17th July 1995 was a special day in my young life, not only would it be my first ever gig, but it would be to see my favourite band, Blur.
The build up was quite unlike any other I’ve experienced, even though they would go on to do much bigger gigs, this felt very special, era defining. The support line-up was teased out in the pages of the Melody Maker and NME in the months leading up to the show and it was to be their biggest headline outdoor show to date at the 27,000 capacity venue.
Blur were at the peak of their popularity, having won four awards at the Brits earlier in the year. I had bought tickets as soon as they went on sale, having convinced my parents that my friend’s older sister and her boyfriend would look after us both. The countdown was on: six months, which is teen years might as well be six years. Important planning with other more gig-experienced friends was afoot during school breaks “have you planned what you’re going to wear?” “Addidas or Puma?…yeah I think Damon wears Puma.”
Finally, the day of the gig rolled around. In typical fashion, after a beautiful run of sunshine, the rain came, but we were not to be deterred. It had been a dramatic week, Natalie’s sister was recovering from having her appendix out recently and my Mum called me from hospital where she was also recovering from surgery to tell me to be careful. Dad sent me off with two bacon rolls and banana in my rucksack. I rationed the banana, a mistake I would discover about mid way through Blur’s set, gross!
The band were guest editors of the NME that week, such was the significance of this show. I bought it on the way to the gig, immediately scrawling the date and where I’d bought it across the top corner (WHSmith, Liverpool St Station, 12:15pm) ok so perhaps not the time, but this copy became known as my ‘sacred NME’ for a good many years after.
A lot of valuable lessons were learned that day, including, in no particular order:
1. It’s not cool to wear the t shirt of the band you’re seeing the day you see them (especially if it’s a crappy knock-off from Camden Market that is too big for you, dweeb)
2. Portaloos are gross at any time of day
3. People can be rude dicks (Specifically men in sheepskin coats who loudly bang on about how sad people in raincoats are)
4. Bananas are not good gig snacks
After standing through drizzly but great sets by Sparks, The Boo Radleys and Dodgy, the crowd was soggy but wild for the main event and the rain even let up as the intro music (The theme tune to The Great Escape, appropriately).
The elaborate stage set included a big platform for the brass section and huge colourful burgers suspended from the ceiling. I was 14, surrounded by a huge number of similarly excitable teens. Listening back to the Radio 1 coverage, the screams from the crowd were off the scale, it was Britpop’s answer to Beatlemania, Damon even told people to be careful between songs.
They tore through songs like Tracy Jacks, Girls & Boys and Popscene and it was the first time the crowd had heard Country House , two months before the infamous (though now rather daft) chart battle with Oasis. Blur had apparently offered money to local residents so they could go out for the day and escape the noise, but one of the most beautiful sights of the night was people watching from their windows as dusk fell over the east end. We sang until our throats hurt and our feet blistered, but This is a Low was the perfect closer.
20 years on, and two days before I see them at Hyde Park (for the 3rd time) I still get a shiver down my spine during For Tomorrow. They have had their ups and downs, but I will always have Mile End.