Welcome to the show!

What’s all this about then?

Well, you know that feeling when you think “I’ve been to a sh**-load of gigs, I wonder if I can remember them all”, and then you stop doing any work and focus on recording all the gigs you’ve been to in a spreadsheet for the next 4 hours, and then you spend the next 4 years constantly updating that spreadsheet, and you add graphs to the spreadsheet, and the graphs become motivation to go to even more gigs, and then your friends get competitive with each other about how many gigs on the spreadsheet they were at?

You don’t? Well I do, and it’s awesome.

Mmmmm... Excel porn!

I realise that being able to recall more than 150 gigs over 30 years – or even being bothered enough to try – isn’t something that would apply to or interest most people. But I can, and I have. So, as it’s approaching the 30th anniversary of the first gig I ever attended (I know this, because I have a spreadsheet), I thought I’d delve into the depths of my mind and retroactively blog about my experiences. Why? Because I absolutely love going to see (hear? experience?) live music; because as I creep relentlessly towards 40 I feel I should document something about my life; and because living in the present is for suckers…. or grown-ups.

But why call it ‘Sweating With Strangers’? Well firstly, because I’m not very good at naming things. Never have been. I’m sure I get it from my parents, judging by the fact that they named a child Keith in 1982.

But secondly, because – if you’ll forgive me getting over dramatic (it won’t be the last time) – sweating with strangers is exactly what going to gigs became about for me, for a few years at least. There’s nothing quite like being a bit drunk and crammed into a throng of like-minded humans and just losing yourself to an onslaught of noise. This is also why I’ll be writing about the shows in chronological order. I considered starting with some later ones to look more exciting and cool, but perhaps it’ll be nicer and more meaningful to watch the transition from wide-eyed child, mouth agog at the presence of his heroes, to drunken bearded moron banging into people I’ve never met, then hugging them and bouncing along to the next three songs with them arm-in-arm.

A few things to get covered up front:

  • There will be lots of very ‘uncool’ bands covered in this list. I’m not presenting myself as any kind of musical doyen – as will be painfully obvious with the title of my first gig post. I’m just a guy who likes whatever music he happens to like, and then desperately tries to see that music performed live at least once.
  • There won’t be a great deal of diversity. Scanning down the list, there are a whole lot of white guys with guitars. I can’t really offer any excuse for that, other than to say that I started life in South Devon, and they are expected to discover hip-hop down there, any day now.
  • There also won’t be much negativity. My wife tells me that I’m too positive about everything – when we go out for dinner for example – and that’s doubly true for gigs. You know the episode of the Simpsons where Homer becomes a food critic and the whole town gets fat as a result? I’m a bit like that. There’s a good chance that by the time we reach the end of this list, a dozen people may have permanently damaged their hearing as a result of my over-enthusiasm.
  • This also means that when I do say a show was bad, you can take it as fact that it was really very bad.
  • Some bands may appear many, many times. That’s called dedication, and being a real fan. You should try it sometime. That said, I’m aware that there are people out there who will have been to see their favourite acts waaaaay more times than I have. That’s too much. You should stop.
  • The rules for what makes the list will be fairly arbitrary. For example, if I was in a bar, and there happened to be a band on, that wouldn’t be included. But if I went to that same bar, with a ticket, to see that band, then they’d make the list. And it has to be a proper gig – the definition of which is entirely mine and utterly flexible. So the Christmas Eve I spent watching my mate Greg’s band in The Railway Hotel, Evesham doesn’t count; but seeing Rhino’s Revenge in the exact same venue years later, does. Sorry Greg. It’s my list, deal with it. I won’t include any gigs that I played either, because that’s both self indulgent and massively cheating. I might mention them however, just because I can.

That’s it for introductions, there’s nothing more to say. It’s time for the guy to check the stage and then flash his torch at the sound desk, and then for the lights to go out and the crowd to cheer.

Let’s begin. The year is 1988, it’s Christmas in South Devon, and it’s time to boogie..

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