Clash Picks: Our First Ever Gigs
Lord, do we miss going to gigs.
Making plans, meeting friends before the show, catching the support act, and that tingling moment of excitement just before the headliner comes on.
It’s a well-worn routine - one we probably took for granted, truth be told – but right now we’d give anything for a packed out show and a glimpse at the merch stall.
All week the Clash team have been discussing their first ever shows, the moment when live music collided with our teenage lives. It’s a roll call of mistakes, regrets, and embarrassing admissions, but it’s also a litany of fond memories, youthful discoveries, and coming-of-age rites.
So, here we are: Marilyn Manson and ‘shrooms, dragging your Mum to see Kylie, and watching Billy Bragg on a family holiday flanked by trade union officials.
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The Lighthouse Family – Ipswich Regent
It’s an embarrassing admission, but I couldn’t ride a bike until I was 10. I wasn’t the most co- ordinated of kids (my balance is still comically bad) but my parents had realised that I urgently needed an impetus to acquire this valuable life skill. So they promised me that if I learned to ride a bike they’d buy me a ticket to see a band they liked, which is how I attended my first ever gig – The Lighthouse Family at the Ipswich Regent.
I’d love to wax lyrical about how it was a magical night that set me on the path of a career in the arts, but that would be a blatant lie. In actuality, it was full of couples who had hired a babysitter (presumably their kids had learned to ride bikes years ago) and were giddily spending their evening sinking plastic glasses of lukewarm Chardonnay and clapping out of time.
By the time the songs I knew and liked were played (‘Lifted’ is a banger – don’t @ me), it was well past my bedtime and I was primarily worried about being tired for school in the morning. But I still remember the night all these years later so it must have been formative… right? (Joe Rivers)
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Capital Radio’s Party In The Park 
I met my first proper girlfriend on an internet chat forum, way back in the dial-up era. Despite her many glaring inadequacies as a sweetheart, Helena nevertheless took me to my first ever gig – Capital Radio’s Party In The Park.
What teenybopping shite passed for marquee festival acts in those days, I hear you ask? Elvis Costello, Blondie, Madness and Eurythmics, that’s who. A little further down the bill, babealicious folkies The Corrs, and Mark ‘Return Of The Mack’ Morrison – in hot water that very summer for sending a lookalike to do his community service.
Who else? Martine ‘her off Eastenders’ McCutcheon. Shania fucking Twain.
The sun shone, mostly, as the tunes and the cheers and the cheesy chips just kept on coming. Later gigs I attended were cooler, definitely, more exclusive; higher brow. But my love affair with live music began dry humping to Ricky Martin with a young lady who shortly after ditched me for a geezer with peroxide tips and a Renault Clio. (Andy Hill)
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Marilyn Manson – Alexandra Palace, London
Growing up in the middle of nowhere in the South West meant live music was a scarce commodity. Village fetes and cheese festivals didn't hold much excitement, so me and my mates dove headlong into 90s metal and grunge culture, obsession over albums that had dropped a decade before.
When I hit 15, Marilyn Manson released 'The Golden Age of Grotesque,' and my Antichrist Superstar obsessed friend scored us a ticket plus the three-hour ride to Alexandra Palace courtesy of her Mum. Rolling up to the venue, I'd imagined picket lines of right-wing religious freaks but was met by a queue of sad shivering goths buying shrooms off some Camden character.
The show was an hour delayed, resulting in Peaches' support slot getting nothing but hate and impatience. Manson didn't fare much better, relying on the hits to liven up the sea of black before him.
Early on, a moshpit opened, and I was dragged to the floor and crushed under sweaty bodies and separated from my friends. I eventually managed to crawl out, but the girl next to me wasn't so lucky, her leg was facing the wrong way, and the heroes of St John's carried her away.
All in all, it was a mediocre gig with moments of ultra-violence and some bad band chemistry. It didn't matter though, I'd been to shiny London town and seen a real show! (Sam Walker-Smart)
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MIKA – Leeds O2 Academy
As for many others, my first gig signalled a turning point in my life. Little did eleven-year-old me realise that the piece of paper my mum had hidden inside my new MIKA album would hold such importance all of these years later.
