You wouldn't think anyone would need an umbrella at an indoor gig - but I saw one woman unfurl one at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena. It kind of summed up the night. There were continuous cascades of beer and other unmentionable fluids showering down, as well as thuggery, theft and laddishness - from both sexes. It was meatheads masquerading as music fans.
It had all started so well. Kasabian had, incredibly, agreed to play for my birthday party. Around 13,000 other people turned up uninvited, but with a band that good you have to share. An added bonus was the lively support from Miles Kane, working his Steel City credentials-by-association-with-Alex-Turner and winding the crowd up into a beer-fuelled frenzy.
By the time Kasabian took to the stage it was party central: we proceeded to get so loose we were positively elastic. It’s that thrill, the adrenaline rush of live music expertly executed, that feeds my gig habit three decades after my first live band. It was my third gig in 10 days and it was without question the best. Admittedly, I declare an interest as a massive Kasabian fan. I've seen them 11 times.
My son is also a devotee. He was there that night, as usual having the time of his life with his mates down the front, despite him and several others having their phones liberated from their pockets during the opening song. They challenged another guy they suspected of similar behaviour about ten minutes later. There was a queue of at least 30 people reporting the systematic looting after the event.
Meanwhile I stood strategically further back with my friends. I’m used to a bit of push and shove, splashes from beer and the creeping realisation that the last spray was warmer... But do we have to suffer such extremes? My friend was, quite literally, drenched. She was dripping. She and her other half eventually went to the back to escape the deluge, only to find themselves still in the epicentre, watching a security guard getting his groove on instead of enforcing the “Throw beer and you’re out” notices plastered everywhere.
I was crashed into at least six times by tanked-up overweight 6ft 3-ers who were so out of it they didn’t even notice me. Try asking them for their views on the setlist. They probably couldn't even name the band. And speaking of the band, I doubt they’d have been aware of the carnage down below. I imagine from the stage it appears as if it’s just full-on festive mode, which to be fair it generally is. And from where they’re standing it might be tricky to distinguish between us ordinary fans living it up and the small but dedicated bonehead brigade.
I must state categorically here it’s not a Kasabian thing; it’s a gig thing. It’s happened to some extent at every live performance I’ve been at over the past couple of years. But it’s getting worse. Am I just getting less tolerant since the days when the bar was mostly a post-band event and no-one would dream of chucking away hard-bought beer? A quick straw poll of younger people I know seems to confirm it’s got rougher.
They say it varies, depending on the band and venue. Interestingly one perception was that larger places had the bigger problem because the perpetrators felt they were more likely to get away with it. One teenage girl reported that it was so physical at the front at a recent Arctic Monkeys performance that she felt had someone fallen, they’d have brought about fifteen people crashing down with them.
To me a gig is all about the music. Who even needs to get drunk? Why do the silent majority of music fans have to put up with the kind of hell-bent hooliganism mostly eradicated from mainstream football? It would never be tolerated in a soccer stadium. Maybe we need to make provision for the poor, misunderstood lambs and have a special pen with a glass ceiling for them so they can lob beer and piss at each other to their heart’s content.
Failing that, here’s a few better ideas:
- Can’t some security staff be detailed to watch the audience rather than the band?
- Anyone arriving already tanked-up should be refused entry
- If you have notices stating: "No beer-throwing", enforce them
- Venues: don’t just fulfil the part of your job that says: 'Take our cash'. Look after the customers too.
I’m not going to give up going to gigs just because they’ve become the yob element’s entertainment of choice, nor am I going to be forced into the retirement area (i.e. the seats) in order to stay safe. I intend to still be on it, getting on it, in the standing area when I see Kasabian for the 20th or even 30th time.