This week, I went to my first music gig since… Well, I couldn’t actually remember when. I’ve just checked and it was in 2018 when I was still living in Manchester. Although I found that particular night pretty underwhelming, it wasn’t enough to put me off going to another gig for four years. I don’t quite know why I didn’t go and see anything for the next year, but then everything shut down for two years after that.
And it would have been longer still if I hadn’t had a sudden change of heart this week.
I was going to see My Chemical Romance, for who I make no apology (it’s death or victory) about bloody loving. They used to be something of a guilty pleasure that I wouldn’t openly discuss on social media for fear of being mocked. But I stopped caring about being cool way before even the pandemic.
I discovered them in 2005 in our uni house as I’m Not Okay was regularly on the music channels. I initially dismissed them as another generic emo band. Then I heard the guitar solos and that got my attention, as I instantly have more interest in any band that deploys guitar solos. In fact, that is also what attracted me to The Darkness – another widely dismissed band I have a strong fondness for. When it comes to guitar solos, I am like a moth but only attracted to the widdly-widdly sounds.
Unlike many other bands from the same genre in the mid-2000s, MCR write great songs with interesting lyrics and are rarely formulaic. I don’t know how you could accuse any band of being generic if they ask Liza Minelli to guest on one of their tracks.
The Black Parade is quite possibly my favourite album ever, which I instantly connected with when it was released in Autumn 2006. I like to think of its influences as being somewhere between Queen’s A Night at the Opera and Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas. There was something about the uncertainty in my newly post-uni life when it was released that obviously made me gravitate towards an album about dying and coming out the other side. Little did I know that this was a handy metaphor for my comedic activities, where I died multiple times.
I originally booked my MCR ticket on my phone using the dodgy Wi-Fi at a dodgy hostel in Perth in January 2020. And the show was rescheduled twice since then due to the small matter of Covid. I had half-forgotten that I had a ticket and even a couple of days before, I didn’t think I was going.
It was in Milton Keynes, which is a massive pain in the arse to get to from the south-west. Trains take far too long and I probably wouldn’t be able to get one back, so would have to stay over. Only, I’d left it too late to book anything and everywhere was fully booked. The closest hotel was about £180. Then I looked into driving and all the parking at the stadium was booked up. I asked a comedian mate from MK if he knew anywhere and he made a few suggestions, but it was all a bit uncertain. And if there’s one thing I really hate, it’s driving around in a rush and trying to find somewhere to park my car.
So, that was that. I wouldn’t be going. Also, I could only get a seated ticket that was right up in the nose bleeds. That barely even counts as a gig.
That was until I started listening to their albums. And the night before MCRmas, I decided that I would be going after all. I booked a Travelodge midway to avoid a two-hour late-night drive, which would inevitably involve road closures. And I’d park at the nearest train station if there were any spaces.
The drive there to MK was reminiscent of those horrible and sweaty drives on the A-roads through mainly Yorkshire in the summer of 2018 to perform comedy gigs.
Then, about eight miles away, traffic predictably ground to a halt. My Googe Maps said there would be a nine-minute delay. So, I waited for nine minutes. And there was still a nine-minute delay. This went on for some time. It turns out that the police had closed off the road ahead due to what must have been a nasty car crash. I saw a fire engine coming away from the scene and an ambulance heading in the other direction.
Still no re-routing from Google Maps. I had a quick look at the map and saw that there were some backroads I could take that should get me back on route. Surprisingly, my plan worked perfectly and I didn’t end up on a dirt track or in a stream. I was back heading where I need to go and there were plenty of spaces at the train station. Now, I had to rush to get there in time to see the start of MCR’s set.
Almost as soon as I arrived at the venue, the band appeared on stage. I couldn’t have timed it better. Well, I could. I could have gotten there earlier and managed to find my seat for when they arrived on the stage.
When the band started playing Helena and the stadium around me erupted in song, I realised why I had made the effort. I bloody love this band. And hearing a crowd all singing together again really made me realise how much I’ve missed this sort of thing during the pandemic.
I watched the first five songs while also looking around for where I was meant to be sitting. It turns out many of the stewards working at MK Stadium also have no idea where the stairs are to the upper levels.
I eventually found my seat after about 30 minutes into the show. And everyone around me was bursting into song, even on the upper levels. It was a great show and the band sounded like they’d never been away. I am so glad I decided to make the effort, although my vocal chords are less enthused. And I’m now weighing up whether or not to go to another show on the tour.