Terminal tinnitus

One of the many things I hoard pointlessly like a senile squirrel is ticket stubs. I was going to count them the other day, but life’s too bloody long; there’s hundreds. Sweet Jesus, the amount of booze I must have both drunk and worn in venues across the country could refloat John Darwin’s canoe.

Factor in those stubs I’ve somehow shredded, accidentally set on fire or dropped in piss, plus all the e-tickets that exist only in Sundar Pichai’s brain, and it’s fair to say I’ve done my tour of duty. I know the game.

And the game’s changing. Not for the better.

At a basic level, watching a band is the same as it ever was, at least since I first embarked on this silly lifestyle in January 1993. Get a ticket, get intimately manhandled by scum you’d never normally touch in a Hazmat suit, and go home covered in some sort of fluid, usually grinning.

But while previous generations have committed to destroying only the little things in life, like Earth, millennials have once again conspired to ruin something actually important. And these soppy cunts are legion.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: yes, they all need to record the start of a show, then sporadic 30-second bursts thereafter. If you’ve ever held a phone up at a gig, ever, no exceptions, denounce yourself. But the truth is I’ve noticed fewer phones recently. Maybe word’s got about that your collection of clips of one verse of one song recorded badly might not be the route to TikTok superstardom you hoped it would be. Back to blackout challenges and revenge porn you go.

(And in an unexpected defence of phones, there’s comedy to be had: I recently saw a woman texting someone entered into her contacts as ‘Josh Cunt’, which softened the blow of a band’s dreaded “we’ve got a few new ones for you”.)

There are far worse problems than phones. Take backpacks, ideally very far from me before I kick their contents around the Electric Ballroom. There’s a cloakroom back there but no, feel free to twin-strap wanker yourself about the place with a massive Helly Hansen stuffed with all your millennial gig essentials: wet wipes, battery pack, sustainable water bottle, lip balm. And of course, earplugs.

These infantile bastards, the Potter generation now in their 30s and up, nearly all wear earplugs at gigs. There are rare occasions when I do wonder if that leaking from my ears is not beer but blood, My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus & Mary Chain being chief culprits there. But I’ll take terminal tinnitus any day over listening to a band as if through a pair of cushions from Etsy with an ironic design showing Harry battling a mongwhistle with a butterwisp broomstick or whatever the fuck.

Then again, anything to block out the talkers can’t hurt. There’s etiquette around talking at gigs – mainly, fucking don’t. If you’re at the back or at the bar I’ll tolerate it, but anywhere else, watch your shins. And don’t think talking between songs is all right either, unless you think you’ve something more interesting to share than Nigel from Half Man Half Biscuit moaning about the ring road round Tranmere. You haven’t, I assure you.

A common moan is that wherever you stand in a venue the tallest bastard in the place will stand right in front of you. I have some sympathy for the giants among us – making them stand at the back just because their parents should have fucked someone more height appropriate seems harsh. These days I’m at the back regardless, because that’s usually where the bar is.

Sadly, I’m no longer the monster of the moshpit I once was. I know, such a mild-mannered chap, it’s impossible to imagine me smashing into angry drunks and pogoing about recklessly, sometimes emerging wearing someone else’s blood (I left my all-time favourite gig with actual whiplash). But age has won out so I drink (stunned silence), and watch from within retching distance of the bar…

…from where I fume as some twat decides my raging thirst has to wait as he orders his round of special drinks. A gin and tonic, no not the Sipsmith please that gives me a rash, a pint of Carlsberg and a Carlsberg top, top, just a bit of lemonade in it? An Aperol Spritz, what flavour ciders have you got? Eight Jaegerbombs, oh could I get a slice of lemon in the G&T? Three packets of bacon Taytos and a water. A fucking water. Get out.

And obviously he wants to pay by phone, never less than a time-swallowing fiasco in a gig venue, but eventually I have my pint. Working out where to stand is an art and it’s at this point you need a keen eye for two specific groups: nutters and movers.

Nutters are a staple of a good gig and I’ll hear not a word against them. The wild-eyed, grimacing loon picks out the weak and accosts, grabs, whirls and spits all about their victim but a trusty “FUCK OFF” usually sorts it.

But movers, oh God, these cunts. The band hasn’t started yet but the movers are excited! So they bob and weave from side to side like Bez embarking on a calamitous boxing career, not a thought for the poor sod nearby holding a pint. Some of these bandy-legged bastards could shame an Olympic gymnast with their left-field elasticity. 

Worse, O2-sponsored venues have patented a magnificent two-pint cup, wonderfully guaranteeing we all drink far more than intended, partly because you’ll only drink a pint of it before some fucking mover jerks suddenly sideways and back and tips the rest earthwards. Let me assure you the early fear of parenthood as you worry you might drop and injure your baby is nothing compared to my breathless dread when I’m holding a two-pint cup of Somersby.

I’m not saying my generation are champions of the gig, mind. Sepia tales of Hells Angels doing ‘security’ and punks assaulting anyone in gobbing distance are a keen reminder that in our own way, people my age went soft as well. But fucking earplugs?

Yet for all the phones aloft, jabbering idiots and ‘Pineapple and Raspberry Old Mout’, I still fucking love it. As the annoyances bloom and I start to wonder when I’ll be too old for all this, I remember that these silly wankers have always been and still are my people. For every berk bobbing about like a shifty Scouser and giving me pint fear, there’s a woman like the one who tapped me on the arm the other night and said “We’ve all been there – go deep and come up hard.”

I didn’t have a fucking clue what she was on about, but it’s a rule I can live by. Go deep and come up hard. 

Just don’t club me with your fucking backpack on the way by.

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