This be a blog written 'bout my friends. It's engraved into this blog so they know I'm not forgetting them. See maybe if the world contained more people like these, then the news would not be telling me 'bout all that warfare endlessly.
This is a blog post out of need. Last night I felt alive and I want this feeling written down somewhere to hold me accountable to being happy and enjoying myself!
It all started about 6 weeks ago. I was listening to The Cat Empire and I saw that they were playing at Leeds Beckett University. I have never seen them live before and I only knew maybe one or two songs by them. Throughout Covid-19 I missed gigging. They last gig I went to was Dashboard Confessional (also at Leeds Beckett University) which was a little more muted that I normally am at gigs. Genre, tone and the weight of Brexit and all that was going on in the world just put a bit of a downbeat tone on the event.
This time though, I was incredibly excited. It's hard to put a reason why on things, but I'm going to try and explain and then talk you through the most joyous of nights that I have had in a long time.
I met a new group of people just before Christmas and started doing a pub quiz with them. They're based over in York and whilst it's a little bit of a trek, I had reached a point in my life where I actively wanted to socialise with people again. My life and mind set had recovered to a point of wanting to be with people and to get that buzz from meeting new people that I figured whatever overhead came with it that it'd be worth it.
I remained quite quiet at first, waiting to get my footing in the group. Whilst I am an extrovert at heart (and soul, more on this later) I have learned that I am often the person who puts energy into a group of people. I will talk, I will move and I will prod and poke to keep things lively. With a new group of people it's often an uncertainty of where boundary conditions lie which is something I find important to understand so as to not be overbearing etc. My personality was muted; mostly intentionally to protect myself, but also sometimes because of the life circumstances that got me to that point. When you have been damaged or broken with a history of trauma behind you, you (or at least I) tend to protect yourself from it happening again. It's hard to wear your heart on your sleeve when that's gotten you in trouble so many times before.
About 6 weeks ago (maybe 2 months) I saw The Cat Empire gig listing and thought that I had to go to it. I'm not normally a fan of going alone (although I certainly will) as I like sharing my experiences with people. I offered it up one evening at the quiz and people seemed interested. I booked the tickets and slowly but surely the energy started to rise within me.
Last post I talked about me visiting Sarah's grave and how it step changed my life; that I felt free from a burden that I had been carrying for so long. That was the catalyst.
I was listening to The Cat Empire a lot to make sure I knew the songs. I love lyrics. I love melodies. I love when the trumpets and trombones kick in. I love piano bridges. I wanted to be apart of the music so I learned it all. It made me happy just listening to the songs on repeat.
I had made a conscious effort to wear colour and to avoid just being monochromatic in black and shares of grey. I wore a bright yellow t shirt with angry cat eyes and I loved it. It was a spite purchase as these friends made fun of me wearing light grey. I do not regret it at all. In fact it'll almost certainly happen again.
We got to the venue about 45 minutes before the band started giving us time to go to the cloakroom, get a drink etc. As soon as we were in the crowd, probably about 15 minutes before The Cat Empire started, I was in my element. I was bouncing on my tip toes, swaying my knees, swinging my hips, everything! The smile that I often find hard to muster was all over my face. I was ugly grinning with happiness and joy. My mind faded from the friends I was with and all I cared about was the music and the experience. It was just bliss!
And then the music started and I felt alive.
All my shackles were gone.
There was nothing holding me anymore.
The music started on Bulls and then went on to Oscar Wilde. There was then a transition into Sleep won't Sleep and I was beside myself with happiness. This song means everything to me after committing it to Sarah's memory and I just danced freely and happily to a reunion in time. This one was for her and it was only us in that moment.
Many of the classics came on as well as some covers. The crows grew busier and busier but I kept moving, shaking, dancing and breaking (I think I pulled a muscle around one of my ribs). There were various boops and knocks (I apologised!) but I was just so happy.
And then Fishies!
