Sunday, October 28, 2012

London 2012 Part VI: Reading Festival Part I

We had exactly one day to rest before Reading happened. I was bracing myself for the worst, but I didn’t honestly believe that there were no showers. I just thought everyone was pulling the leg of the poor South African who didn’t know any better. I was wrong, but we’ll get to that.

Somehow it took a lot less time to get to Reading that it had taken to get to Chelmsford, and despite all the warnings, we encountered no traffic whatsoever. Well, until we reached Reading town. So that’s where all the traffic was. We were backed up for miles and miles and miles but at least this afforded us the opportunity to creep the rest of the festival goers – people-watching is super entertaining. By now it was lunchtime and we were absolutely starving so we stopped off at the mall to track down a McDonald’s. Oh, but there was no McDonald’s. And no Starbucks. Burger King would have to do, but I swear their burgers are barely an appetizer. Ugh.

The fortuitous thing is that we’re a few meters walk from the Hexagon, where we have to collect our tickets. And by some miracle they let me collect Lauren’s ticket so we’re spared another trip through the traffic. By now Lauren’s coach has arrived, but after the Hexagon, we’re stuck in ridiculous traffic to get to the drop off point. But eventually we get there and after getting lost a few times, we follow some people towards what seems to be a parking lot. Yay! Memorizing the location of the car would probably be a good idea, seeing it’s a hire car and we don’t even really know what it looks like. It’s in row 28. Or 8. (I’m writing this two months later, and the smaller details have abandoned me.)

There’s a guy with an accent in front of us in the line to be searched be security, and the security guard asks if he’s from South Africa. Se-ouff Efrikah. No, he’s Australian, but we pack up laughing and the guard raises an eyebrow. “We’re from South Africa.” He wonders what we’re doing, leaving sunny SA for the UK, and is absolutely shocked when we say we came over for Reading. “Just for this?!” Yep. We know we’re nuts.

The camping area is, well, rather large to say the least. White camping is the furthest – and apparently the quietest -  but it looks like a hell of a walk from the arena, and we’re planning to be absolutely dead tired after seeing the likes of Dave Grohl perform. We’ll be in no state to walk this far. It also seems that a lot of the camping space is full already, even though it’s only Thursday evening  - music gets underway tomorrow afternoon. We settle for the second-furthest campsite – Brown – and set up along a fence next to the ‘supermarket’ so that we know we’ll find our way back at night. Our neighbours don’t seem to like us much though. They’re all about 15, but they swear like sailors, and drink like fish. They’re also not too happy that we’ve set up camp in what they call their ‘back yard’. Tough luck, kids.

We mission back to white camping to find food  (chips with cheese on top, not as great as it sounds), and then have another adventure in the form of setting up Kirsten’s tent in the dark. Thank goodness for the torch, which think I managed to break. Whoops.  Our attempt to go to sleep early is thwarted by our dear neighbours, who decide 2am is a great time to start a singalong. I can deal with them singing Oasis, but when they launch into renditions of Pitbull’s worst songs, I growl and my head hits the roof of my tent as I sit up to stick my head outside and give them a piece of my mind. Luckily I manage to restrain myself. I don’t really want to be beaten up by a group of 12-year-olds before I’ve even seen Brian Fallon’s face. Also, I’d never camped before in my life (besides on my friend’s front veranda when I was 12, and that time on school camp when I was 13), and by the time the sun began to rise, my body was aching like that of an 80-year old. Moving was very difficult indeed.

It’s Friday, and we’ve realized that the showers are communal. Ew. On the upside, at least it’s not too hot this weekend, so we’re not sweating.  I can do this whole not showering for four days thing… what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that.

Reading’s giving us free breakfast baps every morning (a bap is basically a roll with something on it), and of course I choose bacon over egg or sausage. Bad idea. I’ve never tasted something so salty in my entire life. Plus it’s tiny. At least walking the festival grounds and standing in the food queue gave us chance to keep the rest of the festival goers. It really bugs me that half the population was decked out in Beatles shirts, even though I’m sure 90% of them had no idea who John Lennon even was. No don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are some youngsters who have great taste in music, and know all the words to ‘Hey Jude’, but these were not amongst them. Trust me.

So we creep around stalls (much creeping was done this weekend) and then at 11am we creep into the arena (“No cans, no open bo’oles”) and as soon as I’m inside, someone hands me a flyer advertising touring bands and the first thing I see is The Gaslight Anthem. I wish they were playing today, but alas they’re only around on Sunday. Oh well, guess I’ll have to see PARAMORE tonight! But even before that we have Angels and Airwaves to look forward to, so after a thorough creep of the arena – including a preliminary judgment of just how fast we’ll have to run to get from the main stage to the NME stage between Paramore and Foster The People – we head off to the main stage to wait for A&A. Getting a good spot is almost too easy. They’re really good, but I failed on learning all of the songs, and every few minutes I turn to Lauren in abject confusion and ask “Is this the song I know?” Nope. ‘The Song I Know’ is ‘Secret Crowds’ and it’s not on the setlist. Aww.

