I get a text one Friday afternoon in the middle of November from a mate of mine “I’ve got us two tickets to see Linkin Park in Manchester over the weekend, so sort out your shit and we can go, we’ll make a day of it, we’ll leave at 9 Saturday morning, grab some breakfast from somewhere and take a slow drive up to Manchester ” he says, so I pull some money together, grab a note pad and pen, this is a good chance to get some reporting done.
I look at the clock and it’s 7 in the morning and i’ve been awake for 24 hours, I spent most of yesterday and all night listening to the back catalogue of the band and drinking cheap cider from a brown bottle and writing crappy poetry from my bed, it’s not worth going to sleep now I’ve only got two hours until we leave for he gig so I better get up and get ready and shake off the tiredness, maybe i’ll have a quick snooze in the car on the way there.
I get round my mates house for about 8:30, walking through the cold and wet November weather and he’s standing outside cleaning out his car for the journey “what you doing” I say
“just getting rid of some shit before we leave, more room for goodies in the back if we pick anything up later”
“o’rite, don’t know what we’ll pick up”
“Well, you never know”.
He goes inside his house and tells me to get in the car and wait, he won’t be long, I see that he’s already loaded the cd player with a Linkin Park cd, I should be ok picking off songs considering that I spent most of the night listening to them.
He leaves the house and comes to the car with an ASDA bag, he puts it in the bag and it’s full with beer and crisps, he gets in and turns to me and says “we can have a couple before we go in”
“you won’t be able to, you’ll be driving”
“well I can have one and you can have the rest of them, everything will be fine I’ve done it before”.
I get hold of the bag and look inside and he’s got Carling and cider’s, a bad combination of drinks and the crisps don’t have enough power to soak them up and with the lack of sleep nothing will help but I decide that I’m going to have one, the cider that I drank through the night will have gone by now so a small can of lager won’t do any harm.
I open up the can of beer and take a sip and it tastes like bile, like all good larger does it tastes like the bottomless shit from the bottom of the barrel “what a load of crap this is” I say to my mate “where did you get this shit from?”
“It’s from round the corner” he said “it was at the back of the fridge”
“you should have put it back”.
After the complaints of the stale crap larger he puts on the cd and we finally hit the road. “I’ve not slept at all mate, so this larger is going to be fun” I say
“Neither have I and I feel like my stomachs gonna explode at any point, it feels like wires wrapping around my guts” my mate says “we’ll still stop at maccies on the way though, we need food”
“When do you want to stop”
“We can stop at the next service station on the M1, so you better hurry with the beer, it won’t take me long to get there”.
So I finish off the crap larger and pull out a pen and a notepad and start jotting down ideas of things that I might want to report on, the band, the venue, the people, the seats, the beer and the food. I’ll keep the pad next to me at all times through out the day so I have it grabbing distance so if something interesting comes up I can wip the thing out my pocket and jot something down.
We’ve been on the road for 40 minutes when we pull up to the service station for a crafty McDonalds and a quick slash, a journey like this you need to grab as many rest stops and piss break as you possibly can just to build up your energy for the day, a gig like this could suck out all your energy and make the journey back near impossible, with the lack of sleep we’ve both had the drive back could put us on tomorrows evening news.
We walk through the service station doors and It’s like a classic airport waiting room with the white chrome and the large windows surrounding us, the slippery marble tiled floor and the blue leather seats lined up side by side next by the windows. Shops and stalls line up on one side of the room, it’s practically one big shopping mall for drivers in the middle of nowhere and a place and 30% of the people will ever visit again.
We head towards the MacDonald’s stall and its like walking through a circus of people, old people, young people and people with strange coloured hair, everyone bumping and shoulder barging each other out of the way, most need of them need a piss and quick bite and nobody wants to be in the building longer than ten minutes, it’s get in and get out, first come and first serve situation with no fucks given and everyone is complaining about the price of a bottle of water and a bag of Skittles.
I turn to my friend and say that I’m going for a piss and that all I want is two double cheese burgers and nothing else, I need grease at this point of the journey.
I start walking through the service station towards the toilets walking by the cattle of people and I walk into the toilet and it’s empty, with the piles of people outside of the door it’s a strange scene walking into an empty toilet especially when you consider that this is the meant to be the centre of the service station and the real and only reason you stop here, this should be full to the rim with people but it’s empty, a dead space maybe everyone is outside that door and walking in at out of the shopping stalls instead of emptying their bowels.
The service station used to be a quick in and out job now people just seem to hang around the building shopping for senseless and bullshit stuff.
I leave the toilets and my friend is standing outside with a double cheeseburger in his hand, he hands it to me and we both depart the building.
