A Thursday in mid-November. My first concert for three years was for the Stroud-based grunge-punk trio Milk Teeth. Fresh off a set on the main stage at this summer’s Reading and Leeds Festivals, and their first release in almost a year, this particular tour could have arguably taken place in bigger venues. However, they opted for a more intimate route, stopping in locations including Guildford and St Albans which rarely see bands who open up main stages play there.
The concert took place in The Flapper, a small rock pub in the heart of Birmingham. Bedecked in fairy lights and overlooking the canal, it looked quite the picture. The first thing I saw when we got to the door was Milk Teeth’s lead singer, Becky Blomfield, standing behind the merch table.
“My gosh, is that Becky?” I whispered to my friend Carl.
I was used to a life of arena concerts and large academy rooms
He had been to many more gigs of this size than me, and what I didn’t realise is that, for some bands, this is normal. I was used to a life of arena concerts and large academy rooms, where the artist was seemingly raised on a pedestal above the ordinary folk in the audience, accessible only to the fans who paid extortionate amounts for VIP tickets.
We hung around the merch table. I kept one eye on the t-shirts and beanies laid out on display, and the other couldn’t help but look at Becky. Actual Becky Blomfield, whose music I’ve listened to since I was 15, was barely feet away.
And then, she looked in my direction, and said hi. I got to have a conversation with her, in which she asked me what I was studying and she even said she might have been interested in it if she hadn’t dropped out of university to do the band full time. I came away with a bright grin on my face, barely believing what the last five minutes of my life had become. That was the first time I have ever met someone from a band.
There’s something so friendly and personable about small concerts
The concert began not long after. I was lucky enough to end up in the front row, practically pressed against the stage, during the first support band Nervus’s set. With a room so small, at a capacity of 180 people, live music becomes an even more immersive and intimate experience. It becomes easier to shut out the outside world with fewer people around you and less distance between you and the performers on stage.
Milk Teeth took to the stage for a barnstorming, energetic set. From the opener of new single ‘Given Up’ to the final chords of last year’s standalone single ‘Stain’, the three-piece were on fantastic form, even in spite of Becky’s apologies to the crowd for the state of her voice after a couple of weeks of touring. Raucous mid-set highlight ‘Fight Skirt’ generated a mosh pit that practically engulfed the room, proving that this is a band clearly doing something right. It all seemed to end too quickly, and that may have been my only complaint, but after a twelve-song set including a few previews of new material, it confirms that the cliche is true: time does fly when you’re having fun.
There’s something so friendly and personable about small concerts. Strangers smiled at me in a kind, human way and one of the band’s merch guys even let me put my coat and bag under his table since there was no cloakroom. I chatted away not just with Becky, but also with Milk Teeth’s guitarist and Nervus frontwoman Em Foster, who gave me a high five when I told her how good her first band’s set was.
Get involved with your local scene and support bands just starting out
Meeting band members in that setting reminds you just how normal they truly are – rather than the deities only seen in magazines. That should go without saying, but in a world where anyone can fire off cruel comments behind a shield of anonymity on the Internet, it can be easy to forget.
The sort of experience Milk Teeth gave me is one I would recommend to anyone. Maybe you’ll be lucky and a band you like will have a special ‘intimate’ tour or one-off show – Twin Atlantic just announced that kind of tour in January and February.
Alternatively, get involved with your local scene and support bands just starting out. As a bonus, tickets to these gigs are, as you might expect, pretty cheap. Sadly, The Flapper is due to close on 4 January, so you can help keep venues like it open in particularly testing times. If you’re looking for a 2020 resolution that you will stick to, then this would be a great one. I’ll certainly be following suit.