Warning: this does get deep, very personal and speaks about depression and suicidal thoughts.
Recently my friend Sarah over at Shout Louder posted an article about depression and why she goes to gigs so much, more as an answer to the people that ask about her why she frequently travels to see so many bands. I found the article scarily relatable and you can read said article here.
It got me thinking about my own relationship with depression, going to shows and the path that I’m on now. I realise as I write this that this isn’t exactly to copy you, Sarah, this is purely to unload on some of my own similar thoughts.
I go to gigs as my real outlet in life, I’ve pushed myself towards exhaustion to see bands, I’ve put myself into debt to see bands, and I know to some people, the number of times I’ve been to gigs is just crazy. It became a joke to people used to work with “how many bands this week?”. I calculated recently that I’ve seen almost 700 different bands and almost 1500 different live performances in just over a decade. More than your average gig-goer for sure.
In 2011 I once left my house at 8am, travelled 71 miles to Slam Dunk Festival, spent at least 10 hours there seeing bands before travelling back. I then showered and went to work from 3am until 11am having not slept. I then slept for maybe 4 hours and went to see my mates play a battle of bands competition an hour from home. I got home at 1am, having to be up at 6am for work the next day. It’s not healthy behaviour at all. I know that.
This isn’t to boast at how hardcore I was, this is to show that I agree that I’ve done silly things and pushed myself to limits to see bands I love and support live music. Why do I do it to myself? Quite frankly it’s my only true release in life, my only moments of pure happiness are when I see some of my favourite songs played live, at least in the time that I’ve been going to gigs. Nothing else has ever come close.
At the time I didn’t realise I was depressed, maybe I did and didn’t want to admit it, I don’t know or sure. But I kept those feelings to myself, my life became earphones in, volume up, ignore the world. Then I would express myself at gigs. Between 2007 to 2011 I basically worked full time so that I could afford to go to gigs, that was the only thing I lived for. It’s where every pay packet went. Give It A Name Festival, Taste of Chaos Tours, Downloads, every year without fail as well as other tours, because “I must see that band”.
I’ll take you back to a few months before that Slam Dunk Festival story. I wanted to kill myself. I came very close to just jumping off a bridge and ending my life. I spent the entire day repeating the album ‘What Separates Me From You’ by A Day To Remember. At first all the shitty thoughts came pouring out and I related to all the negative lyricism, one line in particular “My friends don’t give a fuck” stuck in my head for hours as I stared out to sea. At that point in time that was exactly how I felt. I was alone and nobody truly cared. Yet at the same time, the album felt very uplifting. That you can fight through those negative thoughts and get on with your life. At least that’s what I took from it.
I don’t flaunt my depression, but I don’t hide from it either. At least not now. When I was at my worst, I had friends but I felt as if I was alone because I didn’t tell people how I felt. And when it came out that I was suffering from depression I got the exact two responses I was expecting; those who were supportive, and those who thought I was attention seeking and faking it. Some to this day still think just that, and people still wonder why the topic of depression is taboo and hard for people to talk about.
Turning this back towards music, and towards Sarah’s message of knowing she is mortal, that’s how I felt. I knew at that point I could have killed myself, my life could have been over, but it wasn’t and it was music that got me through it, not people. I trusted music more than anything, it doesn’t let me down like plenty of things in life do. And I felt like I owed it to myself and to music to see as much of it and support it as I can. I needed to be as much involved with it as I can because none of us knows when our time will be up and we should keep doing the things we love.
Now I’m not saying people haven’t helped me since. I’ve been lucky to have the support I have from friends and family to get past those darker times. Mum if you do read this, you are an absolute rock and I cannot thank you enough for everything you have ever done for me.
I’m lucky to have gotten to know people in the various punk, metal and hardcore scenes over the last decade of going to shows on a fairly regular basis. In the last few years, in particular, since becoming a music journalist I’ve gotten to know and become friends with some of my favourite emerging artists, and at times when I’m at certain shows with them, I feel like that’s where my family is and that’s where I really belong. Reading that back it sounds so cliché to say it, but it’s true.
Events like Mammothfest, Pie Race, Wotsit Called Fest, Manchester Punk Festival, Dugstock, Level Up, Chinatown/Diss-Order Alley at Boomtown. It’s like being at home, just with people of like-minded music tastes. I don’t think I can ever get enough of events like them and the atmosphere they bring. give me more. It is an addiction.
In the last six years, I’ve gone back into education and I’ve pushed myself towards a career involved with music, whether that is writing about it, promoting it, or helping bands make a name for themselves, just because of my love for it all and my need to be involved. I push all my focus into these things because a lot of the time I don’t have much else going on in my life or things that keep me happy, I feel like I can rely on it more than I can anything else.
I don’t have a love life (not without trying), when I’m not at shows I like to stay in and binge TV, most of the time alone. Apart from when I’ve got a gig to go to I’m very introverted and self-conscious, full of anxiety about everything that I do, worried about judgement even when I know people aren’t even looking. I’ve also come to learn that people can’t always be there because they have their own lives. Music is my one constant and easier to deal with. My urge to support this scene as much as it has supported me is a bigger priority than a lot of things in my life. I mean why else would I feel the need to pay for things that I’m getting sent for free?
Some will understand or relate to this, some won’t. I’m kind of hoping that the one thing that people take from this is find your love and focus on it. It could be the best thing you ever do. For now, it’s mine. As far as the depression lays, it never truly goes away. But going to shows or putting them on, writing about them, meeting new bands and friends, it’s a way of keeping my own demons at bay. It certainly fills a very dark hole for me. It keeps me alive when sometimes I haven’t wanted to be. I hope that even if music doesn’t have same effect on you, that you find something that does.