Flung pints and Tom Clarke: my first gig at 10 years old

Tick. Tick. Tick. ‘Watching the clock tick does not make it go faster’, I think to myself as I sit in “Topic” class. I need to get home, eat and get ready – I’ve got places to be and a band to see.

It’s 2009. I’m two months into being ten years old, and boy is it sweet: maths homework is the only trouble in a stress-free life filled with home-cooked meals and a daily date with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. But tonight… tonight is different. Tonight, unbeknownst to me, I will have my musical awakening. Tonight, inside of me, a fire will start that will fuel my passion for music until the day I die. And it’s all about to go down at the O2 Academy in Brixton.

The excitement of going out late with my Dad to see live music for the first time was all-consuming – I couldn’t even focus on football at lunchtime. What will it be like? Will I like it? How loud will it be? The questions are constant. I run home from school and throw off my school uniform, replacing it with my favourite beige chinos and smartest T-shirt – hands shaking, preparing myself.

Dad’s already cooked dinner, his special ham, egg and chips. I scoff it down. I’m ready. Dad’s mate Andy, his usual gig companion, rocks up in his blacked-out Range Rover to drive us to the gig. ‘I’m being escorted like a special guest,’ I think. ‘Must get back as late as possible so I can tell my friends how late I went to sleep.’ Bless.

The red buses and London lights whizz past me, the shakes of nerves and excitement almost too much to contain now. We arrive, and it’s huge – much bigger than I thought it would be. We make our way up to the seated area and take our seats in one of the rows closest to the edge of the balcony. I’m too small to see down the bottom there. How can anyone see down there?

God, it really is big. It’s quite daunting for a 10-year-old, the scale of seeing the inside of a music venue for the first time not helped by the screeching noise of support act Twisted Wheel, who have just started. I like one song, ‘Oh What Have You Done’, but that’s about it. Dad whips out the earplugs, I try them, but decline – a punk-rock decision that I have not gone back on to this day.

Before long, it’s time for the big moment: the days of crescendoing nerves have all built up to this point. The word “London” lights up at the back of the stage, and on walk The Enemy, the band whose album We Live And Die In These Towns has soundtracked most of my childhood. The band who were about to kickstart my passion for music.

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Released 10 years ago today!

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‘Aggro’ kicks in and I’ve never had goosebumps like it. What is happening? I look around: drinks are being thrown; Dad’s tapping his leg (I since learned this was quite an out-there move for him, now usually opting for crossed arms and a tap of the pint glass on the shoulder); people around us are leaping out of their seats. ‘So this,’ I think, ‘this is live music.’

For the next hour or so I watch in awe as Tom Clarke and his Enemy storm around. They play all my favourite songs, songs that I’ve sung in the front seat of Dad’s car for as long as I can remember. It’s overwhelming to the very end, and to top it all off they choose ‘Away From Here’, my all-time favourite, to round off their show.

I’m still so excited that I forget how tired I am until I get back into the car. I fall asleep almost instantly, this time with an Enemy T-shirt on – now I have two smart T-shirts. I get in, tell Mum everything and stumble up to bed. Ears ringing in recovery, head ringing in excitement. What is that burning feeling inside me?

Ten years later, live music is now the centre of my life. I go every week to see a band live, or to a festival where I try to expose myself to everything I can. The fire ignited by The Enemy when I was a 10-year-old sprog will never go out. In two months, Dad and I will come full circle and take a trip to another O2 Academy, this time in Newcastle, to see Tom Clarke do We’ll Live And Die In These Towns in full. This will be the millionth band we’ve seen together, there will surely be a million more, and we have that one, life-changing night in Brixton to thank for it.

Listen to The Enemy on Spotify or Apple – more info on remaining tickets for Tom Clarke’s tour can be found here.