ICP #161 | On Blur

In 2012, I saw Blur play Wolverhampton Civic Hall with my friend Daniel.

Wolverhampton is my Dad’s hometown and before that night, I’d only ever been there to watch the football. We had dinner with my parents in the house I grew up in and then my Dad dropped us off like we were sixteen.

I’d seen them play once before. At Glastonbury, in 2009. Though Daniel had seen them there in 98, which was significantly cooler.

2009 was the biggest crowd I’d ever been in. There were barriers placed at various points so we couldn’t all become one big crush and I was happily pressed up against a barrier. My friend left half way through the set to watch The Prodigy but I stayed til the end. The crowd sang Tender into the night sky and Damon Albarn sat down on the stage and cried. It remains one of the best nights of my life.

My boyfriend had introduced me to Blur a few months before and I’d become obsessed with them. He was tall and blonde and I did anything he said. Plus Graham Coxon and Alex James had gone to our uni, so it felt important. When Blur reunited that year they played our student union, which only held a couple hundred people. It was impossible to get tickets but my boyfriend offered to work the bar so he could see them.

We had broken up by the time Glastonbury rolled around, but on the Sunday afternoon, the day Blur headlined the pyramid stage, we bumped into each other in the crowd. 138,000 people attended the festival that year – and we were just two.

Anyone who’s been to Glastonbury will tell you it has a vibe about it, an energy of infinite possibility. I think it’s something about its ancient pagan spirit. Or perhaps it’s just the drugs. Either way, we got back together a few days later.

But this time, the 2012 time, was much smaller. We were much closer to the front. My world had expanded; I’d finished uni, moved overseas. And yet here I was back in England, in my Dad’s hometown. And thinking again about 2009.

I hadn’t spoken to that boyfriend in years. We’d broken up again so I’d deleted him off Facebook and moved to New Zealand. Which isn’t a heartbreak cure I’d recommend. But we haven’t spoken to this day, so it is at least effective in some capacity.

During that break-up I listened to Think Tank a lot – their seventh album. My ex-boyfriend didn’t consider it a real Blur album because Graham had quit by then. So it was emotionally-indulgent and a fuck you all rolled into one. I’d listen to it on the way to and from work on the 172 – up the Old Kent Road, through Elephant and Castle, onto Waterloo Bridge. Those were the months when crying on public transport felt acceptable.

Three years later, in Wolverhampton Civic Hall close to the stage, a man stood in front of me. He was tall and blonde, but it wasn’t my ex-boyfriend he was just some dude blocking my view. The band hadn’t come on yet but the view was anticipated. I wanted to see Damon. If he was going to sit down and cry again, I needed a good view of it.

I asked my friend Daniel to ask the man to move. He looked at me like Are you fucking kidding? He was from Essex (like Damon) and uncomfortable in the wilds of the Midlands. But eventually he did ask and the man was very nice about it. He apologised and stepped aside. We chatted a little.

A few minutes later another man stood in front of me. This one was taller still. Daniel and I exchanged looks. His said, No, I’m not talking to another one.

But the first man had it covered. He looked at the new guy and back to me and he said, Do you want me to stab him? I laughed, but he didn’t. Then the lights went down and the screaming started and nothing else mattered. They played Girls and Boys first and we all jumped in time and no one cried at all.

I’d see Blur once more after that. In Melbourne, in 2015.

That time would be in a massive arena and I’d be sat way up the back. No one would try to stand in front of me. They would have a new album out by then and they’d play lots of songs from it, which would be ok, but it would also mean they wouldn’t play End of a Century, my favourite song.

I’d listen to it on my phone on the train home, the Upfield line, and I’d try to remember when I’d heard it in Wolverhampton. When I’d sung along to it at Glastonbury. Back then I hadn’t known I’d ever see them again.

I hadn’t known I’d move to Australia at all. I’d never been to Melbourne. Hadn’t heard of the Rod Laver Arena or the Upfield line. Hadn’t met any of the people who now populate my daily life.

Years before, the world had felt infinite with possibility. But there was still so much I didn’t know.



A version of this post was sent by email on the 12th January 2020 as part of Internet Care Package – a weekly memoir project in the form of a newsletter. It also includes links to the best things I’ve found on the internet each week and occasional updates on my theatremaking. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.

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