It is Saturday morning and it is 5.40am. I have been awake for ten minutes. One of our readers might be thinking, What the hell is Agnes doing up at that time on the weekend and the other reader is thinking, Get on with it, Agnes and don't give us any philisophical claptrap. Well, I'm up at 5.30am every day, whether I like it or not, as that's the way my body works. And I don't like it, and all I end up doing is smoking, drinking coffee and writing blogs. And I shan't bore you any further on the subject.
Well, it's a very big day in the Mildew household. #1 and #2 daughters are going to experience something today which they have never experienced before - yes, they are going to learn how to use an iron. Ahahahaha!
No, they are going to their first live gig tonight!
As a mum who attempts to be 'cool' ('frigid' is how I have been described by dates), in a moment of madness three months ago, I purchased three tickets to see Gwen Stefani at the Manchester Evening News arena (MEN). All I know about Ms Stefani is that she has also released a celebrity perfume called Lamb. Which, to me, is a bloody stupid name. I could do that and call it Cow.
The girls are attempting to educate me in Ms Stefani's songs (I remember some of the No Doubt stuff, I must admit) and I don't like them. I have heard 'Ain't No Holler Back, Girl' countless times and it is diabolical. Why does she start spelling out B-A-N-A-N-A-S? Is this White American Rap Girl code for something rude? Am I unwittingly singing along with something I know nothing about? Why bananas? Why not papayas or lychees? If it's just because it is her favourite fruit, OK, I take it back, Gwen, but I just Don't Get It!
I have No Doubt (I get that - ahaha! Do you?) that I will sit there tonight, bewildered by the array of tweenies in the audience who are all dressed far more provocatively than ought to be legal and I shall feel very, very old.
My girls are 13 and 11 - almost: I was 17 before I went to my first gig with a gaggle of friends from Sixth Form College. I organised the outing and it was to see my favourite band of the time, The Stranglers. In 1987, I was ten years too late for the punk movement, but it had affected me quite profoundly in that I really wanted to wear tartan, bondage outfits, dye my hair red/green/blue and show lots of disrespect to authority. So, in my attempt to emulate the style a decade later, I got it horribly wrong: I was more Goth, was only allowed to buy wash-in/wash-out hairdyes in shades of Autumn Chestnut to Raven Beauty and always remembered my manners.
My outfit was very carefully chosen for the evening and I painted all my nails black, wore head-to-foot black (boots, leggings, a black lacey underskirt (!) and my mother's good jumper), dyed my hair Raven Beauty (purpley-black), wore black lipstick and (oh, the shame), wore my friend Linda's nasty-smelling Kiss Me Quick hat from Blackpool beach from which I had blacked out the catchy slogan. I looked like a Goth/Emo with a sense of humour and a cardiac complaint, but nothing like a Punk, unfortunately.
We caught the H5 Crosville bus to Liverpool and wandered around trying to find the Mountford Hall, which was part of the University. We actually only had to listen out for gangs of punks snarling 'Nice & Sleazy' to find it and as there were no queues, we got in without any problems.
Well, to this small-village girl, it was a real eye-opener. There were piercings I didn't think were possible; evil-looking spikes, studs, belts and buckles; hair which could have acted as building scaffold with its gravity-defying rigidity; and both sexes poured into eye-wateringly tight PVC, ripped denim, tartan and leather outfits.
The place stank of B.O. and beer. Suddenly, I felt very incongruous in a Kiss Me Quick hat, and I got rather concerned that I might be found out as an imposter, so I hurriedly purchased a Stranglers T-shirt, put it on in the toilets and binned my mother's best black lambswool jumper (for which I received the grounding of my life - but that's rebellion, man!).
In my innocence, I thought the support act was The Stranglers and stared at them in bewilderment. Where was my one true love, JJ Burnell? Why weren't they singing all the songs I had painstakingly learned such as No More Heroes, Hangin' Around and Ugly? I also couldn't understand the apathy from the rest of the audience. While I was pogo-ing manically, the others were quaffing beer (to quaff means to throw as much beer down your front without actually drinking any) and seemingly, feigning indifference.
An hour later, the lighting changed, as did the atmosphere, and suddenly, hundreds of aggressive testosterone-charged punks surged to the front of the hall, yelling, snarling, gobbing and punching each other. We all got carried towards the front with the tidal wave and it was not a pleasant experience.
Within seconds I had received elbows to my neck, face, back and ribs and I rapidly tried to get to the back. All my, 'Excuse me, would you mind, please?'-es were completely ignored and I ended up elbowing my way out myself. At the back, it was much safer and more pleasant. As the band got into their stride, you could actually see missiles of spit, beer and urine bags being hurled at the band, and I did wonder that, now they were in their late 30s/early 40s, didn't they just yearn for a bit of decorum? I certainly knew from having read their fanzine, Strangled Magazine, that Hugh Cornwell was an opera buff and JJ Burnell (*swoon*) could deconstruct Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ozymandias.
It was, in all, an amazing experience for me and I left the hall quite elated and jabbering excitedly about it all. When we got outside to catch the last bus home, it was pouring down with rain. My mother had told me to take an anorak, but have you ever seen a Punk wearing a pack-a-mac? Muth-eeerrrrrr! Consequently, the driving rain melted all the glue in the cheap Kiss Me Quick hat which started to form a cocoon around my head. I removed it and the rain thus made my wash-in/wash-out Raven Beauty hair dye run down my face in purple rivulets. From being a pseudo Goth, I now looked like a Hammer Horror reject.
I didn't care. I was happy and I had seen JJ in real life. There was one point when I was quite certain he was staring at me and sending me telepathic messages to meet him backstage, but it might have been the lights blinding him.
So, I do hope daughters #1 and #2 remember tonight as vividly as I remember my first gig. And I hope that it is fun for them, if not for me. I shall not make any fashion faux pas tonight and dress safely in jeans, a nice warm jumper as the MEN is bitterly cold and I might sneak in my own can of diet Coke rather than pay the MEN's exorbitant prices. And if I wake up tomorrow morning with temporary deafness, just shout when you leave a comment. I shall get back to you when normal hearing is resumed.