We decide to sit in the car for a short while and stuff our food down our faces that’s when I giant coach pulls into the car park and about 20 people jump of it of, men and woman and kids all wearing Linkin Park t-shirts “you think they’re are going to the gig tonight?” I say to my mate
“It looks like it, I wish we could have got a coach”
“there’s only two of us”
“well, that’s if we if we had more going”
We finish off our burgers and we hit the road again and I open up another can of beer and put on different CD this time, Green day a band from both our childhoods.
It’s finally dark as we pull into the city of Manchester, the street lights bounce of the car window as we make our way around the streets and that when hit a monster size traffic jam and get stuck behind a car with a Linkin Park flag on it’s back window, obviously the traffic is building up because of the gig and it’s only 6:00pm.
As we move slowly closer to the arena we both notice that the traffic jam has nothing to do with the gig, we can see flashing blue lights from police cars and ambulances.
I stick my head of the window for a quick peak as we get a little closer to the scene “I can see something dude, by five riot vans and a tent has been set up on the green” I said to my mate “it don’t look good”.
We pull up to the side of the scene as police slowly wave people through, a gang of about 11 teenagers stand up against a Lidl wall in handcuffs and while another group of teenagers and in football shirts get put inside a riot van.
About 4 policemen carrying clipboard stand around a tent while men dressed in white and face masks take pictures from inside the tent and carry clear bags away from it, it’s impossible with my eye sight to make out what’s inside the bags, but with the scene that’s unfolding here it doesn’t look good.
I can only imagine what’s happening here tonight, gang warfare? Drug deal gong wrong? A Pokémon found? Killer clown craze? football hooliganism? only the news papers in the morning will give us some light on tonight’s crazy scene.
The police wave us through and push the empty cans of beer underneath the driving seat not realising that I still have some beer left in the bottom of the can it spills underneath the seat, but I remain silent as we make it through the police and we start to speed up and that’s when we see the venue and get in the line for the car park, I can only imagine what tonight will bring after witnessing the scene that we just drove by, it’s an imagine and a situation that can change everything on a night like this, It change the whole view of everything that’s going to unfold, the gig hasn’t even started yet and crazy things are beginning to happen.
We pull into the car park and find a spot, we made it, it was a long trip to the gig but we got there and with no sleep and a little booze inside of me.
We depart the car and my friend offers me a little chocolate to build up my energy, obviously some premonition work is at play with my friend, is he sensing something is going to happen on the drive home after the gig?
We go outside as line up with the rest of the crowd and it starts to snow, the conversation turns from the gig to the weather, nothing new from a crowd of English rock and roll fans it’s always the weather that will be the topic of conversation it doesn’t matter what’s happening at the that moment, the great thing in the world could be happening in front of their eyes yet it’s the whether they will be talking about.
“Fucking snow, I know we don’t get a lot of it but we don’t need this shit now, I just wanna see the gig” a big guy in a Grateful Dead t-shirt says (what’s a Grateful Dead fan doing at a Linkin Park gig? Music truly has many faces).
We get to the front and hand over our tickets to the man on the door “Hiya y’alright” the ticket man says in a squeaky high pitched voice “can I just search you quick” and he pats us down and then waves us through.
We finally made it, we’re in from the cold and crazy scenes that’s happening outside and are ready for the gig, so we both make our way through a see of people, dads with daughters, mums with sons and fat blokes in metal shirts wondering why the hell they bothered to turn up tonight.
Picking up a quick hotdog and a beer on the way we head towards our seats, I manage to grab three beers and balance them in my arms as I make my way towards my seat, my friend only has one but is far into his hotdog to give me a helping hand. It takes some skill to hold three beers and a hotdog and climb stairs surrounded by people and not drop one.
I eat my hot dog and polish off my three beers as the opening band finishes off their set but I didn’t pay much attention to them and the bands name has slipped my mind, I was just admiring the surroundings and watching the hordes of people of all ages flood the arena floor and fill the seats that surround me. I’ve often wondered what an alien race might make of this scene, a thousand humans piling into a large building to listen to a group of men play loud noises which makes the humans bop up and down. It must be a fascinating scene for any visiting species.
I go for a quick piss and grab another two beers before the main event starts, I can feel a interesting anticipation in the air, a different feeling than I’ve felt before at any other gig, it’s new and different and i’m not to sure I like it but i’ll go along with it anyway.
I make it back to my seat and start drinking my beers and then a strange man starts making his way on to our row looking for a seat, an old guy about 60 with a woolly hat, a brown jacket and a blue back. He walks past us smelling of stale larger and cigarettes and dampness and he pulls out a can of extra strong larger from his blue bag and I can’t imagine where he hid it to sneak it through security. My friend turns to me and starts to ponder over the men “I wonder if he’s involved somewhat in the crime scene we saw on the way in” he says “I wonder if he did it”.
