The only gig I’ve ever been to alone (I don’t think losing your friends at Leeds Festival counts). I was living in Prague in the Winter of 2009. Several people at work, plus my flatmate , had almost been as excited as I was about the forthcoming date in Praha. They all swore they would go, but it never happened. So, when my sister was visiting, I sent her to buy my ticket the day they went on sale, while I was at work.
The gig was in late November. I had to rush home from work by tram, change into suitably grungey attire and rush back out into -9C. Before the gig I took photos of my arm in the air, loaded with bracelets; my own, solo version of Pearl Jam’s Ten album cover. I took myself for a glass of red wine in Lucerna Music Bar, underneath the gig venue. A girl drinking alone in a bar- something I wouldn’t dream of doing in the UK- but in Bohemian Prague it was fine.
When I thought it was time I moved into the gig I went to the cloakroom. I was delighted to hear a grungey look girl speaking English with an Irish accent to a grungey Italian girl. “Are you off to Alice in Chains?” I asked Irish girl, “I think it’s upstairs.”
“We are, but it’s along this arcade. Want to join us?” she asked. Great, two friendly girls to hang out with. I love how you meet more people when you dare to do something alone. Good job I met them too, as I was heading in the wrong direction. We heard the opening chords of Looking in View and legged it along the ancient arcade, before bursting through the doors into an opulent, gilded ballroom. Golden balconies wound around the walls up to the high ceiling, while the dance floor offered plenty of space for three petite girls to squeeze through to the front.
It was hot, laced with cigarette smoke and filled with tall, lanky guys with long hair, straight from 1993. I can’t even remember the set list. I do remember being spooked by how much the new singer, William Duvall, sounded like the late Layne Staley. Being Eastern Europe and generally free of the idiots who frequent British gigs, our little international trio was able to make it to the very front of the crowd without even getting squashed. At the end, I leaned over and touched Duvall’s afro, before finding one of the picks on the floor thrown into the crowd by Jerry Cantrell.
We bought t-shirts at the merchandise stand; mine a small, light grey Black Gives Way to Blue which I treasure to this day. While still in the venue I called the only other person who I knew would share the high I was on, before catching a tram home alone. I can’t remember those girls’ names, and although we texted a couple of times, I never saw them again.
Alice in Chains were awesome, everything I had expected and more. So much so, that four years later, when they were playing just a train ride away in Leeds, I decided not to go. The whole experience in Prague: from going to the gig alone, to nearly missing the start, to watching a flawless set right at the front and finding a plectrum at the end, was so perfect. It holds such a legendary place in my memory that I could not bear to see Alice in Chains, in Leeds of all places, and be disappointed if they didn’t live up to that memory. I have since heard that Leeds was a fantastic gig, but I’m happy with my Czech memories.