One of the first punk gigs I attended was at the age of 13 or somewhere around that… ‘The Richard Heads’ supporting ‘GBH’, I think? I remember it… my dutiful dad pulling up the car a safe 200 meters distance from The Fleece (under my strict instruction). Frigidly climbing onto the cracked pavement with a hurried “thank yo… NO DO NOT GET OUT and KISS me goodbye!” My sole musical friend at the time, Dylan Jones, a thin, greasy haired, metal listenin’ DND playin’, comic book readin’, yet still somehow handsome, marvel of nature was my company for the night. He clambered out onto the road on the other side thanking my dad profusely for the lift. Dylan had been to gigs before with his metalhead father (who is still metal but is now also a born again christian). I had thought it might be reassuring to have him there but I could see that he was just as nervous as I was on this particular occassion. I shooed my Dad off insistently to avoid the awkward situation of someone seeing him, that could have been a complete disaster! He waved us goodbye and shouted something like, “have fun and be careful”, out of the window. I shot him a disgusted, silencing stare as he pulled away and disappeared down the road. Was he COMPLETELY MAD. Imagine if someone heard! We would have probably gotten the living shit kicked out of us, or perhaps even been stabbed!
The evening air was cool and it had rained recently making the cobbled ground shine, embossed in the light of orange street lamps. I was sufficiently suited up for the night’s events, wearing my best Green Day T-shirt from their recent 21st Century Breakdown tour, my hair was a greasy mess of low quality hair styling products. I could feel the menacing spikes I had expertly crafted just 5 minutes ago during the car journey loosing their resolve and returning to their droopy resting position over my face. On our approach strings of drum stikes and pounding basslines accompanied the disembodied animalistic wailings of some tortured creature came into earshot. We exchanged furtive glances trying to gauge wether our idividual feelings of dread were warranted. Yeah, we were both shitting ourselves, a welcome relief. I could see activity ahead in the mishapen shadows cast from the alleyway on the left and the sounds grew ever louder and more retched. We began to slow our pace until we were as far as we could go without exposing ourselves to whatever danger lurked around the bend. There we stood, stalling desperately for what felt like forever (around 10 minutes) discussing how hungry we were and how we should definitly go for chips before entering the venue. My mum had given me £3 spending money and, you know, you can’t rock on empty! I whined weakly, rubbing my stomach, still stuffed full of the food my dad had served up for me 40 minutes prior. Dylan, who was the experienced gig goer out of our pair, was visibly shaking and kept rolling his eyes back to the corner (a nervous tick he has) as together we contemplated our imminent demise.
Eventually, after much debate, we agreed we should get chips later during a set change over. Unable to stall for any longer we edged forwards as you would when stalking a tribe of level 60 hill giants. Gnarled, Bristolian voices reverberated around the wet cobbled streets like the shrieked laughter of some wild, urban hyenas. The shadows danced jauntily, climbing up the brick walls of the empty office buildings. Pint glasses clinked and smashed while the crumpling of empty cans being crushed like skulls in hand chilled my soul. I inhaled deeply preparing myself, the air was thick with the alien aroma of weed, and the far more familiar Thatchers cider. A metal sheep hung silent and ominous above our heads. This signified, as feared, that we had indeed arrived at the correct place and we were NOT in fact on the completely wrong side of town…
Dylan and I, both looking straight ahed, hands stuffed into our pockets with an air of contrived teenage angst, took the final few steps out from the safety of concealment. We looked to our left down the alleyway and towards the venue entrance. We were outnumbered, faced with an entire horde. The punks were of all different shapes and sizes. One, short with a wide nose, wearing a two pronged pink mohawk, squwarked loudly, swinging a meaty, inked, hunk around a large woman full of peircings. Groups of them were sprawled out upon the pavement, these ones were younger and concealed stashes of warm beer between their boot and leather clad bodies as well as within heavily patched bags that their mothers had bought for them the previous week. Sharp metallic spikes protruded from some of their shoulders, most likely a natural adaptation selected for defense in the case of knife fights or other rough and tumble activities. Reaching the center of the alleyway fans of piss yellow hair began to flick left and right as the arrival of our small, pathetic, and quite frankly, snapable frames was acknowledged. Their guttural snarls were somehow louder now than moments before and I could feel their collective judgemental gaze bearing down upon me. At that moment I turned my head. Dylan turned his. I saw, in the iris of his unblinking, horrified, eyes, a reflection. It was MY horrified eyes. Our fight or flight responses kicked into action simultaneously, pumping our soft pasty asses full of adrenaline. Our walk turned into a stride. Our stride turned into an urgent stride and we continued urgently striding all the way to the chippy. I love chips. Chips before a gig. Perfect!