I think the correct name for this venue is actually now The O2 Brixton, but I will forever call it Brixton Academy because that was what it was called when I used to go their regularly for gigs back in the early early noughties.
It’s my favourite venue for live music. The Academy holds about 5000 people, and is somehow both intimate and impressive at the same time. The old style architecture is beautiful and the domed ceiling creates the sensation that your outside and under the night sky- you look upwards and can almost feel the stars twinkling down on you.
Last night I went with Ru and Ashleigh and a friend of hers to see Incubus, one of my favourite bands from my teenage years whose music can still send shivers down my spine and cause tears to come to my eyes. Good tears, of course! They were a band which I listened to religiously throughout my two years at sixth form, around the time I first started getting seriously into music.
At that time the music I loved and listened to was the centre around which my identity revolved, and certain beats and lyrics are seared into my soul so intensely that particular songs can bring those years flooding back into my mind and memory. Last night was like stepping back in time- in moments, certain chords, riffs and melodies transported me back to my aged 17 self, and the feelings those sounds invoked, were beautiful and bittersweet.
The gig was brilliant, though I wish they’d played more of their old classics. The last album Incubus released was in 2017, but I don’t know any of their material past around 2006, so a lot of the music was new to me. It was all really good, some fairly heavy rock with suitably grungy riffs and tones- but I wanted to hear all the songs which made my heart sing back in 2001! They played a few; Privilege, Pardon me, Love hurt and Drive being my particular favourites, and I sung my heart out too all of those.
Ru was with me, and whilst he doesn’t have the same love and connection to Incubus that I do, he still really enjoyed the night. We had met up beforehand to get dinner, and had a lovely half hour or so wandering around Brixton before heading to the Academy to meet our friends and head in.
My symptoms ended up coming on though, at the end of the night, and so the journey home was absolutely horrendous for me. Which makes me sad because I didn’t want it to happen- I didn’t want my mood to drop and I didn’t want to feel all that hell and heaviness again.
I sat in pained, strained silence for the entire journey home, because I felt as though if I moved or smiled my emotions would detonate and my head and heart would explode. There’s times when I feel as though I need to hold myself together- there’s so manty conflicting processes going on in my brain, so many warring emotions and preoccupations- like murderously wanting to lunge at someone whilst simultaneously panicking about their safety. It’s like a part of me is just crying and crying- from despair and frustration, but I can’t work out why and I can’t get a hold of it.
This conflicting sense of self just boils up and boils up- and I’m trying to re-frame it through these words, by actually acknowledging the horrendous effect it has on me rather than only feeling guilty for the fact that it throws Ru off so completely.
I always end up worrying more about him than I do about myself, did he think this, did he feel that- was my silence hurting him? Am I just complete and utter bitch?
I know that what I need to do instead, is acknowledge that when the symptoms come on like that I’m being hurt to. I need to stop transferring all my concern onto him, and allow myself to feel bad for myself as well as for him.
I think that the nostalgia of the whole evening was probably part of the reason it came on so intensely. The sense of melon-colley which comes on when I remember the years I spent at sixth form and uni, before everything fell apart, is always fairly heavy.
One of my dearest friends said to me, when we were chatting about one of the bad experiences I’d had a couple of weeks back- “it’s like your illness stole so many years from you, all your early 20’s when you would have been out there having fun and enjoying life before worrying too much about everything becoming serious. Your illness stole those years from you, and a part of you is sad about that because you can’t get those years back. Those years were wasted.”
When I loved Incubus, or when I listened to Incubus a lot, I wasn’t even 20 yet- my life was all ahead of me. It occurred to me last night, that I am now 33. Thirty three! I laughed last night at the incredulity of it- I’m standing in a venue I ran around in sixteen years ago in an ecstatic, loved up state, with no comprehension of what the next decade would bring.
My 17 year old self had no idea of what was to come, and that I’d be in the same place so many years later, with such a different life and head on my shoulders. My 17 year old self was blissfully, naively unaware, and so she was able to fly to much easier.
I can remember her so clearly- it seems like yesterday I was running about the academy with a little baggie of weed in my back pocket- recklessly and unapologetically living my life without a care for the consequences or the possible repercussions of my actions. It’s the best way to live; in the moment, in the high. You can’t worry too much about the hangover or else you’d always be fearful to look up.
Last night was bitter-sweet and painfully poignant, and I’ve been left with ghosts in my head and old memories playing over and over in my mind’s eye.
“Would you choose, water over wine? Hold the wheel and drive..” Incubus, Drive.