As live music announced its unfiltered return, I found myself scrolling through my camera roll and reliving some of the biggest and best artists I’ve had the pleasure of catching over the past decade or so, and subsequently reminiscing about the great times in the lead up and wind-down of the shows either side of the 4 hours spent inside venues ranging from social clubs to huge stadiums.
When we break it down, much of the time spent surrounding a gig is not the gig itself.
It is the initial buzz when you see that an artist you adore has announced a tour, the anticipation and hope that they’re coming to your city – or at least one you can get back from via this country’s dire rail network, before the stressful task of rallying the troops and eventually being ready on a Friday morning to secure the tickets and avoid letting the week’s planning go to waste.
Often, I’ve been online at 8:59am and watched the clock tick down before diving in, bagging the tickets, then waiting for the inevitable sold-out caveat to be added – which never actually comes. I’ve attended plenty of shows where the crowd is in single digits and selfishly enjoyed the intimacy whilst simultaneously feeling sorry that less people than you can count on two hands are there to enjoy their sound.
Likewise, I’ve managed to buy tickets for shows that have sold out in seconds then watch as everyone online frantically refreshes the site in the desperate hope of people failing to check out. The ticket buying roulette is a gamble: a game of who will blink first and cave in. Will 249 other people like them enough to buy tickets before me, or will the postman once again deliver tickets 1 and 2?
Of course, it goes without saying that the pre-gig experience doesn’t stop there. The months crawl by, the excitement builds, other shows come and go in the meantime, and then suddenly, you’re on your way. You’ve triple checked your wallet for tickets. You’re in a bar eyeing up fellow punters that look like they are also going to the show. You’re scrolling through Twitter looking for set-times. Then you’re at the merch desk, moaning that no one in their right mind would pay £25 for a T-shirt, before buying one anyway. Another pint is in front of you and then it goes dark. A sea of gasps before a split second of silence, then BAM.
When you write all of this down you realise exactly what we’ve missed over the past 18 months. We’ve missed discovering new artists and being in a room with a handful of ‘like-minded’ peers – and lacked the euphoric feeling of knowing that the thousands of people around you are here for the same thing: to celebrate not just the artist we both love, but live music in its entirety.
The past few months have offered a bright light at the end of a very dark tunnel, and I hope that we no longer take live music for granted. Personally, my habits will change. No longer will I umm and ahh over whether to head to my local venue and see a show for £8. I won’t only turn up for the headline act. I’ll try not to (can’t promise) moan about paying £25 for a T-shirt. What I will do is be ecstatic when I am back amongst fellow fans screaming the words back at an artist we love – and failing that I’ll at least stand at the side with a pint and appreciate everyone else doing that.
Live music is back. Make the most of it and appreciate what is in front of you before someone takes it away again.