Better Luck Next Time

Scissor sisters ticket

Tonight I went to see the Scissor Sisters at the Brixton Academy. Mixed feelings. It was definitely a night in two halves. Maybe three. Mathematicians who interject at this point can bite me.

First I met up with M, Adrian, Simon + friend at Nando's opposite the academy. M and I were several hours early because I had cunningly ignored a registered letter containing my tickets for too long and had them bounced back (they currently hover in limbo, which is somewhere near Portsmouth apparently). So we had to queue at the box office for our tickets. This however turned out to be an excellent scam, since the lost-tickets queue was about a tenth of the size of the ordinary queue and after giving you your tickets they let you straight in, which meant we had had a meal, started queueing ten minutes before the doors opened and were some of the first people into the building.

The Academy itself is pretty spankin'. It's really very large, but two levels and a sloping floor make it seem almost intimate. There are sensible ideas like crowd barriers spaced around the floor to prevent crowd movements crushing people too much. It's all very professionally run, and clean, and generally all you could ask for in the way of a venue. We decided to head to the front, and that as far as I'm concerned is where the problems began. We didn't get right to the front -- we started off two people from the front. Unfortunately, on either side of us were the Tallest Man in the World on the right, and on the left the soon-to-be Brixton Nailbomber, a four-foot wide man with a frowning expression and a suspicious-looking backpack, all on his own.

The jockeying for position began about 20 minutes after we got in. A smiling, friendly but nevertheless ill-mannered girl and her fag friend turned up next to us and started worming their way slowly in between people, edging towards the front. I tried to head them off by closing the gap between myself and TMITW, but she got around this by simply shoving in front of him, forcing him back onto me. TMITW was very apologetic about this, but then he said to me "I don't mind being back two or three rows, I'm 6'6"." Well, if you're so bloody tall, why the hell do you need to be in the front at all?

So this passed and we settled into a fairly ordered pattern, modified only by the addition of a sweaty-smelling vampire and a short blonde witch with a little glittery hat just the right height to poke out my eye if, for instance, she pushed her way in front of me and started bouncing up and down. Which she did.

Oh, the vampire? I should mention that this was the Halloween night Scissor Sisters concert, which they had plugged heavily as a dress-up affair, and people had come out in style. The venue was full of pretty damn good costumes, all of whom were going to regret their choice of rubber mask and midnight cloak because the Brixton Academy is hot. Hence the sweaty vampire. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the shoving. This was all before anything had happened on stage.

Then came the opening act, an initially amusing but eventually tiresome cabaret act, apparently dragged with the Sisters around the world, since their act was heavily Amerocentric and poorly modified to suit the audience. They murdered Britney Spears, Tom Jones, Nirvana and Bonnie Tyler, some miscellaneous tuneless screeching, and then mercifully buggered off.

Then came the Sisters. A net curtain fell (chorus of excited screaming), a projector came on (more screaming), and a hastily-edited movie starring the sistors came on (screaming at each appearance of a band member), in a vaguely halloween theme which involved murdering each other in the bathroom followed by Ana Matronic singing Carol Burnette, which none of the Brits in the audience (i.e. all of them; this is London) got. But whatever, it was over soon (yet more screaming), and the curtain rose again (screams defeaning now), and a roomful of dry ice flowed out to reveal the Sisters standing in Rocky Horror tribute costumes, Jake as a particularly skimpy version of Frankenfurter.

This was the cue for a posse of about five drunken, fat, Essex slags to make their cunning move. Pretending they were being pushed from behind, they shoved their way to the front as a group, crushing me and everyone else in their path, then audibly congratulating themselves on their own cleverness and complaining that people were squashing them. I was not amused. Meanwhile, M and T, D, J and friends were having problems of their own with the Nailbomber, the details of which they will doubtless recount in their own blogs.

But back to me. Now the show was truly underway, and I discovered I couldn't concentrate on it. I was spending all my time watching the people around me to make sure they weren't about to push me sideways, back or under, keeping my balance, getting shoved aside as people waved their arms, breathing in other people breath and cigarettes and sweat. In the past, at clubs and concerts when it gets this crowded I've always decided to know my limits and bugger off to a less crowded place before things get out of hand. But I decided the Sisters were too good: I would stay. It's only a crowd, right?

Wrong. After another 15 minutes I was totally freaking out. I couldn't concentrate on anything but the imminent fear of being crushed by everyone around me. I made hurried excuses and bolted for an uncrowded space. The crowd was sardined for about fifty metres around the stage, and they all had the hardened expressions of people who'd been shoved in front of by too many people making excuses, so it was hard going, which did nothing to ease my panic, and I managed to run into two of the three crowd barriers, which I then had to duck under (shoving legs and annoyed patrons aside). By the time I got near the back of the room my expression was so stricken that people were jumping out of the way with concerned expressions.

Once I got to the back of the room and had a few clear feet of space around me on all sides, I rapidly regained my good humour. The Sisters, so far drowned out by all this self-absorbed rambling, were excellent. My experience of gigs is limited, but they had energy and they could sing and they had presence and I was pleased. It was an amazing show, as my straight (*gasp*) housemate who also attended agreed (he got into the VIP section, the sly dog).

But nevertheless, I think this will probably be my last gig. In the seated section you're too far away to see anything useful, and in the standing section I'm freaking out. I'm just not a gig person. People often think that, because I'm always at the front of the stage in any club, that I love crowds, so my claustrophobia doesn't make sense. But the thing about being at the front of the stage is that there are only people behind you, not all around, and if you're dancing like I do no one can get close enough to shove you anywhere without getting a mouthful of elbow. I like crowds as audience, not as compatriots. I need to be able to move, which is why when the front of the stage gets packed out and you can't dance anymore, I'm out of there to some empty corner or balcony where there is room to dance, whether or not anyone can see me.

I should also apologize to all of those I texted while I was still mid-freakout; I didn't mean to sound quite as hate-the-world as I did. You guys have no reason to feel guilty: I did a silly thing I should have known I wasn't able to do, and suffered the consequences. And I did have a good time: just 100 metres further away.

Finally, a shout-out to Michael + depressingly young friends who we saw on the way in and who I walked back to the tube with.

Update: Listening to "I believe in you" by Kylie and the Scissor Sisters. It sounds much better now that I associate it with the vinyl lederhosen the DJ was wearing.