From practicing the lyrics of ‘We Are Golden’ in front of the mirror, to the excitement of walking into the venue for the first time, it was magical and in all honestly, little of my pre-gig routine has changed in the past 10 years.
The anxious kid that walked into the venue walked out with a deeper sense of purpose. As I stood there, entranced by the man who ran up and down the stage in a top hat, climbing up and down various inflatables and saying the odd swear word, I didn’t feel stressed. I didn’t care what I was wearing or who was around me. As long as I was looking at that stage, I was right where I needed to be.
That moment signalled the start of my lifelong love affair with music and the belonging and comfort I’ve found as a result of it. And even now, my copy of MIKA’s 'Boy Who Knew Too Much' sits on my shelf, crammed full of the same confetti that fell from the sky at my very first gig. (Megan Walder)
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Imagine Dragons – Birmingham Utilita Arena
I went to my first gig at 18, tragic, I know. Whilst I had a disturbingly long list of musicians, I knew I wanted to see live, I didn’t quite make the jump of actually going until my second year at sixth form.
I remember this gig like it were yesterday, travelling to Birmingham with my friend and her family to watch Imagine Dragons at what was once the Barclaycard Arena. Back then Imagine Dragons were a big deal… (promise I’m not making this up, ‘Radioactive,’ is a certified banger.) I’m not sure if the more embarrassing thing about this is the fact, I willingly wanted to see this band live, or the fact this was only four years ago.
Alas, I remember seeing Dan Reynolds bounce around the stage and hearing his accent in person and thinking, this is the best moment of my life. Ah, do you remember live shows? Miss those. (Laviea Thomas)
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Kylie Minogue – Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
Thinking back to it now, my first gig seems a distant memory; a glimmering disco ball at the back of my mind. But it was 2008. And I was nine years old. We were at the Metro Radio Arena which sits neatly on the quayside in Newcastle and I was going to see Kylie Minogue.
I was donning a white t-shirt that I had written on myself in my childish scrawl. It said something along the lines of “Kylie X Superstar!”, the headline to a very poorly drawn and disproportionate star. I’m sure it was just because I was a little bit strange and probably couldn’t afford a Kylie t-shirt, but I’m sure somewhere in my mind, I was fantasising about her noticing and plucking me from the crowd.
Aside from my mum having to hold me for most of the concert a) to keep me safe from a nearby drunken couple b) so I could actually see, it was everything I had ever dreamed of.
Until, my fantasy became a reality for another young fan. She placed a love letter delicately on the edge of the stage declaring her love for Miss Minogue… and won her heart. She got to sing on stage with her. I pouted about it then and I’m pouting about it now. (Megan Berridge)
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Depeche Mode – Birmigham NEC Arena
My first concert was Depeche Mode at the NEC on 14 December 1993. I was seventeen, which seems pretty late to be starting going to concerts, in hindsight. I went with some older colleagues from my part-time job, and the drive from our sleepy little town of Stratford-upon-Avon was dominated by nervous energy and awkward conversation.
I was wearing a black long-sleeved 'I Feel You' t-shirt that was one size too big and made me feel stupid in front of the colleagues I barely knew, and I remember sitting through the really awful support slot from Marxman trying to figure out where to put a massive Anton Corbijn-designed tour programme without it getting soaked with beer or creased.
All of my sundry fears and inhibitions evaporated when the lights went up on the stage and a huge silhouette of frontman Dave Gahan became visible through white drapes hung from the top of the stage.
A weird wave of euphoria and of belonging immediately washed over me: I knew no other Depeche fans at all at that point, but suddenly I felt a connection to thousands and thousands of likeminded people. I never expected that could happen through music, something that was a solitary activity for me up to that point.
Looking back I realise that many of my teenage anxieties slipped away completely in the first moment when Dave began singing 'Higher Love' from 'Songs Of Faith And Devotion'. (Mat Smith)
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Paul Weller – Poole Arts Centre
College was the best. Studying something I enjoyed and was incredibly interested in, media studies. We could wear what we wanted. The smoking room was a melting pot of musical and cultural chat. Opinions were expressed on Stuart Hall et al as well as the shortcomings of nu-metal, why Wu-Tang Forever would be a defining moment for hip-hop and how the Chemical Brothers could do no wrong.
Effectively we were dickheads but leaning on the right side of pretension.
