25 solid days. Seven percent of my year. That’s approximately how much time I spent last year in pursuit of live music – factoring in travel time, waiting time and festivals, all the while holding down full time employment. Sometimes the waiting is longer than the music - much, much longer. I wonder why I do it sometimes – what I’m chasing, what I’m looking for.
It began for me with an £8.50 ticket on a Saturday evening in December of 1994, three quarters of the way back in the venue formerly known as the Manchester University Debating Hall with the appearance of Queen's Roger Taylor and the opening bars of “A Kind Of Magic”. I’m there with my high school art teacher and my best friend, but the minute the music starts, there’s nobody else in the room. My inhibitions vanish, and the spell of live music is cast upon me. There, right there, is one of my idols, performing a song that I’d heard a thousand times. By the end of the night, I was deranged, uplifted, shirtless and convinced that this was the best feeling in the world.
Like the junkie trying to match that first, unassailable high, I’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country. I’ve seen an acoustic performance in Central Park, a singer-songwriter in San Francisco’s Castro district, a back-after-ten-years performance on a barge. I’ve stood for hours in the freezing cold, waded through the Glastonbury mud to feel the metal of the barrier, to be first there. Right there.
I’ve interviewed Garbage in a hotel; told waiting journalists that Brett Anderson was sick only to have him flounce in right as rain pronouncing himself bored half way through the interview with his bandmates, wrangled with PRs for interviews that I knew before I arranged them would never get to print just to be close to my favourites.
I’ve been crowd surfed over, concussed, sworn at, called a music nazi and had an eyeliner stained towel thrown over me by Michael Stipe. I thought I would die in a mosh pit at Glastonbury with Feeder’s “Buck Rogers” the last thing I’d hear. I’ve cried in public at Manchester Apollo.
I organised a two-night, sold out benefit show. I didn't go to a convention in Canada that I'd organised due to complications involving two Dutch girls and a woman from London with a samurai sword.
I've got a Nick Cave tea towel, a Catatonia mug and an REM tea tray. One day I'm going to have to alphabetise three and a half thousand CDs.
I once wrote an advertising slogan for Celine Dion. I saw Ryan Adams be rude to a bloke in a lift. I’ve been to Wolverhampton. More than once. A singer’s manager took me out in Los Angeles. More than one singer-songwriter has bought me dinner.
I stopped the presses on the red-tops one memorable Sunday morning.
But I’m wondering if it isn’t time to give it up. I’m never going to actually get to write about this stuff for a living, or even photograph it. Should I be more selective about who I go and see? Less? Fight that feeling of ‘I could be missing THE ONE’? Did you shake it? How? Is it time to finally grow up? What drives some of us to this music related madness?