Before you go . ..
Tony Redman experiences his first pop concert
MY DAUGHTER has recently helped me to knock another thing off my bucket list. I had always wanted to experience an open air rock concert. Glastonbury being too far away, and me thinking that Latitude sounded too alternative for someone of my age, I was prepared to settle for a single group event. So we chose the Elbow concert (other bands were also available), held in the forest on our north western border with the neighbouring county we don’t mention here.
I had no preconceptions about the event, and so wearing suitable shoes and dressed for every eventuality, especially those of the precipitation kind, we packed ancient folding chairs and headed for the forest.
Now I have to say, several things shattered my expectations. To begin with, I was nowhere near the oldest person on the patch. Within the sea of people covering the grass, I felt quite at home. There were clearly a fair few folk of ‘my generation’, still sufficiently game and connected to enjoy such a concert as this. Indeed, there were groups of geriatrics dotted about, distinguishable by their choice of sensible clothing and picnics including copious quantities of up-market alcohol. I don’t think the local geriatric home had arranged an outing, but if they had I would not have been surprised. Then there were the families with very young children, and folk in wheelchairs. Everyone seemed to be catered for and up for a good night out.
“Where do you want to sit?” Daughter asked me, rather as one might ask of an aged aunt being taken to the seaside for the day. Choosing a space dead centre seemed sensible, close enough to the fast food and toilets, far enough away from the stage so as not to be deafened by the volume. Unfolding slightly rickety chairs, we claimed a space, facing the stage, and counted the speakers – 14 each side, leading me to anticipate with some dread a cacophony of sound when the band kicked off. In an attempt to overcome boredom we devised some simple games focused on the stream of people going backwards and forwards in front of us to the toilets and food stalls. The first was a dare to distract passers-by and remove a chip or two from their take-aways. One point per item. We both scored ‘Nil point’ on that. The second was to count how many people you could definitely prove had been past more than twice. Some were easier to spot than others. The heavily tattooed young lady, the weirdy beardy blokes, those with excessive facial metalwork or a garish taste in tee shirts, or with young children.
This moved onto footwear, which out of nowhere became a major revelation. Most men wore boots, clearly anticipating troublesome terrain, while most women wore skimpy leather thongy sandals, or else went bare, clearly unfazed by the size of woodland ants.
Just in front of us, a group of forty-somethings were having a party. Next to them a hairy bloke and his trophy wife were drinking standing up, neatly obscuring the stage from view. Immediately in front of them, a group of sixtysomethings sat on a blanket and opened fizz and crisps, while next to them five girls were attempting to take a selfie with both themselves and the stage in view, hampered by the wearing of impossibly high heels and the quantity of alcohol consumed. Behind us, a family spread out a sensible picnic, complete with home cut ham sandwiches, jam tarts and flasks of steaming tea, for all the world looking as though they were spending a day on the beach. Only this was the forest, and it was getting dark, and the band were about to strike up.” Hello, Thetford!” we heard from someone somewhere in front of us. Everyone stood up, including the sixty-somethings, who decided the blanket doubled as a door mat. It quickly became apparent that none of these sedate country folk would be sedentary for long, and soon we were surrounded by bouncing bodies. As the band got into their stride, the stream of people heading for the toilets subsided to a trickle, and we sat back to enjoy what I feared would be a very long, loud evening. But no sooner was I immersed in the atmosphere than the band was telling us it was their last number. The light show intensified, people started to pack up their picnics, including Captain Sensible behind me, who had put everything away and was on his way back to the car park.
And before you could say “that was fun”, we were in a queue, in the dark, heading back towards where we thought we might have abandoned the car.
Now if someone was to offer me a ticket to see Ed Sheeran . . .
Elbow perform at Forest Live.