In yesterdays entry I spoke about how live music fans form their own communities with their own intangible cultural heritage. Today I am going to talk about my own experiences as part of a live music community.
Throughout my teens and early twenties my attendance at gigs was dictated by my impoverished financial status and which gigs I could convince my equally impoverished friends to attend with me. Being young and kinda socially awkward my interaction with strangers at gigs was generally limited to bashing into them in a mosh pit. Then in 2014 I moved to York to start a new job. The income allowed me to be able to afford to attend far more gigs than ever before and my new location was far better connected to get to gigs all over the country with relative ease. However, being new to York meant I didn’t really know anyone who I could drag along to a gig. As such I began to attend more and more gigs on my own. As I am the kind of fan who will see his favourite bands on every tour and on multiple legs of the same tour I began to recognise familiar faces of people who also did this. Another factor of my newfound financial status was the ability to afford to buy alcohol at gigs in large enough to act as a social lubricant and chat more with total strangers. I began to match faces to the names I recognised from various bands message boards and Facebook fan pages and over time I found I was not just going to gigs to see the band but to catch up with people who I had grown to know through following the same bands. These people became genuine friends, I would show up to gigs hours early not to be at the front of the queue but to meet friends in a bar nearby for a drink or even to sit down for a meal together, sometimes the gig felt like the secondary reason to travel over to Leeds, Manchester or down to London or wherever. Rather then legging it off to get the last train home after a gig I began booking a hotel in order than I may hang around after the gig and continue partying with my gig friends. We began to refer to funny little group as our “gig family” in an increasingly un-ironic manner. We formed our own traditions (such as “Spragg-tagging” and the drinking of “Green shit”), we became a genuine community with shared memories and values that were inherently tied to the places we congregated. Certain venues took on an almost mythical status for us (The Parish in Huddersfield I am looking at you!) with members of the group travelling across the country to attend a gig with the “family” rather than seeing the same band playing closer to home. As with any community we supported each other through tough times, celebrated good times. We worked together on projects such as arranging a private gig exclusively for ourselves. Couples have been formed, members who have passed have been mourned, birthdays celebrated, gifts shared. We have had a Christmas meal together. To an outside observer we may appear as little more than a loosely familiar bunch of music fans who like the same bands and enjoy drinking together, but scratch below the surface and you will find communal bonds equal to those you will find in small communities around the world.
It was seeing the similarities between my gig-family and importance that communities and their shared associations with place that hold in heritage studies that first inspired my choice of dissertation topic. The challenge I face with my dissertation is to demonstrate to the academic community that the intangible heritage of gig-families like my own are as present and valid as any other more “traditional” community.