We disappear from the crowd during Crystal Castles’ set, and get back in for You Me At Six. But we have the foresight to recognize that the crowd will probably get a little bit crazy for them, so we stay out of the mosh pit area. And we’re not wrong, the band even encourage crowd surfing and general craziness. Then the crowd starts something which seems to be called the Circle Of Death – basically people running in a circle, kicking up as much dust as possible, and causing chaos. It’s pretty fun to watch from the back. By now we’ve got a pretty decent position against the middle barrier, so we decide to wait here for Paramore. Bombay Bicycle Club are on first, and although I’ve enjoyed their music, they positively freak me out. It’s two months later and I’m getting chills just thinking about it. Their frontman never wipes his face of a seriously eerie smile that’s part innocent and child-like, and part murderous. It’s like he knows something that we don’t. Or maybe he’s just high. I breathe a sigh of relief when they leave the stage and Paramore’s backdrop appears. Another thing that appears is Ryan, a fellow Vicitm. He’s looking for Sinead, and on the phone to Jess. Oh how I love bumping into Victims all over the country!

The sun has set by the time we hear music and the screens light up and Hayley Williams – tiny, fiery-haired and bouncing – appears on stage. But there’s something very wrong… if it weren’t for the fact that I’d listened to ‘Brick By Boring Brick’ at least 5 million times, I wouldn’t have even recognized it.  Hayley’s ‘ba da ba ba da ba ba da’s were far too soft and almost entirely eclipsed by the instruments. Somehow they got their act together by the second song, ‘Renegade’, and I was completely happy again by ‘For A Pessimist…’. But really, what was up with not playing ‘CrushCrushCrush’?! But I dealt with it. It almost didn’t feel real when they played ‘Decode’, because… because it was ‘Decode’! This was the song that made me like Paramore in the first place! Yes, I was a little slow on the uptake, yes it was the Twilight song, but really, so what? My photos of the set are horrendous because I was jumping up and down so much, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. ‘The Only Exception’ was particularly beautiful, with the entire crowd singing along. ‘Misery Business’ ended the set, and we all lost our minds for a bit. I’m pretty sure this is when my brand new camera acquired that little paint chip on the side. Whoops. Festival scars FTW.

So Paramore get off the stage and we – breathlessly – dash to the NME tent for Foster The People. Once again, wisely keeping to the back of the tent in case the crowd goes nuts. There’s a guy who looks just like Bono standing off to my right, the first of several celeb lookalikes spotted during the weekend. Foster The People, though. I love them, I love their poppy vibe that disguises the fact that their lyrics are downright creepy. I love their uniqueness, and quirkiness, and I think they’re just great. What I’m not expecting is a performance to top everything I’ve seen during the day. ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ is a freaking stadium rock tune, nevermind some poppy radio hit about deranged teenagers shooting people. I positively bounce back to the tent, convinced that this will be the highlight of the entire weekend. This is clearly just because a certain Mr Grohl hasn’t shown his face yet. Oh, but bouncing is a really, really bad idea. My back feels broken, my feet are overrun with blisters bigger than my actual toes, and I can’t actually bend my knees. And so day one draws to a close with the shouts of my pre-teen neighbours acting as a lullaby.

Hard ground or no hard ground, I pass out and actually manage a few hours sleep. Not that I wake up with any less aches and pains, but at least I’m slightly less exhausted, and now that I’m into the swing of things, I won’t be as tired during the day. Oh, have I mentioned the bathroom situation yet? No? Ha. Bathrooms are for the weak, and the spoiled. Here we have rows of longdrops, and I have to hold my breathe whenever I walk past to avoid losing my supper. Ew. We take a walk to find some tea before hitting the breakfast bap line again, and man does tea taste good! Even though it’s cold by the time I get back to my tent, cold tea is better than no tea at all.

So the kids in Beatles shirts are out in full force again, and whilst observing them in the breakfast line, I’m hit by a missile around my waist. Except, it’s not really a missile, it’s Alice hugging me. Next Sinead’s hugging me too, and we’re all jumping up and down because once again, out of a crowd of 100 000 this time, we’ve managed to bump into each other. With Alice and Sinead is Emma, and we’re all chatting happily about the day’s lineup because The Vaccines are on today! They’re going to be amazing and Foster The People last night and Foo Fighters tomorrow and Kasabian today and did you hear the Green Day rumour and guys we saw The Killers and we rolled on the floor when we met Brandon Flowers and and and and this is definitely the most fun anyone’s had in the line for breakfast baps. Speaking of those baps, I tried the egg one and vowed to go back to the salty bacon the next day. Ew.