And I start to get paranoid, maybe my friend it right and maybe the strange man is involved somehow and the lads who were being arrested where just in the wrong place at the wrong time, did he do it? Did he know the man in the tent? Why the fuck did he kill the man with a rusty knife?
I down one of my beers and try to forget about the situation and think about the gig and that’s when the lights go down, the band are about to take to the stage. A huge cheer from the crowd rises up from below us and join in, we have no energy at all, we are running on zero sleep but the excited in the air wakes us up.
The band come running onto the stage after the intro song and the cheers from below and around us grow louder and we join in, the weird man next to us just sits and stares at the stage like nothing is on it, lost in his own world and imaginations.
Half way through the gig and they are on fire, pulling on classics and new songs and rare songs from a large back catalogue and that’s when the man next to us gets up and screams “I’M ON MY OWN AND I’M TRIPPING FUCKING DONKEY BALLS” and then begins to make his way by us and leaves and is never to be seen again.
I turn to look at everyone around me and the faces of shock and wonderment at the weird man is written all over their faces, their attention has gone from rocking out to the attention of the ail way where the man with the blue bag once stood and everyone is asking the same question I am “who is that strange dude?”
The gig is over and we leave the arena in search for the car. We are exhausted and drained from the head down, our necks are sore, our eyes are dry and our legs are aching and the walk to the car park is turning into a expedition.
Slogging along for the car I can hear the chatter around “OMG they were great, they were amazing, holy fucking shit this is the best band ever” I hear someone scream. It’s life changing to some people and a lot of these people have never been to gig before and now that they have it will become apart of their lives until they cant walk anymore.
We finally find the car and we start to make our way out of the car park which has now turned into a circus of concert goers. Music by Linkin Park is being played loud out of car windows, people singing along while they walk to find their cars and car horns being pressed over and over again. I turn to my friend and I ask him to join in and get pressing the car horn but he shakes his head his eyes already shutting and that’s when a deep fear sets in and it starts running around in my head that we are on zero sleep, both of us been awake for nearly 38 hours now, both of us have had a little drink here and there too. Are we going to make it home with my mate falling asleep at the wheel?
We make it through the circus and hit the road, the traffic is now clear and the murder scene from earlier on has now been cleared. The tent is down and there is no sign of a crime anywhere now, how quick these things can get cleaned up and resolved and how fast they can get an awful scene like that swept under the rug. Now the public around this town can rest and that sense of dread and fear of a crazed axe murderer lurking behind the bush or in a dark ally ready to pounce at any moment will disappear.
We hit the motorway and we pick up speed, the feeling of all energy is shooting out of our body and drowsiness is hitting us like a two tone wall straight in the face. It’s heavy and deadening. I just hope we make it back home alive.
The roads are dark and long, the odd light from a car going by us opens ours eyes for that slight moment stopping us both from falling sleep. I feel a sense of fear and worry, will my mate fall asleep at the wheel? Will he become another statistic? Will I be on the news as one those passengers who didn’t make it?
I turn to my mate and I see his eye’s fading, he’s falling sleep and I’m scared now he’s breaking the speed limit, going at 95 miles per hour”Hey you fuck head, wake up” I scream at him and he breaks slightly bringing my hands up to stop my face from smashing into the glove compartment “You’re gonna have to pull over dude, take a slight break, just rest for a little”.
We take a sharp left at the first service station we see, I’m relived that for now we have at least stopped and my fear of crashing is settled even if it’s only for a few minutes.
Walking around the service station in the early hours of the morning can be a strange experience for even the most normal and wide awake person but things aren’t normal right now we are not in here to check out the best side road deals we are here because we need to stop our selves from appearing on the evening news, we need to walk around and wake up before we hit the road again.
It’s a strange sight at night, it reminds me of old zombie movies, it’s silent but for some reason the feeling that some from the dead will walk out from the empty canteen area and try to rip your face off, so you tread lightly trying to not to make too much noise.
We take a piss and wash our faces before leaving and letting the night staff deal with their own fate, we leave without contemplating on buying anything, it was just to stand up and walk around. Get in and get out.
It’s now 2 in the morning and we get in the car the car and hit the road again and the fear returns. I take a look at the road sign and we are only two miles from home. How the fuck? How did we get home so fast? Did I fall asleep and not realise? Or maybe I’m dreaming a little, but no it’s true we are only two miles away and now I feel ok, I’m about to make it home safe.
We drive by the ASDA, in two minutes I’ll be home, I can walk through the door and know that I’m home safe and my mate didn’t fall asleep at the wheel.
And there it is my street, we pull up outside my house and I just exit without saying goodbye, I’m too tired to even speak right now and to happy to back safe with my head still on and my arms not crushed from a terrible wreckage.
I walk through the front door and into the living room and I collapse on the sofa…