Right in the Peepers

If you find yourself standing next to our professed columnist at a gig – trust us, you’ll know – we’d advise you to calmly sidle away…

Illustration: Fat Roland

My eyes are average eyes. It seems strange not to have mentioned this before now. The capability of my eyeballs would register exactly in the middle of an ophthalmic skill graph. Generally spherical, a bit squishy, some lovely blood veins. Other parts of my body are disgusting. All sort of drippy and twisted, covered in dangly bits or dabs of stray butter. But my eyes are beautifully conventional.

Which is a problem when it comes to gigs. I don’t know if you’ve noticed when going out, but audiences are full of people other than yourself. These concert attendees, whom I consider my bitter rivals, often have much better eyes. Granted, some are short-sighted, and these folks will naturally weed themselves out by falling off cliffs or walking into lava. However, there are others who have significantly excellent eyes.

Focused eyes, keen eyes, darty eyes. The kind of 20-20 visionistas who can spot a mollusc on a beach ball from the end of a 50-yard pier. My average eyeballs are no match for these optic opportunists.

This is why I have to be on the front row of concerts, to make up for my ordinary peepers. Especially at standing gigs. Have a leaf through Orbital’s social media, and you’ll see an audience shot taken by the band.

There’s me, centred on the front rail, looking like a maniac who’s brought 500 other people to his own special Orbital party. The other day I saw Plaid in concert, and I was so close to the stage, I could have stuck my finger up their noses. I didn’t. They don’t like it. Being on the front rail of techno gigs is a visual treat. Bass speakers blasting the cobwebs from your spleen, lasers frying your last remaining brain cells, and most of all, a 4D technicolour super-vision treat for the eyes. If I can’t see the broccoli caught between the gnashers of the act on stage, I’m not close enough.

There’s serious competition for that front rail, and gig-goers will do anything to claim the space. They’ll go proper Gollum for it. You’ve got to fight to get a hand on that cold aluminium. Punches thrown, legs akimbo, hair pulled, full Ric Flair. I’m not assertive enough for this. I once got stared at by a crab and didn’t go back to a beach for two years. Instead, I’ll stand behind folks and perform a choreography of passive-aggressive coughs. Slightly out of time with the music, so it truly grates. Maybe do a little vomit or two, just to clear the area. Just a little one. Un petite puke.

Being at the very front also means you’re ahead of the endless banks of audience mobile phones. People standing there watching the concert through their Huawei Musk Fold-69, holding their devices in the air like bad kites. Anyone stood behind them has to watch the gig through their tiny screen, amid pop-up messages from the family they abandoned at home because, no, Geoffrey, we will NOT go and see Jason Derulo with you. Surely this is bad for your eyes. Of course, if you’re right at the front, go ahead and film that gig on your iPad. I give you permission. Front rail privileges.

Don’t stand at the back like a wallflower – the front-row mosh pit is where you see everything. Get in there! And as you’re dancing to the cool beats, throwing shapes like a geometry teacher battling a swarm of seagulls, do one little thing for me. Stare at your fellow dancers. Glare at them. Right in the peepers. Really show them that your eyeballs are totally, completely and astonishingly average.

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