This is not a review of the Foo Fighters at Milton Keynes Bowl on 2nd July 2011. That will follow, but for now here’s a story about a day out with my son…
Do you remember your first real gig? I do. It was a Christmas Showaddywaddy show in the mid/late 70s (I kid you not!)
I remember it because it was the first time I really understood what the word performance meant. It was a real show, lights, live music, audience participation, the lot. It sounds a tad crass now (even the thought of the brightly coloured ‘Teddy Boy‘ suits and beetlecrushers makes me cringe!), but at the time it was amazing.
I was taken by my parents, and to many more after that, but that is the one that sticks in my mind. I’ve already mentioned how much of an influence my parents had on my musical tastes and their diversity but of all the impact they had I think live music was the greatest.
Fast forward 30 odd years and I have a son of my own. He’s slightly older now than I was for that gig and has already started deciding what music he likes (and doesn’t) without too much help from me. (Although I do wish he’d ‘get’ Marillion sooner rather than later!) His favourites are currently AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro. Now, the first two have been something to do with yours truly but, if I’m honest the latter have been a bit of a roll reversal. Despite having heard the better known tracks of both the ‘Foos’ and Biffy Clyro, I will admit to not being too fussed about either before this episode.
Late last year I heard of the two dates at the Milton Keynes Bowl (MKB) which the Foo Fighters had announced and, as it was his favourite band at the time, decided to get a couple of tickets for one of the shows (no easy task being deployed to Afghanistan at the time!). At this point I didn’t know who else would be on the bill and, to be honest, didn’t care. I also didn’t know how close it would be to my impending move.
A week or two ago I visited the website for the MKB to check out parking and noticed a link to the ‘Full Details’ of the gig so I duly clicked the link and was met with an old styled poster for the gig with the ‘undercard’ details. Imagine my surprise when I saw who the top billed support were… None other than Biffy Clyro! He was going to be pleased.
With a week to go the childhood countdown syndrome started and each morning and night I was met by the ‘how many nights?’ question even though he’d already checked, double checked and re-confirmed several times that day when it was we were going.
The day finally arrived and we headed off from York with my iPhone stocked with his favourite bands and my Spotfiy account which came in useful as we decided to check out the other two acts on the bill, Tame Impala and Death Cab for Cutie, on the way down, neither of which I’d heard much of before.
We arrived in plenty of time and scoped out the merchandise and walked around trying to find an old school friend of mine and didn’t even realise the first band (Tame Impala) were on stage until I glanced up at the screens… I’ll write a review of the gig separately but suffice to say that they’re to my mind (and my son’s) ‘Tame’ in both name and nature. Next up were Death Cab for Cutie and, with both of us having quite liked the Spotify samples, we paid a little more attention. I didn’t hear too much of the set having finally found my old school friend, but I did hear enough to draw a Placebo comparison, catch the name of at least one song and note them down for some future attention.
It was then time to head off for a little liquid refreshment (non-alcoholic of course!), ice cream and the use of the extremely numerous (and clean!) public toilets before finding a suitable spot for Biffy and the Foos. Painfully aware of the ‘mosh pit‘ which would ensue during both these acts I aimed for a spot well back from the stage where I knew we’d be left in peace when the crowd surged forward when the headliners took to the stage but Wil was having none of it. He dragged me as close to the barrier separating the ‘General Standing Admission’ ticket holders from the ‘Inner Pit’ ticket holders as he could while I wondered how I was going to explain either losing him in the crowd or ending up in A&E to his Mother who had already warned me to be VERY careful and stay well back from and ‘drunken moshers’!!
I needn’t have worried. Yes, there were a large number of extremely drunk fans dancing violently all around us but we seemed to have found a tiny oasis of calm where people were actually there to listen. Thank God! Being 11 years old Wil’s not very tall and stood no chance of seeing either the screens or stage without some assistance and so, ignoring the fact he’s getting bigger and I’m not in the best shape of my life, I picked him up onto my shoulders as Biffy Clyro opened up with ‘The Captain’ and rattled through a seemingly all too short set. He spent the best part of it aloft singing along to all the songs, screaming with delight and raising the ‘horns’ with gay abandon! Every few minutes he would bend down to my ear and shout ‘Thank You!’ before returning to his rock and roll induced frenzy.
I had a reprieve of about 45 minutes at this stage while things were prepared for the Foo Fighters on stage and we got chatting with those around us. Everyone was great and made a point of talking to Wil (as an adult) asking him his favourite tracks, who he’d preferred so far, how he’d managed to convince his Dad to bring him and slapping ‘high fives’ and handshakes to emphasise evey other statement. During the next set he was even offered a slot as a singer in a band (they do Foo’s covers) to which he replied “Why would I want to do that? I’m already a drummer in one!” Get back in your box!!
Another amusing moment was when, as the crowd moshed away during the Biffy set and tempers got frayed, Wil cupped his hand to my ear and said
Drunken buffoons, amusing aren’t they!
By this time I had discovered two things; firstly, I really wasn’t in good shape and secondly my son’s obvious state of delirium was rubbing off on me! I’ve always enjoyed live music however, over the past few years, I’ve found myself going for the music rather than the spectacle and standing nearer the back to savour the whole thing. Not so this time, I was up there, close and personal and loving every minute of it! And so for the Foo Fighters…
As soon as they took to the stage with ‘Bridges Burning’ Wil was back up on my shoulders singing along to every word, screaming every time Taylor Hawkins played anything close to a drum fill (Wil’s a drummer, and has his own first gig later this week!). He kept this up, bar two songs where I just had to put him down for a rest, for the entire 2 hour show and 30 minute encore. He showed the correct amount of deferrence and adulation as both Roger Taylor (yes, Roger Taylor from Queen!), Bob Mould and then Alice Cooper joined the band on stage and was just about besides himself with glee when, during his stint on the platform in front of the FOH Monitor screen during the encore Dave Grohl looked in our general direction. (“Dad! He looked straight at me!!”) Admittedly, as Everlong singalled the end of the show and the fireworks lit up the Bowl he had started to wilt, but considering he’d been in the blazing sun for hours and sung his way through almost 4 hours of music I can’t say I blame him.
It took us an hour to get out and back to the car before heading back up the road to York and I’m sure he was sound asleep in the back before I even left the car park…
Me? I didn’t even notice the drive home. I was high on the excitement I felt from my son’s reaction. He ‘got’ it. He didn’t complain when the songs were different to the versions he knew, he enjoyed the banter between songs, he screamed at all the right points, he accepted the soaking in beer from the cups people threw (at least I hope it was beer!). And I love him all the more for it.
In between all the adulation he showed during the day, both to his idols as they performed his favourite songs and me for taking him (bless him!), he came out with what I consider to be one of the best quotes I’ve heard in a long, long time…
If rock and roll belongs to the Devil. Send me to Hell!
Not bad coming from an 11 year old ;o)
I think he enjoyed the whole thing more than I did (if that’s possible) and I got so much pleasure from his obvious excitement I can almost forgive him the absolute agony I’m in today across my neck, shoulders and back. My only fear is that this show may take some beating and I only hope that, whoever he goes to see next whether with me or someone else, can live up to the memory of his first live gig.
At least with Showaddywaddy the only way was up!