Too Old For This Shit? Gig going in 2012

In the past couple of weeks it’s all gone a bit crazy on the gig front again. There’s been a great set from Twin Atlantic, a classic nostalgia-fest from Helmet, another couple of shows from Turbowolf, including their hugely exciting Therapy? and Black Spiders shindig (a review of that one simply has to happen, so stay tuned), and a more modern metal experience with Parkway Drive.

It was probably at the Parkway Drive gig though that I realised just how times have changed, and maybe how old I feel. I’ve mentioned before that my first gig was the Manic Street Preachers back in 1994 and since then, I’ve taken in a couple of Doningtons as well as gigs from everyone as pop as Kylie to the indie rock of Ash all the way up to the sheer power and brute force of Pantera, Slayer and Deicide. Hundreds of gigs later, I couldn’t help look at the crowds of kids queuing outside the Academy for the 14+ Parkway Drive concert, with car-loads of dyed black hair and low slung trousers being dropped off by Dad outside and reminisce about the times when we would do the same.

We’d ask to be dropped off round the corner from the Bristol Bierkeller, but our parents seemed to take great pleasure in dropping us off right outside in front of the queue (I don’t blame them, call it payback for having to taxi us around). We’d then get in line, proudly showing off our latest band tees (usually a long sleeve under a short sleeve for extra warmth whilst queuing) and our tickets prepped for entry, ready to unleash some bouncing on an unsuspecting club floor. The next day at school, our necks and knees may have been in agony, but every bit of pain was worth it in order to fully enjoy some of the best bands of the era.

It was only about three years ago that I started up my gig-going again and realised how much I missed it. Hearing classic songs live with more mature (albeit slightly more deaf) ears is a joy, as is taking in new songs by old favourites and getting to see some exciting support bands (looking at you Gentlemens Pistols, Black Spiders, Rival Sons). So, while I’ve been away, have audiences and the overall gig-going experience changed? Yes and no.
Some gig prices actually don’t seem to be that different to how they were over a decade ago. Newport Centre gigs were always about £15 (from memory) and you can catch a decent band at the Academy nowadays for similar (if you ignore the Nazi Ticketmaster booking, handling, polishing and carrier pigeoning fees). Even better, the Jagermeister tour with Therapy? et al was deliberately pitched at retro prices (£5!) although fees still ramped up the actual price to nearer £8. Nevertheless, venues sold out, so the plan worked.

Crowds at gigs are also similar to how they were. I remember seeing Napalm Death and Carcass in about 1996, and you’d be able to spot the die-hard kids down the front, moshing away to their album du jour, whilst denim-clad 80s metallers towards the middle and back would clench a pint and nod along. All in all, the atmosphere was one of brotherhood and sheer unadulterated fun.

You’ll have to excuse me if I use the phrase “back in the day” at any point, but I can’t help but think that times have changed a little for the worst. Case in point number one: pint throwing. When I first went to gigs, pints came in glasses. Yes the odd one got smashed, but largely, there weren’t injuries due to idiotic behaviour, because people respected the person next to them, in front of them and behind them. Nowadays however, with the excuse that the pint pots are plastic, the things get lobbed about like nobody’s business and it’s rare to emerge from a gig without some suspicious sticky substance covering your shoulder. I’m not being over-sensitive about this, but Michael McKeegan from Therapy? narrowly avoided one (presumably thrown in good will?!?!?) and instead it coated loads of the band’s electrical equipment. Nice one. Well done mate. What do you get out of trying to ruin the gig for everyone by either taking out one of the band or their instruments? At a Volbeat gig I admonished someone for lobbing a plastic glass in between bands after it struck a lady square in the face. Over-reaction prompted by miss-placed chivalry? Maybe. But to me, it just seemed idiotic (what sort of heat of the moment excitement prompts you to do it in between bands?) and highlights the disregard that people have these days for manners. More importantly, pints cost a fortune at gigs nowadays, so it seems a hell of a waste.

Secondly; bags. Now I fully appreciate as I often go to gigs straight from work, I have on occasion had to take a bag to a gig with me. But once there, I’m either at the back out of the way or I make use of the cloakroom facility. This doesn’t seem to cross the mind of the hundreds of knapsack wearers constantly knocking me, my drinks and my acquaintances with their massive tortoise shells, with no apology. What on earth do they keep in there that is so precious they keep it on them, but not so valuable that they don’t think twice about risking its contents down the front? Idiots.

Thirdly, filming gigs. Although I felt the security staff at Bristol Academy were just on the wrong side of Hitler, I was amused by their efforts to stop one guy filming the Therapy? gig on his mobile. I kind of understand why people do this, it’s a similar “capture the moment” premise to taking a few snaps, but why do people insist on recording entire gigs? Not only is the sound and picture quality poor anyway, they also end up watching the gig themselves through a lens and annoying a hell of a lot of people behind them who can’t see through the sea of thrust-up camera phones.

