Stadium Rock

intimate it isn’t.

That’s a terrible noun pair even before comprehension gets a look in. Back on the day* we had no stadiums but we definitely had rock.  This was a time before social media, on-line ticketing and – in my case – thatcheral thinning. Head-banging to the the much played scratched record was a passage of rite ending in a mosh-pit cavern – mostly experienced under a low-roofed beer shower of sweaty men rocking their Kevin-Keegan perm.

Times have changed a bit. Twenty plus year ago the Stone Roses exploded onto the stage at the Briton Academy roared on by those who’d been happily shooting up with Bolivian marching powder in the gents some five minutes before. It was awesome and not without mild scenes or peril, but at 23 you’re basically indestructible so flowing with the go is where it is at.

I remember my heart beating so hard in sync to the bass line. I remember careless discarded beer ruining my first good suit worn as a rush from from corporate life. I remember feeling that if this wasn’t what was important, then  there was some very fucking big thing out there I was missing. This was as much about belonging as experiencing and it was fantastic, ace, life changingingly  important.

Which was somewhat at odds wtih 25,000 people crammed into Arsenal’s stadium paying hommage to a band that’s transcended punk and indie while somehow appealing to dad’s and lads over a thirty year career. I’d taken my first born to the Green Day Rock Opera last year and witnessed her open-mouthed awakening to the power of live music and thought ‘there’s something here I need to nurture’. ‘God Dad It’s Loud‘ she said I nodded, silently adding ‘you’ve seen nothing yet’

So through internet buggering about two tickets for Green Day were procured, which triggered a  far more complex logistical exercise of  homing the family in London for a weekend.  That done, we drove into the capital and marked time before hitting the tube with a middle aged demographic desperately displaying their tour t-shirts which entirely failed to hide sloping beer bellys.

Arriving at the stadium you are met with a wave of discadded beer bottles from those refusesing to pay stadium prices. I was ever so snooty about this before buying a beer and – having been courteously robbed of more than five quid – calling the St. John ambulance for immediate medial assitstance. Our arrival in the bowels of the what’s corporately called the Emerites Stadium was over a bridge full of fading football legends and peopled by t-shirted affections of previous tours. The force was strong with the pot-bellied.

Abi was keen for some food. Having seen the food, I was less engaged but through the simple transaction of cash for rubbish we secured a pizza for Abi and a beer for me which took 20 minutes where we failed to add to a half filled stadium being entertained by the support bands.

We finally rocked up beer in hand (that’s me, even I am not stupid enough to believe that’s something a 14 year old should be experiencing. Or at least not while I am nominally in charge) and the Artic Moneys were more than fine. Full of energy, pointedly bigging up the main act and not short of a few hits themselves  Sideways  glances suggested Abi was definitely in a learning experience but I left her to it. One of the things about being a dad to teenage daughters is you have to let then live a little.  I received exactly zero perecent of fuck all from my parents on how the world might work. That’s not a reflection on spousal abandonment, they just hadn’t seem to have a fucking clue either.

Green Day hit the stage and 20,000 people hit their own ‘fuck it‘gland giving it the full middle aged two finger rock-on and slavish vocal accompaniement, And to the stand-apart ironically amused observer, I couldn’t help but notice that 40 year old prostrates – jiggled over ten songs – had those t-shirt stretched disciples streaming for the bogs when something written post about 2004 blasted out from the speakers.

It was great. Not epic because live music without some kind of intimacy takes on the form of stage managed rock opera. Which if that’s your thing is fine and if it isn’t Green Day are probably the best band to make it as good as it can be. Two and a half hours, 31 songs finishing right on the curfew, and a whole load of audience participation. There’s something quite choral going on with 25,000 people singing vaguely in time and occasionally in harmony. That many people shouting ‘fuck‘ at the same time stretches the choral thing a little, but nevertheless an awesome piece of audience engagement.

The mosh pit was policed first by security and then the ambulance service as various partially clothed younger type of people bounced on each other heads in an apparent orgy of excitement.  One or two were pulled out at random to sing or play guitar which they performed with suspicious perfection. Still the girl fetched from the front row to play Billy-Jo’s Strat, while he took her photo in from of a stadium full of fans, probably now has the world’s greatest Facebook profile.

So all good, firstborn apparently full of happiness with little of the initial trauma apparent. Decanting that many people into North London at 10:30pm had me slightly concerned, but a 10 minute mobile street carnival to Finchly station had us step straight onto a tube.  Good job too as I was knackered and ready for a nice cup of tea and a lie down.

Which brings me to the terrifying conclusion that if I’m getting a bit decrepit for ‘granddad-rock’, when the default position is sitting down on a chair, what the hell I am going to do should a request to attend some kind of up-to-your-armpits in mud/chemical toilets/drunken fools* type festival. Actually I have an answer ‘of course that’s a great idea – it’s your mother’s turn to take you‘ 🙂

* or year. Or – let’s be honest – decade when I had hair Rock was something you went looking for rather than gravitating too with 20,000 people. I’ll pretend that’s progress of a sort.

* A little like Mountain Mayhem. Except the mud could never be as bad.

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