Uh, but hold on just one second, what’s this Green Day Rumour all about? During the week, there had been some speculation on Twitter that Green day would be performing a surprise set at Reading on Saturday. Buuut, there’s also weekly speculation on Twitter that Justin Bieber has died, and that there are lions roaming around Essex (I’ll get to that, it’s a great story), so I took it with a pinch of salt. Up until the Tuesday night, when dear old Zane Lowe form BBC Radio 1 (is it weird that I know DJs from other countries?) interviewed none other than Green Day themselves, and a giggling Billie Joe had a lot to say. “So,” said Zane, “there’s a rumour that your American Idiot musical might be turned into a movie…” Billie Joe cracked up and replied “There’s a rumour that American Idiot might be played at Reading!” They ended off the interview with a comment like “If you missed the Reading this, use your brain”, and this combined with Billie Joe’s ‘Hey England, what rhymes with SHREDDING?’ comment and a photo of a leaked tour t-shirt saying ‘Reading – England’, and I started to believe it.

But I didn’t really believe it! I mean, Green Day were always on my list of 20 bands I needed to see, and funnily enough we’d even looked up tickets to a festival they were playing in Paris, but we never would have made it there from Reading in time. If Green Day had announced a South African tour, I probably would have spent a good few minutes rolling on the floor crying before I composed myself enough to buy a ticket.

Anyway it’s just before 11am, and the rumour mill says Green Day are on at 12pm in the NME stage. Psssh, as if. Anyway, we head off to the arena just in case. There’s not way Green Day will actually play…

But I swear I can hear them playing even before I’m in the arena… someone’s obviously playing a CD – one stall has been playing The Killers everytime I’ve walked past. But. But. THAT’S BILLIE JOE’S FACE ON THE BIG SCREEN OUTSIDE THE NME TENT! He’s screaming, and throwing his hands in the air, and now there’s no time for rolling on the floor crying, but I’m pretty sure we won’t get into the tent, we’ll watch on the screens outside, but who cares?! We get to hear Green Day!  Oh, how wrong I am. Before I know what’s happening, I’m right at the front of the tent, clutching a barrier for dear life, as Billie Joe and his buddies go absolutely mad five meters from my face. I can’t. I can’t. This is not happening. But it is. And although they don’t play many of my favourite songs, ‘American Idiot’ now eclipses ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ as the highlight of my weekend. At one point Billie Joe starts shooting toilet paper into the audience. Ya know, as one does. I am utterly in awe of these three men, and heartbroken when they’re forced to leave the stage after an hour. But I still can’t believe it happened. I saw Green Day live, with no warning. It kind of just happened, and sometimes that’s the best way. 

London 2012 Part V: V Fest Chelmsford

Somehow it took 5 hours to get back to London from Leeds the next day - someone had told me a lie about Brits not having cars, but it was a lie, I tell you! Traffic was horrendous. I take my hat off to anyone who managed to make the Staffordshire V-Fest, because I could barely keep my eyes open in the car the next day. Sleep had been a rare commodity after the show because some drunk man outside my window had been shouting at his girlfriend who seemed to have kicked him out. Also, the police closed down the ‘club’ down the street around 4am due to noise. Add this to the fact that 1am saw texts from Jess and Amii saying they’d all just met the band, and my total sleep amounted to about 3 hours at the most.

So anyway, 5 hour drive back to London (I don’t actually remember packing up or leaving the Travelodge, but I do remember that they charged us about 25 Pounds for parking – that’s about R300 for 3 days). Back in Wimbledon I passed out in a bed for as long as I possibly could.

Sunday rolled around and I was about to attend my first ever major festival. I had no idea what to expect, but from what I'd seen of these festivals on TV, they looked like pure madness, and I figured I'd be somewhere near the back, on the outskirts of the crowd, but at least I'd get to watch the show on the big screens, and still be able to hear. Ha. What a joke. I ended up 4 rows back, just to the right of Mark. But I'll get to that.

Anyway, we arrived in Chelmsford around 9am after leaving London just after 7am - we were in no rush as gates only opened at 11am and we didn't really care about any of the acts besides Snow Patrol and TK, who were the last two bands. It was apparently one of the hottest days of the year - a whopping 29 degrees - and yes, I come from Africa, but I still took strain in that heat.

It turns out that absolutely nothing in Chelmsford is open on a Sunday, so after a 30 minute trek to town to look for food, we returned empty handed and were forced to wait for the food stalls to open. I think I had a bacon roll and a coke for breakfast – the Brits are big on bacon rolls.

In the shade of a tree, I recall making Lauren stop talking several times so that I could strain my ears … I could have sworn I heard Miss Atomic Bomb being soundchecked! Oh and then there was the worry of collecting tickets with an international credit card, but somehow it went off without a hitch.