When I got my Dad asked if I “Had any plans?” that night. I was 17 and looked about 15 so any chance of me going to a pub was out of the question. I mumbled something along the lines of “What’s the point going out? You’ll only have to come home again…”
I remember a wry smile creeping across his face as he walked off. After dinner he asked me again. I said nothing. That wry smile crept back as he pulled two tickets for Paul Weller at the Poole Arts Centre. We were out of the door in less than a minute.
The support was from Delta, Travis also played on some of the bigger shows. The crowd was basically middle-aged Mods and their kids. All I really remember about the gig was we were in sitting in the circle. My Dad bought me a pint of bitter which I nursed throughout. There were NO SMOKING signs everywhere but when Weller walked out smoking all bets were off and a mushroom cloud of smoke came up from the crowd.
They opened with ‘Changing Man’. Weller’s guitarist looked like Frank Zappa, even down to the Gibson SG, they played ‘Changing Man’ and the instrumental sections of ‘Heavy Soul’ Weller and Zappa traded riffs for what seemed like forever, in a good way.
Afterwards we raided the merch stand official Weller Ben Sherman shirts, and we got an unofficial shirt outside for a fiver, all of which I still have. Somewhere. The next day at college I was a bit of a hero as I was wearing merch from the gig the night before. People looked at me in a new light. I went to gigs…
This was not a classic gig to start off with, but it wasn’t anything too embarrassing either. I learnt a lot of life lessons. Always catch the support, just in case. If you can put your drink down do, as it’ll get very warm quickly. Always buy merch. (Nick Roseblade)
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Go: Audio – Manchester Academy
"Don't come back and pretend to tell me/the night you've had with your made-up stories..."
Remember Go:Audio? God this song was good to sing out at fourteen years-old...Their show at Manchester Academy was my first proper gig (not including big old concerts at the MEN). It was tough for me to get there, stand in the crowd and be around people...anxiety does that to you.
Now I'm a lot better and a lot older and gigs are a place of calm and happiness. But it was amazing to find the courage to get out the house at that first gig. And 'Made Up Stories' is still a banger. (Jess Atkinson)
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Fall Out Boy – Manchester Arena
My first proper gig was Fall Out Boy at Manchester Arena, when I was freshly 13 years old. I had only fairly recently fallen deep into the obsession with the band that would define my pre-teen and early teen years, right up until a deeper dig into their influences led me to punk rock and hardcore.
I’ll say here that I am indeed a baby, so that you won’t be shocked when I say this show was 2014, while they were touring their reunion album ‘Save Rock & Roll’.
I think this was their first real UK tour since they entered indefinite hiatus in 2009; looking back, that made for a really potent fervor in the room, still palpable when I think about it now, but at the time that context didn’t mean much to me having had no relationship with them on their first go round.
To me, what mattered was that it was a consummation of my devotion to that band, the one that changed how I saw music and set me on a lifelong path - a revelation that I think every music lover has at around that age. (Mia Hughes)
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Billy Bragg – Tolpuddle Martyrs March
Growing up in the Highlands of Scotland left scant opportunities for live music. Sure, my sister’s fiddle group and the local pipe band made a noise or two, but it couldn’t compare to scanning the listings pages of NME and wondering: what if…?
Curiously, family holidays often took us to equally rural locations, often the other end of the country. So it was we found ourselves close to Tolpuddle, just in time for the annual Tolpuddle Martyr’s gala.
For those who don’t know, the Tolpuddle Martyrs were pioneering trade union organisers who were fitted up by local authorities on a trumped up charge, and sent into exile to Australia. The gala remembers the sacrifices of the early trade union movement, and contains a music element, too – normally geography teacher’s moonlighting as jazz musicians, but Billy Bragg also lends a hand year-in, year-out.
The Bard of Barking became my first proper show, playing a short, perfunctory, but still pretty-damn-fantastic set on a sunny day. Running through some 80s favourites and throwing in the ‘Mermaid Avenue’ highlight ‘Ingrid Bergman’ he was on top form, cheekily asking for “less Blairite officials, yeah?” as New Labour continued its strangle-hold on the organised Left.
We even met him afterwards, too. A neat highlight before the long, very long, incredibly long, drive back to the single track roads that extend beyond Inverness. (Robin Murray)
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