Arctic Monkeys are in the middle of one of their biggest tours to date, selling out the UK’s biggest music venues with a four-night residency in Sheffield set for next week. But what if you was one of those lucky fans who saw them in a dingy pub or on a dirty dancefloor? We caught up with those cool kids who saw the High Green lads way before you did.
Where: The Boardwalk, Sheffield
“I remember there being footprints on the ceiling”
“I was 16 at the time, and the excitement was heightened by the fact I’d snuck off to the gig from my hometown of Newcastle with a somewhat ill-advised older boyfriend. We’d listened to this scratchy-sounding EP and already loved their songs, but seeing it live was a different level – I remember there being footprints on the ceiling from the crowd. There weren’t loads of people there but there was just a surge of energy.
The band looked like they’d come straight out of my school, really young and very ordinary looking. I saw them a few more times through the years as I ended up going to study at Sheffield (whether thanks to AM or that long gone boyfriend – who knows?) and the shows seemed to get bigger and bigger, like seeing them at The Leadmill a few years later. I think they became very fashionable by then.”
Where: The Grapes, Sheffield
“We were queueing up for tickets and a lady appeared giving out homemade muffins from a giant basket. Turned out to be Matt Helders’ mum”
“I was 19 when I first saw them. There was a real sense of excitement and so much sound for such a tiny pub. I spoke to Alex Turner at the end of the gig and asked him to sign a promo poster, just in case they got famous. My most surreal memory is actually from before the gig while queuing for tickets. We were lined up outside Jack’s Records and a lady appeared, giving out homemade muffins from a giant basket. Turned out to be Matt Helders’ mum. Maybe she just felt grateful and a bit shocked that people wanted to queue and pay actual money to see her son.
Their rapid success is mind-blowing, but not surprising. I loved all the early stuff, because they were singing about places I knew. Then you would start hearing them played in the Leadmill, then in clubs in other cities. That raw sound and those casual place name drops like ‘Hunter’s Bar’ – a small suburb near my parents’ house – connected me to home.
Now, when I’m abroad, the response to saying I’m are from Sheffield is often, ‘Arctic Monkeys!’ It’s great to have witnessed something so intimate and local turn into such a global name and such a distinctive yet fast-evolving sound. Best bit, though? I only paid four quid to see them!”
Where: Manchester Academy 2, Manchester
“After the set, my friend and I invited them out, so the six of us all piled in a taxi and went off to some student bar nearby. They were lovely guys who I think found it all a bit mad.”
“Manchester in 2005 was a city totally suited the explosion of indie music as it was packed with fans who idolised bands like The Strokes and The Libertines. For a 16-year-old into music you could be at a different gig each night. I’d heard about shows earlier in the year at smaller bars by a band called Arctic Monkeys and got tickets to see them at the Academy for later that year.
That summer, we saw them play one of the tents at Leeds Festival. They didn’t sound like Bloc Party or Franz Ferdinand or The Killers and they’d given us something that felt really relevant: younger, louder, wittier, more romantic songs with loads and loads of energy.
My memory of those gigs was how charming they were and how much we danced. When I saw them at the NME tour the following year it was the same vibe – they weren’t even headlining. After the set, my friend and I invited them out, so the six of us all piled in a taxi and went off to some student bar nearby. They were lovely guys who I think found it all a bit mad. I don’t think anybody recognised them. It was a great story for the next day at school.
I think it feels right that they’ve become so famous. That first album got very popular very quickly and they were obviously incredibly talented, so it isn’t much of a surprise to see them headline massive festivals and stadiums, although I do hope they still enjoy it. If I felt nostalgia for those gigs, it would be for the freedom we had to discover and enjoy live music and the work done by independent venues to allow that – I don’t know if it’s still so easy to do that now.”
“Their best songs never made it to the album. It kills me to know their best songs might never see the light of day”
“I was a younger I was doing band promo work, mainly for Xtaster, so I was seeing bands four to five days per week while at Sixth Form. Throughout that whole time, the one that really caught my attention was Arctic Monkeys – I remember thinking them and The Libertines were the greatest bands in the world, but I couldn’t believe nobody knew them yet!
The most bizarre thing was their best songs never made it to the album. It kills me to know their best songs might never see the light of day. My best memory was how close-knit the gig was; how close to the stage you got and the feeling we were seeing a band who were going to get far. I must have seen around 200 bands that year, but they stood out as the true exception.
It doesn’t feel as a surprise at all to see them headline globally. I have to be honest and say that none of the newer songs slightly compete with the original album. However I’m so honoured to have seen them at the start and also got the chance to meet them again at the NME Awards.”
Jon McClure, Reverend & The Makers
Where: The Grapes, Sheffield
“They walked onstage to ‘The Boss’ by James Brown. I thought that was dead cool”
“My favourite memory from the gig was that they walked onstage to ‘The Boss’ by James Brown. I thought that was dead cool and set them apart from other bands their age. The fact they’d even know that song at 16 or whatever they were spoke volumes. It’s mega seeing them sell out venues across the world. What’s really great is to see them playing such big shows whilst making such a left field new album. People need more weird music. I’m all for it.”
Where: Leeds Festival, Leeds
“I told my boyfriend they wouldn’t get far with a name like that”
“My boyfriend at the time was championing this new band from Yorkshire, my native county, and he kept sending me links to listen to online. This was strange because the internet wasn’t as accessible or huge as it is now. I remember listening to them on Jo Whiley’s Radio One new music show one evening via an alarm clock radio on the floor in our student house, and thinking ‘this is the band he told me about’.
They were one of the first bands to get hype online, without airplay on the radio and before they released anything. I had previously said to him that they wouldn’t get far with a name like that.
At Leeds Fest, they played such a small tent – I think probably had about 80 of us in it. Everyone was singing along, chanting the words out loud, but they had hardly had any airplay! It was all just online! This was so alien in 2005. The year was special because my boyfriend and I had just graduated from uni. We’d been together three years. That boyfriend was Craig, who sadly lost his life in a car accident with Viola Beach, he was their manager. He had the best ear for new bands and new music. He was the one who introduced me to the Arctic Monkeys, and I’ll treasure that forever.”