With tales of stage invasions, memorising fake birthdays and mosh pits, Getintothis’ Lily Corke-Butters talks of the excitement of getting into gigs under age.
Since exposure to the tape selection in our old, red Renault Megan music has always been high on my agenda. With access to Puff the Magic Dragon, ABBA’s Greatest Hits and The Smiths, I felt I had covered most of the musical bases before I had even reached my teens…an utterly false assumption.
For a few unfortunate years the eclectic tape collection was replaced with NOW That’s What I Call Music and Rhianna CDs – it is a wonder my parents ever agreed to drive me anywhere. Thankfully, I gradually drifted out of this phase, with help from numerous bands of the indie rock persuasion.
Then came the pivotal moment; tickets to see my favourite band (at the time) – The Wombats. My parents had taken me to a few gigs previously, including Brian Wilson performing Smile, which sadly I did not appreciate half as much as I would have done now. But the chance to see this band that I had listened to on the radio and watched in music videos felt like something huge.
Being around 10 years old, the dark, sweaty room (that I now know as the O2 Academy) was intimidating, especially when a drunken stranger mistook me for her friend and briefly clung onto my shoulders while slurring illegibly. I must have been four foot nothing, so my Dad brought me a fold away step. Feeling a mixture of royalty and embarrassment, I stood on the step hoping to get a glimpse of my musical idols. Even now, after however many years, I still remember the projections of gigantic eyes, filling the screen during Anti-D. From then on I knew I had to make this a regular endeavor. Since then, I have seen The Wombats a total of five times.
The first gig I attended without my parents was Arctic Monkeys in 2013, a day or two after the death of Lou Reed. I remember being sat in my friend’s kitchen eating pesto pasta and rehearsing the dates of our birthdays, so we (three 13 year olds) could blag being 16 to get into the standing area, which brought me to my first experience of moshing.
Very embarrassingly, I spent the first three songs crying hysterically due to the overwhelming presence of Alex Turner. After eventually gathering my composure, I was shocked by the shared enthusiasm of the crowd. Then the song that (what felt like) almost brought my death – Brianstorm. Within seconds the people around me were throwing themselves around, into each other and onto the floor.
I quickly realised I had to dive into the wave or I would get swept under it. Seemingly like all of my gig experiences, a single, useless detail seems to stick with me. For example, how clearly I remember the huge man in front of me who’s sweaty back I was pushed into a few times before I learnt that in a mosh pit you can’t be passive, so I pushed him further into it, oops.
Jumping over to November 2014, a couple of friends and I queued outside the Kazimier to see yet another indie band – Circa Waves. This gig has to be mentioned, as it would go on to inspire the name of this piece. Their final song, Get Away, seemed to induce even more moshing. On being relentlessly crushed against the front of the stage, bassist (Sam Rourke) offered a lankly arm – which I didn’t acknowledge for a good five seconds, until my friend shouted “LILY!?”.
My unquestioning response was to reach back and I was pulled up onto the stage. Shock and adrenaline lead me to help the rest of my friends up, as I certainly did not want to be the sole stage invader. The stage was now filled with at least 15 keen, young fans – dancing around, taking pictures and even hitting the drummer’s cymbals. Security began to descend, asking us to leave. But singer Kieran Shudall insisted they let us stay.
I still remember relaying the whole story to my Mum when I finally got home, she was shocked and my Dad was well impressed. His inner punk was certainly proud that his 14 year old daughter had managed to start a stage invasion. I think this was a key moment in the development of my attitude towards gigs. For once, I actually felt I was part of the thing that usually I would have just observed in admiration. I thought this feeling would continue until I met the constraints of age restrictions.
I credit my high gig attendance to the power of blagging. As I mentioned previously, it was the only way I was able to attend gigs, unfairly labelled as 16+. If it wasn’t for my older sister looking the part and my overly-confident attitude, acting the part, I see no other way I would have seen so many of the bands that I have been lucky enough to.
I assumed that with age, this issue would go, but I am stuck underneath the glass ceiling. As soon as I reached the age of 14, the gigs seemed to change to 16+ and now that I am 16 they all seem to be 18+. I will still never get over the fact that this age restriction stopped me from seeing one of my all-time favourite bands, Foxygen, in one of the best venues in Liverpool – The Kazimier. The issue of alcohol is obvious; it would be illegal to provide under 18s with it. But why does it seem unreasonable to expect to be allowed into a gig if you’re under 16, or even under 18?
It could be down to safety – a group of 14 year olds may risk harassment from drunk, older gig-goers. I have experienced a range of harassment at gigs, both verbal and physical. People within the gig community know this is an issue, particularly for younger attendees. So why are people doing so little to stop it? We should work together to create the friendly, safe atmosphere, in which people of all ages can enjoy the privilege of seeing a band they love perform.
Even at the most manic gigs I’ve been to, the atmosphere has still been pretty welcoming, I feel little discrimination for being of a younger age from the other people there. So to all the security guards that have suspended their disbelief and let me into gigs that I clearly was not old enough for: thanks, you have allowed me to be part of the community that is live music. I’m just glad I look older than my age, because if they ever asked for ID, I would never be allowed in.