Monday, 8 October 2018

It was 30 years ago today... Memories of my first gig

Gawd I feel old. Three decades ago on this very day, 8th of October 1988, I attended my very first concert. I didn't consider that 30 years later I'd be writing about it. To be honest, when you're 17, you don't consider anything in 30 years time. To mark the occasion, I've decided to republish one of the first articles to appear on this blog, the very first of my rather long-winded 'Memories of a thousand gigs' series - the tale of my very first gig. It's pretty much exactly the same as the original piece (footnotes and all!), though I've taken the opportunity to update one or two little factoids...

Originally published on 19 February 2014; updated October 2018

The Wedding Present
Support: The Heart Throbs
The Great Hall, Exeter University - 8 October 1988

You never forget your first. Your first gig, that is. Mine was a relatively obscure indie band from Yorkshire that a much cooler friend of mine at college introduced me to. The Wedding Present were ‘between albums’ when I lost my live band virginity to them. Their debut ‘George Best’ had made a reasonable dent in the consciousness of NME readers and Peel listeners alike and major labels were taking an interest. As it was, I had recently bought the non-album single Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm and was awaiting the follow-up Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now? when they descended on Devon.

My best buddy Wayne and I decided to buy tickets, but not being able to drive yet, would have to work out a way to get there later. A minor detail! Wayne had beaten me to the first gig experience by a few months, when he went with his cousins to see Wet Wet Wet in Plymouth. I wonder if he’d admit to it nowadays; by the time of the Weddoes show, he was already showing signs of denial.

Somehow I managed to convince my mum to take us. Living, as we did, 30-odd miles away from the venue – an hour-long drive on largely rural B roads – it was a nice gesture from her to say yes without hesitation. Wayne’s mum Val was taken along for the ride; they would have a girl’s night out in Exeter as Wayne and I mixed it with students older, smarter and considerably cooler than us.

Mum and Val dropped us off outside and drove off into town. Wayne and I joined the queue and patiently waited in line with the cooler kids. The next hour or so is hazy, partly because it was so long ago, and partly because I couldn’t really take it all in. I do, however, remember sitting in the foyer with Wayne and noticing Weddoes frontman David Gedge standing just to my left.Wayne and I argued briefly over whether it really was him or not – he didn’t think so, but I was pretty sure.[1] I also remember where I stood as the support band came on. Facing the stage, I was pretty near the front by the speaker stack on the right. Perhaps not the best idea for a gig newbie like myself.

As I remember it, opening act The Heart Throbs were a decent band. Well, they must have been because I became an immediate fan, buying some of their early singles and all three of their subsequent albums. They were fronted by the bleach-blonde Carlotti sisters Rose and Rachel, sisters of Echo and the Bunnymen drummer Pete de Freitas. Like a number of bands of the time – the Primitives, the Darling Buds, Transvision Vamp – the blonde girls out front were the focus of the group, the male members remained largely anonymous.

The Weddoes were a blast, of course. They tore through most of the songs from ‘George Best’, added a healthy splash of old faves, and even played one or two new ones including a song called Kennedy which, a year or so later, would become their debut major label single and their first ever Top 40 hit.

Throughout the show, I had been forced further back the crowd, from front right to halfway back to the left. That didn’t matter though. From there I could take more in without being blasted by the speakers or getting a wayward elbow smashing into my nose. Surveying the scene – a crowd of sweaty moshers, Mr Gedge bent over his furiously-strummed semi-acoustic in his trademark way, the reaction when the band finally launched into A Million Miles after the crowd had been shouting for it all night – a huge grin fixed itself to my face and stayed there for days. I was hooked, and over the coming years I would see hundreds – yes, hundreds – of bands at various places around the country. I would even see the Wedding Present on another six occasions (to date).[2]

So, technically, the Heart Throbs were the first band I saw live[3] Officially though, it was Gedge & co. that took my virginity. If you’re reading David – you were great. How was it for you?

Fast forward 30 years, and the gigging hasn't stopped. In fact, next week I'm taking in two - TWO! - shows on consecutive nights. You know where you can read all about it...

[1] I was right, as Wayne himself admitted following the show. To this day, Gedge mingles with his audience before and after each show.
[2] On the 'Bizarro' tour a year later in Bristol; on the 'Bizarro' 21st Anniversary tour in 2010 in Cardiff; on the 'Seamonsters' 21st Anniversary/'Valentina' tour in 2012 in Cardiff again; briefly, the tail-end of an in-store show at the Plymouth Virgin Megastore in 1996, after which David Gedge himself commented on my well-worn Bizarro t-shirt; and since this article first appeared, on the 2016 'Going, Going...' tour and last year's 'George Best 30th Anniversary' tour.
[3] Even this isn’t technically true if you include the resident holiday camp bands I saw as a kid, and those that always seemed to play at family parties and weddings etc. But, for obvious reasons, they don’t count!


  1. Great post! If memory serves correctly, The Wedding Present must have been one of the first bands I saw live back then ... in 1987, I would think. They were marvellous!

  2. ... " In fact, next week I'm taking in two - TWO! - shows on consecutive nights"

    I'll get the bath chair and some warm towels ready for after.

  3. Well, that certainly is starting things on the right foot. We are more or less the same age, but I started going to shows quite a few years earlier than you. Thus, I have some shows I'm not quite as proud of as, say, the Wedding Present. It also didn't help that I grew up in the middle of nowhere. My first show was Todd Rundgren's Utopia on the night of my last day of middle school. I went with a friend and his older brother. Parachute pants were involved.