We entered the arena around 11am, and the lines moved miraculously quickly! And now we had the entire day to creep around and wait for the last two bands! The arena areas was huge and we walked around for ages trying to find the main stage – plus the wi-fi didn’t work, fail – but when we finally did find it, there was almost no one there. It was great. We spent an hour or two in a spot of shade near the bar, watching The Stranglers, some other randoms, and Tulisa. Actually, by the time Tulisa came on stage, it had started raining, and Lauren and I were huddled under one thin plastic poncho, each with one eye stuck out to watch the performance. We weren’t missing much.

Somewhere along the line we ran off to the merch stand to buy Snow Patrol shirts, and I ran into Sinead, because out of 80 000 people, I would run into one of only two other people I knew there! That’s how we Victims roll.

But by the afternoon, it was boiling again, and we tried desperately to find some shade, where we remained until the beginning of Tinie Tempah's set, when we returned the main stage to try to obtain a good spot for the headliners. Tinie is not exactly my kind of music, and his fans made me want to rip my own head off. As they shouted about 'Drinkin' from the bo’ole (bottle), I cringed and hoped I wouldn't have to share my band with this lot. Eek. 

We got about 6 rows back for Snow Patrol, simply by pushing our way through the crowd of Tinie’s fans, who were moving in the opposite direction to go to the 4Music stage where LMFAO were playing. I’m not being sarcastic when I say that I was a little sad to miss LMFAO – I mean, everyone loves a little party rockin’, right? But Snow Patrol were obviously our priority – I’d been kicking myself for the past 4 years for not going to Coke Fest to see them! Gary Lightbody is highly entertaining on stage, he’s such a performer. They opened with ‘Hands Open’ and although the set was super short, we got to see ‘Shut Your Eyes’, ‘Crack The Shutters’, ‘Just Say Yes’ and ‘Chasing Cars’. OH, and, well, ‘Run’. I think the crowd’s reaction to ‘Run’ was far stronger that it was to ‘Chasing Cars’, even though the latter was a much bigger hit. I have no words for ‘Run’. Spectacular does not even begin to describe it. Emotions were running high, and The Killers hadn’t even started yet.

Sometime between sets, the screens at the side of the stage read something along the lines of 'scream if you want to hear [can't remember what song it was]' followed by 'now scream if you want to hear Mr Brightside' so all 80 000 of us screamed and Mr Brightside blasted across the field and we screamed some more. That got us nicely warmed up for the actual show! 

I gasped when I first caught sight of The Killers’ new backdrop - the mountains, the sky, it's the most stunning background ever. Everything about the stage set up just screams what pro's these guys are - lights, screens, the K, the bolt and who knows what else. My excitement had reached fever pitch by the time they finally came on. I thought they'd open with Runaways, but instead they exploded onto stage with Somebody Told Me! What! We were treated to This Is Your Life, and I got to do the famous arm-wave again (people think I'm nuts because I do it every single time I hear the song) and Miss Atomic Bomb was amazing. The guy next to me was totally judging me for knowing the words already, oh well. But the crowd's reaction to all the songs was amazing, everyone seemed to know the words! When Dustland came along, I'm not sure what anyone else thought, because once again, the world melted away, and it was just me and the song. The mountain backdrop had been taken down by now, and replaced by the big screen showing different scenes for each song. The Dustland background is the same as it was in Cape Town and somehow it just feels like everything's come full circle. 

If there had been a roof over our heads, Mr Brightside would have blown it off, it's got to be one of the best festival songs ever. It's irresistible. It had gotten to that point where I could start to predict the setlist - it was actually quite scary. When they left the stage, I wasn't worried at all because of course they'd be back for Jenny and WYWY. And I wasn't disappointed.

I'd never seen the band like that before. I can't actually believe that they can be just as at home in front of 80 000 as they were in front of 2000 two nights before. The never cease to amaze me. After the show, the crowds began to peal away, leaving a couple of us Victims to converge at the barrier and watch the equipment be carted off. We started shouting for Rob until he finally heard us and turned to fist-pump in our direction.

As we made out way over the detritus of empty cans and bo’oles back to the car, I was chattering away at breakneck speed about how perfect they were. Lauren even admitted that after seeing them she finally understood why I was so ridiculously mad about them – they were that good.

But wherever The Killers go, traffic follows (it’s only natural) and we sat in the parking lot for a good hour and a half, by which time we’d listened to all of our recordings, and fully creeped Gary’s Twitter (he was hoping see Foo Fighters at Reading) and we were hovering somewhere between asleep and awake when we finally pulled into the driveway in Wimbledon at 3am. I think I passed out wordlessly, and the next time I was conscious was around 11am. Ha, it was time to hit Oxford Street. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

London 2012 Part IV: The Killers in Leeds

In Dave Grohl’s biography, This Is A Call, biographer Paul Brannigan says that there was a song that changed the young Grohl’s life. He played this song over and over and over again on the record player, and that’s when he knew that his life would never be the same again. That was the beginning of his journey towards being what he is today – one of the greatest legends music has ever know.

