Rock N'Roll Dreams

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I’m encircled by a crowded, heaving mosh-pit. The girl in front of me swings her sweat-matted dreadlocks into my face, my beer is all over my t-shirt, and the crowd lurches wildly from side to side. I couldn’t be happier.

Few things are more enlivening than a proper rock gig. For most of us in our 30’s, as our musical taste starts to veer towards the gentle, the soulful, and reflective, we rarely get the chance to let our hair down. The last few gigs I’ve been to, while no less involving, were nodding affairs populated by ageing bearded hipsters (myself included).There was no jumping, significantly less shirtless lunatics, and a general air of subdued appreciation. At Thursday night’s Cage The Elephant gig in Kentish Town O2, appreciation is abandon, and subdued is not on the menu.

Admittedly, I’m a fair weather fan by comparison to the rest of the pit. I heard Dan Auerbach was producing, so I gave their latest album ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ a listen. The songs are hooky and well-polished, mixing Iggy, Beck, and The Arctic Monkeys to an energetic and occasionally heartfelt result. It may not always be original, but it sure is fun. So tonight, I’m hoping they’ll play ‘the ones I know’, but it ends up not mattering a whole lot. From the very first chord, the room explodes into a pit of dancing, moshing, and big-hearted chaos. The band is tight and muscular, with propulsive drums, strong harmonies, with frontman Matt Schultz’s impressively powerful voice assaulting the back rows. Even for the slower numbers, the crowd goes crazy - steadfastly determined to have a good time. A tall fan nearby nearly gives himself a stroke trying to outdo the amplifier. I do my best to join in, and I’m carried along (sometimes literally) by the crowd’s enthusiasm.

And so the night progresses, the room getting smaller and smaller, the beer drying on my shoulder, I’m wondering why I don’t do this more often. I’ve always loved being up front at a gig, close enough to see Guy Garvey’s beer belly, or Calexico collaborating on a pedal steel solo. It’s a secular version of the best seat in church. You’re silently bonded with the loyal and the reverent, the people who know every word, who’ve been on more tours then some of the roadies. Every now and then, you’ll catch the singer’s eye - and hope you’re singing the right lyrics. It’s a whole different experience to being further back, with the people who just want to check their Facebook, or record the entire gig on shakey iPhones. So up front is where I’m staying. Even if I can’t keep my balance, a clean shirt, or personal space – it’s the best seat in the house.

MusicAndrew LynchComment