I'm 25 and I've been going to gigs for more than ten years. My parents – ever a positive influence on my musical upbringing – have always been big live music fans themselves (and still are) so I went to some of my first gigs with them, including R.E.M., Muse and, err, Green Day!
When I was 14 or 15 I used to go with a couple of fellow 'alternative' (or ‘greebo’) friends to local shows at a place called The Pitz. It was just an auditorium of a school / leisure centre but I got my fix of live music, my first – and last – experience of being in a mosh pit and learnt how to 'skank’. Plus, I came home smelling of other people’s beer and cigarettes (Remember when it wasn't illegal to smoke inside UK venues? Ugh.).
Going to The Pitz was a fairly regular thing, but we also occasionally ventured into London for bigger bands – Funeral for a Friend were a firm favourite. Back then, when I was still at school, I only really went to about four or five gigs a year (which was still probably more than most of my classmates). As I got older I was able to attend more and more gigs and got well and truly hooked on live music. But when I talk about the live music I saw – and indeed music that I listened to in general – when I was at school, I’m not talking about punk rock. There were guitars a plenty so it’s not like I’m saying I went to see [insert name of radio-friendly pop act], but punk rock came a little later.
Although I’d been becoming progressively more and more of a punk fan through my college and university years, it wasn’t until 2013 when I really got my first feel of the live music side of punk. I’d seen The Kings Blues, Dropkick Murphys, The Gaslight Anthem and Reel Big Fish in previous years, but it was only when I saw The Menzingers at Camden’s Underworld that I got a proper insight into ‘the punk scene’. And what a wonderful scene it is!
I am now a massive punk fan and probably about 90% of the music I regularly listen to falls into the various sub-genres of punk rock. Though I do like some non-punk artists as well, I certainly go to far more ‘punk’ gigs than any other genre of music. That doesn’t mean I won’t want to go see, for example, Will Varley or The Decemberists. However the more non-punk gigs I go to, the more I appreciate the punk scene and all it has to offer.
There are a number of things that I think are great about punk shows that, in my own personal experience, aren’t the same at other gigs I’ve been to:
1. At a punk show, people are genuinely bothered about seeing more than just the headlining band. We are pretty spoilt in our scene in that you can almost guarantee that your favourite punk band will bring other bands you know and love on tour with them. Or if they’re not bands you already love, you probably will do after the gig. You certainly get your money’s worth at a punk show. At other gigs that I’ve been to its not unusual for people to either turn up just for the last band or to – and I think this is probably worse – talk through the support band’s set. You don’t go to a gig to chat with your friend about what you watched on TV last night!
2. Some people might think that a punk show would be full of unnecessarily rowdy and inconsiderate people but it’s actually quite the opposite. Sure there’s movement in the crowd – punk rock is hardly music to stand still to – but I feel like, for the most part, people are aware of those around them. The age-old rule of ‘if someone falls down, pick them back up again’ is definitely apparent in the punk scene. Another thing I’ve noticed, as a 5’2” female punk fan, is that tall people tend to avoid standing in front of me at gigs. They don’t have to do that but it’s very much appreciated. The same can be said for finding your ‘spot’ in the crowd and keeping it. I find at punk shows, although I suppose generally the venues are smaller, people don’t really push to the front – especially not if you arrived late. Unlike when I went to see Band of Horses last month and two girls came along right before the band were about to go on stage to stand directly in front of me – and not allowing me much personal space either. They did actually move after a few songs and I still loved that gig, as Band of Horses are a brilliant live band, but it is a bit of a let down when the crowd isn’t as friendly as I’m used to.
3. Like many others, I tend to snap a couple of photos on my phone at gigs. I like to post them to Instagram and/or Twitter with miniature reviews attached to them – plus I’m the ‘official’ Colin’s Punk Rock World gig photographer. That said, I only take a couple of photos – usually at the beginning of a band’s set – and then my phone goes away so I can fully enjoy the show. For some people it’s not enough to simply enjoy the gig though. Some people insist on filming large chunks of a band’s set on their phone – which, let’s face it, is probably terrible quality and you’ll never do anything with – or phoning their friends who aren’t at the gig so they can listen to the music down the phone. I’ve never received a phone call from a gig but I can’t imagine you can hear much more than white noise. And let’s not forget the latest craze of taking selfies at gigs… just why? I’m happy to report that these sorts of things don’t often happen at punk shows. I had a rant on Instagram (which has resulted in this full blog post) a couple of months ago after seeing Beans on Toast in Milton Keynes. There were selfies, videos and phone calls a plenty at that gig – plus a group of girls talking during Beans’ set – which resulted in Beans on Toast himself complaining about it (and confiscating one girl’s phone!).
I apologise if this turned into a massive rant but really what I’m trying to say is that punk gigs are and always will be the best gigs for me. I’m not going to stop going to see band whose music, regardless of genre, I like but I’ll never underestimate just how much I truly love being at a punk gig. The punk scene is so welcoming and I truly feel at home there, far more than I ever will in any other ‘scene’ or at any other kind of gig.