Now, I’m not saying I’ll ever be one of the greatest anythings, but I did have a similar experience. If I’d never heard The Killers’ ‘A Dustland Fairytale’, I have no doubt in my mind that I would still be studying science, in a lab somewhere, not in Cape Town working for a TV show. I don’t feel like elaborating, I’m too lazy, but that’s the truth, accept it.

I love this band so much, to me it’s not just that I enjoy their music – it’s that they’ve made my life so much better over the past three years, and I’d do anything for them. When they produce a hit, I’m as proud as I would be of my best friend. And they never disappoint me. The day after I saw them live in Cape Town in December 2009, I started plotting how I’d see them again. I promised myself that I would travel to the UK to see them when their next tour began, and it was a promise I was determined to keep. To me, every moment of every day since that hot December night in Paarl had been leading up to this concert in Leeds.

And it was tomorrow. I had to do something to kill time all day. Jess, Bubba and Alice were to arrive sometime in the afternoon, and they were staying at the same Travelodge as me, but for now it was barely 9am, and I was unable to sit still.

Leeds, as it turns out, is probably my favourite of all the towns I visited in the UK. But that may be because I saw The Killers there. Or it might not be. I often battle to differentiate between what’s real and what’s superimposed by my memories and emotions. We set off on foot through the town and soon come to something called the Corn Exchange. I have no idea what it is, but it’s pretty. And then we keep walking, past shops and restaurants and just about everything else. I do quite a fair amount of clothing shopping – finally – but our real mission is to find the O2 Academy, where the concert will take place tomorrow night. Although thanks to our shopping, it takes a good few hours to get there, it must be less than a mile’s walk from the Travelodge. When we finally get there though, I’m gobsmacked. It’s tiny. Tiny, I tell you. I mean, I knew it could only hold 2400 or so people, but hearing a figure and physically seeing the venue are two hugely different concepts. To put this in context, the last time I saw this band I was one of 19 000 people on a polo field between the mountains, and when I see them again later this weekend at V Festival, I will be one of 80 000. The O2 Academy is probably smaller than the average university pub. Not that I’m complaining.

On the way back to the hotel, I spot several Starbucks outlets – I must bear this in mind, surely Rob will need a latte sometime tomorrow, perhaps I can tweet him the location of the nearest coffee place.

When I get back to the Travelodge, I spy three girls huddled on a couch in the corner, giggling. I’ve never met them before, but I’d recognize them a mile away. My Twitter buddies. I take a deep breathe. I’ve been chatting to these girls about our common interests which include not only the band we’re in town to see, but also The Gaslight Anthem, Taylor Swift and cats for years, and now we’re in the same room. It just does not feel real. But it’s real enough when I walk up to them, grin and say hi. We all hug and squeal for a bit, and they tell me they’re waiting for Sinead, who is still on the way from Portsmouth, and their rooms are in her name. I tell them to lie and say they’re her and then I go back to my room, promising to see all of them later.

I don’t have to wait long, because I soon hear giggling outside my door and pop my head out. Yes, the girls are in the room next to me. It’s fate. We gather in my room to fangirl a bit over the fact that both The Killers and Brian Fallon are in the latest issue of NME, which I bought at an actual record shop in town. Then we talk about cats and take photos and squeal some more, and everything in the world is wonderful. They bond very well with my mom – I think she’s secretly planning to adopt all of them. I meet Sinead a few hours later, when she finally makes it from Portsmouth, all the way in the South. We’re all so excited! “What time are you guys going to queue?” I ask. “Around 5.” They reply. “5am, right?” I ask, and we all lapse into ridiculous giggles. Because we’re so excited that everything is at least 50 times funnier than it would be under normal circumstances. BUT OMFG, MARK’S ON A TRAIN!! I don’t know if he tweeted it, or instagrammed it, but there was Mark Stoermer, and there was a train and we simply had to get down to the train station! But I was too lazy and instructed my young friends to text me if they located the man of the moment. I mean, he’s at least 9 feet tall, he’s be pretty hard to miss at a train station. But sadly, he was never found. Sightings of The Killers would have to wait until tomorrow.

