Best-night

Throughout the month of October, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) is the Official On-Screen Charity Partner for the One Direction ‘Take Me Home’ Australian Tour. FARE will be screening video messages at concerts, as well as talking to parents and young people at the concerts about alcohol-free fun. I wrote this post for FARE’s blog, Drink Tank, to share what I would consider to be the best night of my life as a teenager – no alcohol was involved!

Explosive, unbridled, teenage hormone-fuelled excitement doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt the day my parents agreed to let me go to my first live music concert.

I cried tears of joy when mum told me that I’d finally get to see Green Day. And not on an old, over-played VHS tape, oh no. They would be right there in front of me – we would be breathing the same air.

If I got close enough to the stage, maybe I could catch their eye? Maybe, just maybe Billy-Joe’s sweat would flick onto my face as he danced around the stage. It was a long awaited dream come true.

But before you read on I need to be up front with you. 14 year-old me wasn’t exactly a One Direction fan-girl type, or Directioner as they’re affectionately known. In fact, I’m pretty sure 14 year-old me would’ve hated Directioners, but that’s beside the point.

You see, I was more of a Grunger, or at least I wanted to be.

I grew up on the Upper North Shore of Sydney in a nice house with my big brother James and my loving, hard-working parents. James and I both went to good schools, played sport, enjoyed art, and loved writing music (or noise as dad used to call it).

Every time school holidays rolled around, I couldn’t wait to dye my hair some kind of crazy colour, buy a new pair of Dr Martins Boots, or get another ear piercing.

I was a creative spirit, and I was trying to break free. Free from my very comfortable, middle-class existence.

But with a good 17 years between me and my first live music concert experience, I can say without hesitation that Directioners and 14 year-old me probably have a lot in common.

Picture this. It’s summertime, 8 February 1996. Paul Keating was enjoying his last moments as Prime Minister, and Friends had just aired on Australian TV for the first time.

I legged it out of the school grounds with my two best friends straight after 5th period. We hurriedly crammed into a toilet cubicle at Pymble Train Station to change out of our private girl’s school uniforms and into our real identities – freedom!

There I was, rainbow knee-high stockings, skate shoes with matching rainbow laces, a tatty black skirt of mum’s that I’d cut short with a pair of scissors, and a commemorative Kurt Cobain t-shirt.

On the train trip to Central Station we scoffed down sweets, recited line after line of the band’s song lyrics, strategised about how to make it past the security guards to get back stage, and made bets on what the set list would be.

After what felt like a lifetime, we finally arrived. Five hours early for the concert – we were real fans.

Buzzing on sugar, we plonked ourselves down on the footpath with half a dozen other kids. They had “missioned it” from Newcastle that morning – respect.

We marvelled at the gate of the Hordern Pavillion, the infamous rock temple of awesome that my big brother had always gloated about seeing bands play at. Finally it was my turn, and I wasn’t just there to see any band. They were the coolest, most amazing punk rock trio in the world.

I wonder if this is how Directioners will feel when they arrive at the Homebush Bay Stadium on Saturday night?

Sure their hair will be meticulously GHD-styled rather than intentionally mashed into a bird’s nest, sure their makeup will be all glitter and glam, rather than the Courtney Love-inspired racoon eyes look, and of course their short shorts and skinny jeans are a far cry from the stone washed, torn up thrift shop threads we used to wear.

But ultimately, we all just want “one thing”, and that’s to see our heroes up there on stage, blowing our minds.

As night fell over the Hordern, thousands of kids joined the back of the queue outside. It was time.

The loud speaker crackled, and then a voice announced, “before the gates open we would like to remind you that there’s no running allowed inside the venue. I repeat, do not run when we open the gates.”

Well, I think it’s the first and last time I’ll ever witness 7000 teenagers power-walking into a venue. But we managed to get the perfect spot, right at the front and centre of the mosh pit.

For the next three hours we lived the dream. Sweaty, screaming sardines packed into that room so tight that we could hardly breathe.

The band busted out hit after hit, their lyrics and melodies penetrating our souls. They understood our deepest fears, our aspirations, our lives, it was magical.

While in that moment I certainly believed I was the biggest Green Day fan on the face of the planet, I hadn’t realised the extent of my own excitement until I was approached by a towering, shaggy-haired concert goer.

He grabbed my shoulder, leaned down, looked me straight in the eyes and yelled above the music “dude, can I get some of whatever you’re on?”

I paused, puzzled for a moment, and then responded with “nothing man, it’s just the band”! I raised the horns and moshed on.

Finally the end of the set rolled around, and the crowd demanded encore after encore. And then, the drummer, Tre Cool, walked out from behind his kit to the front of the stage, a pair of Zildjian drum sticks clasped in one hand.

He gestured to the crowd with a “who wants these” signal, and of course everyone went nuts. He paced to the right of the stage and pegged the first drum stick into the crowd. Then he strode back to the left of the stage and stopped, right in front of me.

The mosh pit surged, people were pushing and shoving each other out of the way to try and line up with him. I kept my focus.

And then, it happened. His arm propelled the second drum stick towards us. In slow motion I saw it, rotating as it flew gracefully through the air. Someone next to me jumped, but they were too eager, a premature attempt. I waited, I had it in my sights.

Then, like a seasoned AFL player, I grabbed hold of the guy in front of me and leapt into the air, pushing off his shoulders to get an extra bit of height.

I reached out my hand and snapped the drum stick out of the air!

I bolted for the exit, running from the group of crazed fans that wanted to steal it from me. As I passed through the entrance to the Hordern I spotted the Wendy’s ice-cream van, and slid underneath it to seek refuge while I waited for the mob to pass.

It wasn’t until years later that I realised the significance of that moment. What I had that night was something that people search for; that raw, untamed excitement and the ability to express it without a care in the world. Or more importantly, without a drug in the world.

I hope that this month One Direction fans feel what I felt that night. I hope they can’t contain themselves. I hope they are completely overwhelmed by the experience. I hope they remember every glorious detail. I hope they don’t grow up too quickly. And most of all, I hope they always remember that they don’t need a drink in their hand to have the best night of their lives.

This post was originally published on Drink Tank.

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