Saturday, December 16, 2006
Good Clean Fun
There is always an element of feeling like you just don't quite fit into the world any more after a Madness gig. Bus and train seats feel different, words become impronounceable, people look at you and stare, food tastes strange, clothes hang looser off your shoulder, and even this keyboard is giving me jip.
It was a truly awesome day on Thursday though, and I really made the best of it having being seated at the Glasgow gig. I hopped on the 9am from Waverly and made my to Newcastle, jumped on the Metro system and was supping my first Guinness by 11:30am in a pub in South Shields. My mate, Craig, showed up and we had another before heading out to his flat.
From there on it was a musical and drinking bonanza. Ska and reggae filled every corner of the flat along with our ever-increasing laughter and chat, and of course the beer flowed - perhaps a little too well - but nobody was caring.
Later on we headed back into Newcastle and to O'Neills bar, where I discovered just how drunk I had become. I just hadn't realised it. The place was packed full people dressed in black and white suits, pork pie hats, shades and Fez's. I myself had dressed in jeans and a white Fred Perry top, shades but no pork pie this year - I couldn't find it!
We moved from there towards the venue itself, the Telewest Arena, and got ourselves some more beer (Red Stripe of all things) from one of the bars inside. Then the first moment of controversy. I went to buy a progamme and was todl they were ten pounds. Ten Pounds! I couldn't convicne the girl to drop her price so had to cough up. I couldn't go home without one.
Then the second moment of controversy. The staff at the Telewest Arena have a horrible habit of taking the full ticket off you when you enter instead of just the stub. I'm a stickler for this kind of thing and hate to be parted with my brief, so I tried to convince the man that it would be ok. He wouldn't listen - rules were rules and they had to be applied to everyone. The wee prick wouldn't give me my ticket back and at one point I found myself trying to pull the damn thing from his hand in a feeble game of Tug of War. When he called over two burly bouncers I gave up, shouted something about him being a wee Hitler and disappeared into the 10,000 strong crowd.
We got ourselves a pretty good vantage point; left of stage about 20 or 30 yards from the front. That was as close as we could get at that point. Madness came on dead on 9pm to the Star Trek and Space Odyssey theme tune intros and then it was into One Step Beyond. The place went absolutely mental. They ran through pretty much the same set as Glasgow from what I could remember, and throughout it all there was much over-crowding, jostling, stomping and skanking. I probably lost around two stones just through sweating.
Having forgotten my camera, I had to rely on my mobile phone for pictures, but only succeeded in capturing two very blurred images and a shoddy video of the lads on stage.
After the first encore it happened again as what happened in Glasgow; loads of people dived for the exits thinking the gig was over. This left spaces opening up in front of the stage. "Fuck it," I said to Craig. "I'm going in!" And I did. I got right to the front of the stage - the very front - and when Suggs and Chas Smash appeared above me they launched into Night Boat To Cairo. The place went berserk, and then things started to get hairy.
With the floor being so wet from beer and sweat it was impossible for everyone to stay upright. And with everyone being so tightly packed in and jumping around in time to the beat, accidents were bound to happen. Heads, limbs, torsos and other body parts seemed to be all over the place. I managed to slip and fall, my legs taking the feet of a couple of heavy-set skinheads who then crashed onto my ribs and hips. I got more than a couple fists and elbows in the face just for good measure as the romp continued - I don't think anyone didn't. I saw one guy get his nose broken, blood everywhere, but with nowhere to go he just kept on dancing. None of this was deliberate I should point out - it was all very cheerful enough, but as I say, the environment and the music meant it was bound to happen - it always does.
Being in a moshpit can be a lot of fun, being in one at a Madness gig is as dangerous as it is exhausting. But it's all good clean fun and I love it. Absolutely love it.
The gig ended and we trooped out of the arena. I stopped to get a ticket that they were handing back out as souvenirs. It's not the same though. It's not my ticket, and now I have one with Mr. Dunlop on it instead of my own name.
Much of the journey back, I'm afraid, becomes a bit of a blur at this point. The drink and activity of the evening, the sheer thrilling high I was on, had taken effect and I was in a sore and weary state - but elated at what I'd witnessed. I recall nothing about the journey home on the Metro train to South Shields - what I do know was relayed to me by Craig - something about managing to empty almost an entire carriage of people. I did nothing illegal or disgusting - just maybe a bit too loud and boisterous for some types. You're kind of deaf after these gigs, you see, and it takes till the next day for the ringing in your ears to stop.
When I woke up I was in Craig's living room on the couch, still fully clothed though my Fred Perry top was damp and cold from the evening's sweating. He was snoring on the other couch and a DVD of Frasier was about to finish on the TV. Several empty cups of tea and Irn-Bru were scattered around amongst discarded crisp wrappers (essential salt replacement was my excuse) and it was just after four in the morning. I felt dreadfully woozy so went back to sleep.
The next time I woke up I had to stay up so that I could catch my 11:34am train back to Edinburgh. Which was not an enjoyable journey in the slightest. What with the pounding headache, parched mouth, dodgy gut, sore ribs, neck, knees and back and the kids screaming in the carriage (yes I know - poetic justice if ever there was), it was a hellish way to head home.
I got home only to remember that I had to collect Laura, get her ready and take her to perform in a swimming gala. Not an ideal way to recouperate but there you have it. I got home and was in bed for nine.
As for today it was all about trying to coerce myself back into the routine. I cleaned out the hutches and while on the phone to my sister remembered I was working an overnight shift. Wonderful - just when I was about to force some words out onto the paper and attempt to get the rhythm started again.
But like I said earlier, there is a numbess that comes over you after Madness gigs, not just physically, but mentally - because you just don't know if there will ever be another experienced in your lifetime, and secretly you hope it;s not too soon. You realise how old you are getting after one of these gigs - it all realted to the time it takes for you to get over it.
Me? I never get over Madness gigs. I'm sadly passionate, but you have to remember that it's all just a bit of good clean fun!
Next gig: Tonight, Birmingham, NEC
How long did it take you to get your first book published?