My common sense tells me that I should go to sleep early, but that’s no easy task. I eventually drift into a restless sleep and awake at 2.30am. There’s no frikken wi-fi in the rooms though, what do people even do when they wake up if they can’t check Twitter?! I’m feeling very out of touch. That’s it, I’m done. Can we go queue now? Seems my neighbours have had a similar idea. Soon I hear the unmistakable sounds of a door opening and closing and of more giggles. I check the time: it’s 3.38am. I stick my head out the door and observe what the four girls are up to. “Where are you going?” “We’re going to The Killers!” and we all giggle yet again. I’m starting to feel very sorry for anyone trying to sleep nearby. Maybe they put all of the Victims in adjacent rooms for that very purpose. I promise to be in touch by text in the morning – oh wait, it’s already the morning – and then I go back to bed, but never quite fall asleep again. The day has finally arrived. I’m seeing The Killers today. I never thought that this day would actually come.

A text from Jess around 8am tells me that there are about 30 people in the queue already. Now as much as I’d like to bound out of bed and run all the way to the Academy in my PJs, I recognize that this probably isn’t the best idea I’ve ever had. And so I get dressed in the outfit I’ve been planning for a year: my Victims shirt and black and white skirt that matches the text on my shirt. The last time I wore this skirt was my 21st birthday party last year, and a few pink and orange feathers are still clinging to it. Because yes, my theme was Las Vegas, and yes, it was inspired by the very boys I’m in town to see today. Today. I’m seeing them today. I put on my lightning bolt earrings and then we hurry down to breakfast.

Ugh. I’m a terrible eater on concert days, I just get too excited, but I manage to force down some bacon, eggs and toast and then after a few minutes of lobby wi-fi, we race out the door and into town. Amii’s just bbm-ed to say she’s arrived at the Academy. I’m very excited to meet the girl who is probably my closest internet friend, although she claims she’ll be too shy to even talk to me. Fine, I’ll talk enough for both of us then. I tell her I’ll be there in ten minutes.

Oh, it also happens to be raining, which is apparently an every day occurrence in Leeds. Good thing we finally bought that umbrella yesterday. Um. Turns out it’s windy too, and umbrella’s don’t like the wind much. The thing is inside out and useless before we’re half a block down the street. Sigh. Good thing it was only a Pound, then.

We dash down to the Academy – noting that the closest Starbucks is probably about 400m from the place – and I pace up and down the growing queue of people a few times, staking them out, and most of all trying to identify them from their Twitter display pictures. Amii’s near the end of the line, so I plop down next to her and say hi. And might I just say (I know you’re reading this) you are so not socially awkward! We have a great time chatting for a bit, and then I duck out of the queue for a bit to go for a walk. It’s 10.30am and the doors are set to open at 7pm. I have a short attention span at the best of times, and now I’m nothing short of impatient. Also, I need wi-fi. Starbucks seems like a good option, so off we head up the road. On the way, we bump into Sinead and Alice, they’ve got a place at the front of the queue, and had gone back to the hotel. Jess and Bubba are still in the hotel, seemingly feeling the effects of the previous night…

With Sinead and Alice are Ryan and Sam, who I will be seeing again at the two festivals. Ryan tells me how he lives on a tiny island in the English Channel and had flown over for this. Ha, I’m not the only one who got on an aeroplane for this band. Whilst we’re all getting acquainted, we’re joined by Emma, who had just arrived from Sheffield. I had literally been speaking to her on Twitter less than an hour before. There’s that surreal feeling again. It’s like reality is shifting below me… I’m not quite sure if I’m awake or not. I’ve dreamed of seeing The Killers again many times.

But time surely doesn’t drag like this in dreams! My arrival back from my Starbucks mission sees my re-uniting with Emma – now holding a stack of paper mustaches, which she holds out for what will become my favourite photo of the day – and meeting Andrea. Then I’m back with Amii, whom I chat to until I feel the need for another walk. This time, we go around the other side of the building, and run slap bang into Alice, Sinead… and The Killers’ equipment boxes. We take photos of and with them as they’re being unloaded, and then Alice spots a security guard and, pointing to one of the cases, asks “Can I lick this?” He seems to think she’s joking. She’s not. He informs her that none of The Killers have ever even touched these boxes. Awww.
But I believe my mission was wi-fi, and there’s none of that around the back of the Academy, so it’s back to Starbucks. I’m sitting outside – on a bench that miraculously reaches the free wi-fi – when I wonder if Rob’s around yet. Haha. Maybe he’s getting a latte at this very Starbucks.