Lastly, general violence. Yes I go to metal gigs, and yes I expect a bit of rough and tumble, but whatever happened to helping out your fellow mosher when he goes down and just having a bit of fun, rather than trying to flying karate kick everyone in sight or knock people out with flailing fists? I’ve probably seen more injuries at gigs in the past two years than I did at all the events I went to during the previous 15. Seemingly part-copycat and part macho competition, I wouldn’t mind it if those doing the ‘damage’ could actually see when their ‘opponent’ has obviously had enough. I’ve still gotten involved down the front in recent times, but only at gigs where people seemed of a similar mind-set (and okay, age) to me. But this was always how we made new friends back then, coming together for one thing; the joy of the music.

So, am I too old for all this? Should I just buy the tour DVD and shut the hell up? No. I appreciate that not every gig I used to go to featured fluffy bunnies being tickled in between songs, and I know times change with modern attitudes and trends very different to how they used to be. I just don’t think that we should completely ignore how things used to be and what made the rock and metal scene the one that could hold its head up high for its respect and unity.

Yes, I’ll continue to loiter more towards the middle these days (without the denim-wearing) to avoid most of the above problems with modern day gigs, but I just hope for the those in front of me that we’ll see a reversal of some of the negative attitudes that have crept into a genre that deserves far, far better.

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This Is England

If an alien visited planet Earth today and took a snapshot on his space-Nokia of this once great country, he would probably send it back to the mothership with “Danger – keep off” attached. Where once this rich and powerful nation could tell the world what to do, through abysmal government and a growing population-wide “don’t care” attitude, England has become an absolute joke.

Buses, roads and trains are awash with litter and dirt – this isn’t because of a lack of cleaners working for public transport companies, this is because the adult general public are no better than vermin at the best of times. They have a holier than thou attitude that someone will always clear up their mess for them. WRONG. They should be taking responsibility for their actions. Is it really that hard to take your free paper with you where you can chuck it in a recycling bin? Could you not take your apple core with you rather than lobbing it from your car window, claiming it is biodegradable so it doesn’t matter? Can you not hang onto your bus ticket for a few more minutes rather than just littering the floor with it?

Being able to drive is no longer a respected privilege, people simply think it is a God-given right. The standard of driving in this country becomes worse and worse by the day, and the roads on a Friday when everyone is rushing to get home whilst simultaneously hollering down their mobiles to arrange their weekend social life are a deathtrap at best.

Footballers are prima donnas. Rugby players are rapists. Cricketers are alcoholics. Athletes are drug addicts.

Tourists are getting stabbed to death and torched. Kids are being shot and stabbed on the streets daily. What does the government do? Create ridiculous laws saying that you can pick someone for a job because they are female – hang on, if I am recruiting, I will pick someone based on (and here’s the clever bit) THEIR ABILITY TO DO THE JOB. I wouldn’t care if they were male, female, pink, blue, red or green, if they can do a job they are all just human beings at the end of the day.

The police do a fantastic job in fighting all sorts of crime committed by all sorts of people. They have to deal with all sorts of scum, putting their lives on the line day in, day out and they should be treated with respect. But when these criminals go to court, the Crown Prosecution Service ridicule the police’s job time and time again, dishing out pathetic sentences because the government cannot afford to keep that many people in jail. Even if people do go to prison, it isn’t a form of punishment, it’s a summer camp where good behaviour is rewarded with Sky Plus and a shiny new car. To me, good behaviour in prison should be rewarded with slightly less of a daily thrashing. Nothing more, nothing less. No wonder people re-offend, the threat of prison is so pathetic there is nothing putting these people off.

Then of course we look at the media. Vilifying fat and thin celebrities. Criticising the very government that they were partly responsible for bringing to power. Scaring people with stories about the so-called credit crunch, so that they are so scared to spend that they make matters even worse.

Papers even criticise TV for being full of violence and unsuitable content, then the papers themselves make their money by publishing pictures of war, crime and sex. This blame culture is pathetic. Even Noel Gallagher is blaming video games for the rise of crime amongst teenagers – it comes to something when even the token controversial rock star of the day is entirely out of touch with reality.

The great English summer no longer exists – ruined by persistent rain and yobs at Wimbledon shouting out and cheering double faults. You cannot get a pint for less than £3. You cannot go to the corner shop for a paper because it’s either been demolished or boarded up and daubed with graffiti. Post Offices are being closed down, the high street is dead and nobody cares.

Where did it all go wrong? Just because those who fought for this country’s freedom are mostly no longer with us, does not mean we should forget what they did and why they did it. Those brave souls who gave their lives for this country are essentially having their memories urinated on by those who would rather spit on the pavement than help a blind person across the road.

This is England – and frankly it’s embarrassing.