i am not a spontaneous person. due to my anxious nature, i like everything i do to be planned days, weeks, even years in advance. (case in point: upon entering my second year of university i am already panicking about what i'm going to do when i leave.)
however, when my friend asked if i wanted to go with her to see the wombats at the last minute, a band i've wanted to see for the past five years (!!!) i couldn't pass up such an opportunity. and when i say last minute, i really do mean last minute. i got my ticket last tuesday, and the gig was on the thursday.
totally unlike me, but i kind of like that.
the gig was being held at the famous alexandra palace, a place i'd heard so much about but never been to, and i have to say i was suitably impressed, if not slightly out of breath, upon arrival. once you climb the hill up to the decadent hall, you are greeted with the most spectacular view of london (though that picture really doesn't do it justice). my relationship with the city is a tumultuous one, but i did weaken when i saw the bright lights blinking back at me.
inside, things were just as mesmerising. the first thing i heard when we walked into the room was the thumping bass, the one where it's so loud you can feel it in your chest, and shimmering synths of the support act, prides. my knowledge of this band extends only to that one song, but i've had it on repeat since i got back. despite having never heard of this band, hearing that song felt like i was home, like this is where i belong, where i'm supposed to be.
as i said, my love affair with the wombats began when i was fourteen (nearly six years ago!!), and drinking cider in the street on the way to the gig took me back to a ritual i've never experienced, but is commonplace for so many teenagers (my relationship with alcohol didn't start until i was seventeen). this sense of nostalgia continued when the wombats took to the stage, but these were feelings i could most definitely relate to.
the set list, as far as set lists go, was pretty good overall, though my friend and i did lament the absence of headspace (the perfect getting the fuck over it anthem*), a track from their third and most recent album and a favourite of ours. fans of the band's debut, a guide to love, loss & desperation may have been disappointed that the set list mostly contained tracks from their second and third albums, but as these two are my favourites, i was more than happy. (*results may vary)
for the most part, glitterbug deals with ideas of longing, desire and obsession. it appeals to the part of me i'd never want to even admit ever existed, the part that spent so much of my teenage years wanting people i'd never have, creating this fantasy in my head, this "perfect" relationship, whatever the hell that is. this album however, gives me a space in which i can explore those feelings under the guise of someone else's lyrics. that for me is the beauty of music, how these words can be so deeply and painfully personal to an individual, yet affect such large volumes of people. i'm willing to bet that the majority of people at alexandra palace that night have felt some of these feelings at one point or another, and i find this incredibly reassuring.
the show opened with give me a try, a song that resonated so deeply with me that i remember watching the music video about six times in a row the day it was released. singing those lyrics at the top of my voice, after spending months practising them in my room, was one of the most satisfying feelings i've had in a long time, not least because they're just so fucking relevant. this could be worth the risk, worth the guarantee, sings matthew murphy, and i actually believe him. these lyrics could be applied to relationships, but also just life in general. putting yourself out there is fucking terrifying, but it's this belief that it's going to be okay, that's it's going to be worth it, that keeps us going.
up next was jump into the fog, one of my favourites from their second album, this modern glitch. murphy is most definitely not shy when it comes to discussing themes around mental illness in his lyrics, something i really admire given the stigma that people dealing with such issues face in our society today. we feel nothing so jump into the fog, in the hope that we hit the ground upright, goes the chorus, and i feel it. or rather, i don't. that kind of emptiness that can swallow you whole if you let it, the kind that can only be remedied by taking that leap. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but ultimately these lyrics serve as a reminder that we just have to keep going no matter what the outcome.
the band got everyone going with moving to new york, a fan favourite from their first album a guide to love, loss and desperation, then brought us back down to earth with their commentary on the state of 21st century society, 1996. honestly though, as much as i agree with most of what this song has to say (we kiss with one eye on our TV set, though even this sounds dated now given the rise of online platforms such as netflix), it's the desperation and despair that really gets me. the more i give, the less i get, laments murphy, and i feel his pain, having repeatedly put myself out there again and again, only to get nothing back in return.
this painful longing continued with be your shadow, another favourite of mine from glitterbug. sometimes you like someone so much that it physically hurts, and that feeling for me is the backbone of this song. lyrically it's dark, but their signature synth-pop sounds make it slightly brighter. i'm permanent now i won't go, i just want to be your shadow. this is devotion in its most avid form, and i'm almost ashamed to admit that i relate so strongly to these lyrics. i admire murphy for his honesty and only wish i could do the same, but there's only so many times one can face rejection before retreating back into the darkness.
aside from crowd favourite techno fan, the highlight of the show for me was the encore. the wombats took to the stage once again to thunderous applause, and launched into a rendition of dreamy electro-ballad isabel. i say launched, but it was more of a gentle push. while the song struggled to retain the attention of the crowd around me, i stood transfixed, trying to get a better view of the stage (needless to say i wasn't successful; one of the downfalls that come with being 5'2 and a half) (the half is important okay), and letting myself feel the pain within these lyrics. you make it feel as though i've won, and that the hardest parts may never come. they will, of course they will, but having that one person in your life who makes everything okay cushions the blow somewhat. but because of your feelings towards them, they have this power over you, making it impossible to forget about them, even when shit hits the fan. i'm much better isabel, when you're ripping my life apart. why do we do it to ourselves? why do we stay when we know it's bad for us?
these questions are explored further, yet remain unanswered in greek tragedy, one of the songs that drew the set to a close.
i love this feeling
but i hate this part
i wanted this to work so much
i drew up our plans on a chart
obsession at its finest, especially for the anxious among us, the meticulous planners.
it's all in the details. i want perfection, and i'll stop at nothing to get it, no matter how many times i trip and fall on the way up.
she hits like ecstasy
comes up and bangs the sense out of me
it's all going wrong. you're losing everything to this person, this feeling, but you can't stop.
why can't you stop?
it's wrong but surely worse to leave
that's it. it drives us mad, but we can't live without it. maybe we even revel in it, because it's better to feel something, no matter how painful, than nothing at all. better to have loved and lost, etc.
is it? is it really?
so free up the cheaper seats
here comes a greek tragedy
this is the climax. you know it's all gone wrong, it's turned to shit, but you let it happen. brace yourself and dive straight in. embrace the chaos and see where it takes you.
and that's exactly what the wombats did, and have been doing since the start. it was madness, that night at ally pally, but in the best possible way. i drank, i danced, and i tried to shake off some of those demons that have followed me around for the last few years, though whether it was successful remains to be seen.