OK, so I’ve watched The Killers live at the RAH about 50 million times, and Rob and all of the other roadies are on the behind the scenes bit, sipping lattes, roundhouse kicking bottles off of each other’s heads, and generally being entertaining. They could have left it at that: retained some form of annonimity, and been known only by those Victims creepy enough to take photos of the sides of the stages at Killers gigs, and analyse them for the presence of roadies (I have never done that. No, wait, that’s lie). But nooooo, some of these road crew peeps just had to go and become besties with all of the Victims on Twitter. Yes, Rob, I’m talking about you. You reply to us, chat to us, friend us on Facebook, plus you happen to have an awesome little band called Most Thieves that we support, well, because they make great music. Plus there’s the standing joke that Rob likes coffee so much that his twitter handle is @RobLikesLattes. Yes, it’s true. I’m sure it’s no surprise then, that the biggest Victim in-joke is that if you hang around Starbucks long enough on the day of a gig, you’ll surely run into Rob (another lie, the biggest Victim’s in-joke is that Mark is at the effing airport). 
Anyway, in the three years since I last saw The Killers, running into Rob at the Starbucks always seemed like a highly-entertaining pip-dream that could never happen in real life. Much the same as meeting Victims I knew from Twitter and trying to identify them from their display pictures. I never thought it would actually happen, nor did I think I’d run into the man in question at the Starbucks.
So anyway, there I am, on the bench outside, giggling and joking about Rob being in the Starbucks, when suddenly I get a message form Amii:
“I just walked past Rob! I grinned at him and he totally knew I knew who he was!”
I bet he was going to Starbucks.
“I’m gonna pop my head in the door and see if Rob’s inside.” I say. Let me point out here that I’m STILL JOKING.
So off I go, stroll right in, sweep the place with my eyes… when suddenly. Oh, that looks a lot like my favourite roadie! And BLP is with him! (Bobby-Lee Parker, fellow roadie and Most Thieves member). Ahhhhhh adrenaline rush! But I’m a media professional, I deal with celebs at work on a daily basis, and I’m not intimidated by them at all! So what do I do? Run out of the door, of course, squealing “Omg, I can’t do this, omg.” My poor mother is sure I’ve lost my mind due to Killers-related psychosis, and shoots me a concerned look. Once I’m able to speak again, she convinces me to go back and say hi. Rob is, after all, practically a member of my favourite band in the entire world, and it’s an opportunity I’d regret missing. Plus, he’s cool.
So I stride back into Starbucks, make my way to where the two roadies are now gathering sachets of sugar, and say very calmly: “Hi, Rob?” he turns and looks at me and I continue “I’m Farah.” He looks mildly puzzled for a split second and then smiles at me “Oh yeah… South Africa, right? That’s a quick trip!” he raises an eyebrow. Good Lord. I’ve spoken to the man on Twitter before, and I wrote a rather lovely review of a Most Thieves song, which he got hold of and shared on his Facebook page, but I wasn’t expecting him to know who I was! I mean, the roadies have hundreds of Victim followers on Twitter, surely they don’t know all of them by name?!
“Yep, 20 hours, on the plane and then we drove like 4 hours from London.” 
“It’s worth it!” he says. And I agree, before asking if I can be “really creepy” and ask for a photo. 
“I’m going to hold the lattes for comedic value!” He says, and makes a comment about getting rounds of coffee for everyone.
I hope I said “Have a good show”, I know I meant to, then I left the Starbucks wondering if that had really happened. Meeting Rob at the Starbucks was as iconic as meeting Brandon Flowers at the Flamingo hotel would have been. 
I must say that my self-esteem took a sharp upward turn at knowing that a touring member of The Killers knows my name.

Anyway. I rush back to the queue, and it turns out everyone is having a bit of a Rob-fangirling moment. He’s bought Emma a latte, which she is now savouring, as she and I both gaze at the Starbucks cup marked with the word ROB is capital letters. Day = made.

Within the next few hours I also meet Jade, Natalie, Duncan and many others, and everyone is jut lovely. On another wi-fi expedition, I swear I can hear a soundcheck but it turns out to be a CD. Aww. The band are expected to arrive around 5.30pm and a group of us gathers behind barriers to await the tour buses. For those fifteen minutes, every car is theirs… every second is the second they’re going to pull up…. But when they finally do, it’s unmistakable. The first bus pulls up and off walks Mr Cool himself – Brandon Richard Flowers in all his glory. Goodness, he’s even better looking than I remember. He grins that self-conscious smile and then heads directly for the swooning fans. The front row get hugs and handshakes, but I’m just one row too far back. Who even cares though, I’m still there! Brandon Flowers just got off his tourbus in front of my face, and I might die. I’m shaking. The second bus lets off Mark Stoermer, and I’m sure I hear a shriek from the other side of the road, where Alice is standing – Mark is her favourite person in the world. I’m not sure why I didn’t stay to watch Dave and Ronnie get off the bus, I think I was just feeling entirely overwhelmed.

Not long after this, we’re instructed to start condensing the queue and moving forwards. We’re also suddenly handed pizza, which was probably arranged by the venue because of our dedication to queuing. They must know – Victims mean business. Although doors are opening in less than an hour, and the concert will start in about 2, so much could still go wrong. They’ve used a paperless ticketing system, meaning that the card that bought the ticket must be swiped upon entering the venue. We’ve used an international card, what if it doesn’t work?! But – sigh of relief – it does, and we make it to the second on, right in front of Mark’s microphone. (Even if I didn’t know which side of the stage he stood on, it would be quite easy to figure out, seeing his microphone is at least 15 feet off the ground).

