Head festival in Germany, Evergrey in Gothenburg, two Progpower festivals in the Netherlands and countless Bloodstock festivals, both indoor and out. Oh, and I even attended a Cradle Of Filth as a teenager complete with ‘corpse’ paint…Matt and I looked like complete tits I can tell you, but it was all a lot of fun and something I felt I had to do just once!
Many of these favourite gigs I intend to elaborate upon in future blogs, but special further mention has to go to Bloodstock 04 at the Assembly Halls in Derby as it was the first time I ever got to see Evergrey in a live setting. I even managed to meet all the guys in the foyer and proudly display the photos in a special frame in the kitchen! Bang Your Head festival was great because it was my first overseas festival and Progpower is worthy of mention for being the most friendly and inclusive
festival I have ever been to. I have made more friends there than at any other event and, when coupled with the superb bands on offer, it will be very hard to beat. It is such a shame therefore that with a baby on the way, I shall have to miss the 2012 edition. But there’s always next year.
One of my favourite venues was the now defunct Astoria on Tottenham Court Road, London. A converted theatre, it offered a bit of everything – if you wanted to get sweaty and stand, you could and if you wanted to take things a bit more leisurely, the booths on the balconies offered the perfect solution. I must admit that my decision would depend on the band and whether I wanted to rock out or simply take in the show. It is such a shame that it no longer exists, but I have the memories of some great gigs there, including Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Sentenced and Megadeth to name but a few.
The t-shirt I bought at Earls Court 16 years ago has started a trend and, since then, I have had to buy a t-shirt at every live show I’ve ever been to. In some cases, I had to buy multiple items of clothing, each one being a tangible reminder of a great show. They take up a lot of space, but just like my CD collection, it is so worth it.