I made a stupid little video of me getting ready and dancing to Fishies that I sent round those people attending in advance. I just wanted to bring some laughs and joy to try to show people how ridiculous I was going to be. I was ridiculous. I unashamedly say I slut dropped 'down to the wilds below'. It became a mexican wave slut drop as others followed. Then I danced like a crazy fool trying to mimic the legwork of Naacho Naacho from RRR which I had watched at the weekend. I could not have cared less about what people thought of me in that moment.
Afterwards I was slightly distanced from my group of friends but I kept dancing by myself. Whether they were embarrassed or just couldn't find space I wasn't too fussed. At the time I felt slightly ostracised, kept getting backs turned towards me, but it's a gig, this happens all the time! Trying to face 4 other people is challenging in itself. The music made me so happy.
Then the magic happened.
Not one. Not two. But three times!
Three strangers from around where I was dancing like no-one was watching and singing like no-one was listening came up to me and said I was the best dancer (and that they loved me and my dancing!). They said I brought so much energy and life that it matched that which the band brought with them to the stage. In that moment I felt like my old self.
Not the recovering post suicidal Andy.
Not the happily married and middle-aged Andy.
Not even the cock-sure accountant Andy.
The Andy I loved being back when I was much younger, before the world had taken me.
I felt whole.
I felt myself.
It doesn't matter whether they were telling the truth, half-truth or just flat out lying. I love gig crowds because people just look out for each other. You're all there for exactly the same reason and there will be people just like you there.
I was seen!
I danced with these people for Thunder Rumbles. My goodness do I fucking love that piano bridge. So much energy! I returned to my friends towards the end of the set. We watched Still Young together. Some of them weren't present which is sad because it was a message I wanted them to hear.
While you're still young, find your heart and your soul.
As someone who lost his heart and his soul for a long time and almost lost his very life, I embrace this statement. The world is fucking dogshit at times and it will take everything from you. It's easy to close yourself off, to shut yourself down and to let love go. I did it. Countless people do. You become so self-assured that you stop seeing what human connection can bring to you.
I made a really big point of telling my friends that I was going to be unashamedly Andy last night; that I was going to wear my heart and my soul on my sleeve. I was a raw nerve of love and happiness and that I would just be at peace. I was exposed. I was happy. I was sad. I felt it all.
I want everyone to feel it and experience it. I just want people, collectively and independently, to be happy. I will keep doing what I can to help others find it.
My soul is music.
There's a lot of talk about love languages and all that. They exist. They most certainly do. Mine is Words of Affirmation. I never received enough of them when I was younger so people praising me, or even just talking to me a lot, makes me feel love(d). That may be my heart spoken for, but my soul is music. If you want to know me; truly know me; then listen to music with me how I listen to it. It just fuels me like nothing else.
When I am sad I am often not listening to enough music. When I am happy I am often listening to music.
We moved onto the encore, still singing Still Young's chorus and clapped. This carried on and we sang the final verse / outro again. We then went into La Bamba and Twist and Shout which were just incredibly well put together. The mashup was perfect and everyone was dancing (apart from that one guy who stood like a monolith all night, WTF!).
This song speaks to me like no other. As someone who almost lost everything and has a semi-colon in their life, this song is my hope. It's about friendship and how friends can be together. How true friendship is so unbelievably powerful that it can feel stronger than anything else out there.
This song was for my friends.
Those new who were there and dancing with me.
Those old who may have faded to time.
Those lost who are no longer with me.
They will live on in my memories and in that song forever. I will not forget the friendships that I have regardless of the years that go by. I will cherish every person who walks into (and out of) my life.
They are the reason I am still here.
They are the reason I will continue to still be here.
So to all my friends out there, know that you are not forgotten regardless of distance or time. You are a part of me and were part of making me who I am. Whatever little good I do with my remaining days, know that you are part of that good!
And so the night ended. I was a mess. I was so happy. As we were walking out more people from around where I was dancing kept coming up to me and saying nice things. It was such a lovely experience and one that I will cherish..
I parted ways with my friends and came back to Pika's cat empire and feel
asleep with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.
Unashamedly, Unambiguously, Unforgivingly, Unrelentingly, Unacceptably, Unapologetically, and most important of all, Always, Andy. X