And then we wait. We’re assuming they’ll start at 8pm, but Amii says it’s more likely to be 9pm. Ohhhh why are they torturing us like this?! I glance around the room and find it filled with people in Victims and Killers t-shirts. It’s so amazing to be at a show just for real fans – not filled with randoms who are just there to drink. We’re all united in our favourite band here, I can’t imagine how they must feel knowing that we’re all there – from all over the world: SA, Rio, France, The Netherlands – just for them. Music truly is extremely powerful.

And then… there’s a 50s song playing – so typical of Brandon – lights dim, a collective scream echoes through the small venue, and suddenly the four men that I’ve never met, but I’d do anything for explode onto the stage.

(This is not a concert review, it’s my personal account of what happened. I don’t need to detail why they’re the best live band in the world, we all already know.)

Runaways. A remarkable song in general, live it is nothing short of awe-inspiring. We’re all signing at the top of our lungs, screaming, dancing, jumping and flailing. I take a lot of pictures during the show, but most of blurs of light, my hands rendered useless by shaking, unable to even click the shutter to focus.

In the almost three years since I last saw this band, they have improved exponentially. Put quite simply, they’re perfect. Everyone in the audience knows every single word to every single song… and wow… those songs.

They storm straight from Runaways into Somebody Told Me, and suddenly we’re all sneering young men, insulting our ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. The synth intro of Smile Like You Mean It is enough to send me over the edge. It’s such an emotional song and it’s pure heaven. And then they pick things up a bit with Spaceman, and we’re all jumping and shouting OH OH OH OH OH OH OH OH OH and Brandon is giggling and grinning live a two-year-old in a sweet shop. He’s clearly having the time of his life.

Next we’re treated to some new songs  - The Rising Tide, first debuted in England just over a year ago, and Miss Atomic Bomb. Oh and the latter is surely going to end up being one of my very favourite songs in the entire world because it is amazing. Brandon’s vocals, Ronnie’s drums, Mark’s bass and Dave’s guitar … they’ll all so powerful. I can’t wait to hear the album version of this.

Someone hands Brandon a bass and we all scream again. He giggles. “Anyone wanna guess what song we’re gonna do?” not ‘song’ though, it comes out ‘so-o-o-ong’. He can barely complete a sentence without singing the end of it. It’s endearing. ‘FOR REASONS UNKNOWN’ we all reply, because we’ll all Victims, and we all known that’s the only song he plays bass on.

Bling (mom’s favourite), Shadowplay (I wish they’d take this out and put River or Sweet Talk on the setlist), crowd favourite and previous opener ‘Human’ (in that moment I’m back in Paarl) and then…. Then….

“We’re gonna do Dustla-a-and.” Is that really what he just said? I think I’ve gone into shock. This song is my reason for being here tonight. This song is my reason for everything. And it begins and Amii’s next to me telling me to breathe… oh yeah, breathing’s a rather fundamental part of human life, too bad I’ve forgotten how to do it. I regain myself about a minute into the song, and life is entirely blissful until the end of it. During this song, there is no one else, nothing else, I don’t have a care, a worry or a concern in the world. Everything will be fine, because this song is everything, and everything is this song. Once it’s over, I’m sure that set can end, it’s fine, even if I go back to Cape Town right now, it’s been worth it. But of course, it’s not over yet, and we still have the ridiculous beauty of Read My Mind, the pure euphoria of Mr Brightside and the epic-ness of All These Things That I’ve Done before they leave the stage.

But they’re so predictable that I know they’ll come back, at least for Jenny Was A Friend of Mine and When You Were Young. All the same, I panic until I see them stride back onto the stage, and launch into apocalyptic new song, Flesh & Bone. Then Mark takes centre stage for the bass solo intro to Jenny, we’re screaming again – we never stopped, did we? – and they top it all of with WYWY, Ronnie beating his drums like a madman before throwing his drumticks into the crowd. Then it’s over, they’re gone and I’m the happiest I’ve been in my life. That was utterly perfect.

I bid farewell to Amii then stop by the merch stall for a t-shirt. As I walk back to the Travelodge, I’m shaking all the way. Maybe it’s because the rain has started again – maybe it’s raining because of the show I just attended. Who are we to know?

I’m just about passed out in a chair in the lobby, tweeting, when Jess, Bubba, Alice and Sinead get back. We’re all speechless so we squeal silently. I can barely speak – my voice is gone – I can barely breahe, and I definitely cannot walk, but what a night it has been.

I want to thank everyone who made the 17th of August 2012, one of the best days of my life. I love you all. And I love this band. At least it wasn’t really over, I was seeing them again two days later…