Gigging

by Anbara Khalidi

Check the pockets for the tickets,

Reds, Lighter, Travelcard,

tied shoes, keys and cash. No rush, no hurry –

 

No matter how late you try to turn up

there’s always a support band to sit through,

a guy with a beard, a banjo and a bad hairdo.

 

And after an hour of standing still, pressed into the perfect space,

your legs have gone numb, your pockets are pinned,

you check the people next door,

 

not spinning about giddily, wearing an anorak,

trying to enfold you in Jesus’ love,

likely to vomit all over your shoes, or try anything funny.

 

Once reassured, and the lights go out,

there’s a stampede of huge, drunken elephant-men,

wearing oversized England shirts over thick necks

 

or the tallest chick ever – wielding an afro

who decides to push right in front of you.

So after an hour of keeping your place, bang goes the view.

 

During the slow songs, the elephant men

form an ‘ironic’ circle pit,

and you’re forced to elbow one in the face

 

when they come careering off the merry-go-round

and grope you, though the fifty year old

trying out some solo dance routine doesn’t deserve much less.

 

And the bad moshers, who can’t pogo-stick

up and down to the simplest bass,

must be a part of some huge conspiracy

 

to force you to catch snatches of the band through one squinted eye.

So you tuck in your elbows and bounce through

the people-thicket to the even thicker pit, now seething

 

and frothing – where you don’t even have to move your legs,

the surge will bring you to the top for air,

like a shoal of fish, craning for the sunlight.

 

On the down, it’s hot and damp,

Without DMs your feet get trampled

on and with one sway, or mis-stepped

 

step, you’re on the floor, butts embedded in your skin,

and a sandwich pile-up of bodies will crush your bones for bread.

So, you must stay alert to each seismic shift

 

fracturing your shins to and fro like a packed ship

in a heavy sweat-spray storm.

At least everyone’s way too busy

 

staying alive to sing along with Strongbow-soaked

vocal cords and drown out the sweetest song

With their blend of lager sponging discord.

 

The hot bodies bruise you, spill beer down your top,

Flail about with their Camel Lights and stab you,

Ram you with their mohicans and jab you,

 

Pepper spray and rob you,

rub you, and dive on top of your head.

But, just maybe tonight, give you a wicked gig –

 

as the music drills through all the bones

in your jaw through to your heart,

the floor would tremble if your feet could touch it.

 

And once the band make their encore exit,

the light comes on, and people blankly

stare at their sweat-stuck companions

 

peel their hair from their foreheads and

fumble for the cloakroom ticket.

And we begin to follow the lines out, like cattle

 

into the night; thankfully, cold and dark.

A culture of men with limp fags drooping

out of their mouths harass you

 

with poorly sewn rip-off t-shirts

and petitions for similarly shoddy looking

‘minicabs?’ – no thank you.

 

Worn and aching, mashed and bruised

from godknows what, the tubes

pump full of people analysing the playlist

 

or merely dazed from drugs or a good time

staring straight ahead,

smiles stuck skin-tight across their pasty faces.