17 years ago today I had my first trip to Brixton Academy. I’d only been living in London a couple of months and I went to see one of my favourite bands – REM.
Adam and I have often discussed gigs we’ve been to over the years, and it’s fair to say I’m an amateur gig goer compared to him. We quickly discovered though that we had both been to see REM at Brixton Academy. It was only when we decided to dig out our tickets the other day that it was confirmed we were there on the same night.
Having acquired their back catalogue about a decade before, one of the perks of my step mum working for Warner Records in the early 1990s, I couldn’t believe I was going to see them in the flesh. I remember how excited I was to finally get my hands on a ticket, having given up on finding anyone to go with me, as a final ticket release email alert popped up just as I was about to head out for lunch at work one day a few weeks before.
It was a hot summer, not dissimilar to this week. When I arrived at the venue, ticket in hand, eager to get a good spot, there was a giant queue running down the side of the building. Some people had tickets, some people didn’t. So I decided to go against what us Brits tend to do – ie join a queue when you don’t know what the queue is for – and hovered near the entrance. Within moments of the doors opening, I was inside and quickly got upstairs to grab a front row seat slightly to the right of the stage. I know they say heat rises, but I couldn’t imagine what it would’ve been like packed in to the standing area downstairs.
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember many of the specifics of the gig, but I do remember falling in love with Michael Stipe that night. I’d not been to that many gigs before this one, but he had a stage presence like I’d never seen before and so much energy. I have no doubt that I was singing along at the top of my voice to many of the songs.
I was buzzing at the end of the evening. As I watched the hoards descend towards Brixton tube, I was glad of the fact I didn’t have to join them and I could just take a leisurely walk up Brixton Hill home, the songs still whirring around in my head.
Needless to say, with such an iconic music venue down the road from where I was living, this wasn’t my only visit. I saw Blur there later that year and many more gigs over the coming years. In more recent years, I’ve not been to as many gigs as I’d like – I can’t deal with the crowds like I used to and I hate the fact tickets now seem to go on sale so far in advance. The last time I was there was in December 2017 to see Frank and The Rattlesnakes – now that was an experience!