My Carnival of Madness adventure part two began with trains, buses, trains and eventually a taxi to our hotel for the night, handily situated right beside the arena.
Girl Child and I were off on a mother/daughter trip to Manchester!
The first train to Glasgow was uneventful. It was the slow train so it stopped at every lamppost but we got there. Girl Child decided she REALLY needed something from Burger King for second breakfast so by 9.30am she was happily scoffing a Chicken Royale burger …BLEURGH!
Stage two of the journey was a two-hour bus ride to Carlisle. I don’t normally travel well on buses and turn fifty shades of green within a short period of time however I survived this trip intact. We found ourselves in a very cold Carlisle station. Us and the rest of the population of Carlisle! Some steam train (I think it was the Flying Scotsman – I’m no train spotter) was due to pass through and stop at the station. In all the confusion we missed our train.
I’m too polite to repeat what my Girl Child had to say about that!
If in doubt, find some caffeine! We parked ourselves at a small platform-side café that was equally cold for lunch.
Our second attempt at catching the Trans-pennine Express was more successful and we were soon on our way, albeit an hour behind schedule.
I had booked first class seats so the journey was quite calm and pleasant and included free coffee! Never a bad thing.
We arrived at Manchester’s Piccadilly Station around 3.30pm. It was a zoo!! Eventually we found the correct exit and a taxi rank. The late afternoon traffic was bedlam and it was just after 4pm before we finally arrived at our hotel.
Our fifth floor room was nothing fancy. It was clean. You know what to expect from a Travel Lodge room. Girl Child promptly claimed the double bed as hers….guess the single would have to do me.
We snacked on the juice, popcorn and biscuits that I had in my bag while we got ready to head out to the show.
The arena was only a short walk from the hotel but finding the way was like walking through a labyrinth. First time I’ve entered a gig via a railway station!
We made our usual pilgrimage to the merchandise stall (yes, Four, I was a naughty girl and bought more shirts and, no, I’m not telling you how many), had a quick comfort stop then made our way into the standing arena.
Another first here- the standing arena is accessed from the top level of the hall and down through all the seats. Following the queue, we zig-zagged our way down to the arena floor. The event staff were collecting in the tickets. I queried if we could keep them as souvenirs (I have every ticket from every show I’ve been to) The guy assured me we would get a ticket back on the way out at the end…oh….ok….
It was decision time- right or left hand side of the stage? We went right.
Manchester Arena is huge in comparison to others I’ve been in. (I believe it can hold around 21000) and the standing arena was sold out. By some small miracle we found ourselves a spot three or four rows off the barrier among reasonably short people and with a good view of the stage. Happy days!
Highly Suspect came on stage at 6.15, launching straight into a raucous set. There was a different energy about them compared with the Glasgow show and the Manchester crowd appeared to be enjoying them more than the Scottish rock fans had. I guess I enjoyed their performance a lot more too as I was finally getting to hear the entire short set…..that was until their front man “gobbed” on stage again Twice! Bleurgh! Would I still like to see them play a smaller show? Hmmm…the jury is currently out on that thought.
Next up were Halestorm who were in storming form! Lzzy was most definitely commanding this crowd. Mid-set Black Stone Cherry appeared on stage to do a meet and greet (was that Zach Myers in the midst of it?) then John Fred Young and the drummer from Highly Suspect stayed on stage to “assist” Arejay with his drum solo. Good hearted end of UK tour antics that the fans were loving. The set hadn’t altered much from Monday night’s show. Mayhem, Freak Like Me and I Miss The Misery rounded things off in raucous RnFnR style.
One of the best Halestorm performances that I’ve seen.
I had warned Girl Child about the tape that would play in between Halestorm and Shinedown’s sets. Yes, Manchester too was treated to the fifteen minute meditation tape. What the hell was all that about, boys?
The energy in the room evaporated rapidly.
Girl Child loves Shinedown so they were to be the highlight of her evening as it was her first experience of seeing them play live. They didn’t disappoint. Yes, Brent Smith wasted time talking too much and by going for a saunter through the arena but, in general, he seemed back on his game. I was enjoying seeing more of Zach Myers this time round. Love him to bits!
My heart swelled as I watched Girl Child sing and cheer, horns up, with a wide grin on her pretty wee face. I love to see her happy and enjoying herself.
Shinedown’s set was identical to Monday night’s with one addition. Brent Smith declared that as they were in Manchester they had better play something to keep the locals happy. They did just that by playing Oasis’ Don’t Look Back In Anger before moving on to play Simple Man. Have I said how much I love that song?
Set closer Sound Of Madness nearly lifted the roof off the arena.
Manchester loves Shinedown!
Our long day of travel and rock music was starting to take it’s toll. Both Girl Child and I were wilting a little. Our backs were in agony and she was complaining her feet were sore from standing. My shoulders were aching. Cue the entry of the “rock’n’roll polo mints” and a Dextro tablet each. Gig survival kit!
We were both very thirsty by this point though. We’d been there for about four hours by this time.
Manchester, you could learn a lot about passing back water to thirsty fans from your colleagues at the SSE Hydro!!!!
Not a drop of water was to be had. (Once, the security staff passed a large sports bottle along the very front row but nothing was offered beyond that) Very poor show, Manchester.
The curtain had again been raised to hide the stage changeover but from our vantage point we could see the stage crew working hard. Although why they were burning an incense stick in the machine heads on one of the guitars is beyond me….
Shortly before show time, the tape being played to keep the crowd amused played Slipknot’s Psychosocial. The crowd around us went wild and were in fine voice! We were revved up and ready to rock once more!
A few moments later than scheduled the lights went out, Black Stone Cherry began Me And Mary Jane. The curtain fell and the front of the stage exploded with jets from a row of air cannons blasting skywards. Rain Wizard and Blind Man followed. Explosive start to the show!
Like Halestorm and Shinedown before them, the boys from Kentucky were on fire tonight!
(I had started to write this on the train journey home on Sunday – my train of thought was de-railed by more unexpected travel issues – but more of that shortly)
Now where was i?
Holding On To Letting Go almost raised the roof! Awesome!
I loved the snatch of Roadhouse Blues in Yeah Man…..and then the evening took a downward spiral.
I noticed that Girl Child had gone kind of quiet. I asked her if she was ok and got a mumbled response. I put my arm around her waist and she didn’t immediately protest. She was on the point of collapse.
With my arm securely round her, I half dragged her to the side and signalled to one of the security staff, indicating that we needed water quick. She was given a few squirts from the communal sports bottle.
It didn’t help.
A few feet to our left Arejay Hale and Josh Hottinger from Halestorm stood watching the show – Girl Child never even saw them.
The security girl let us through the barrier and a supervisor directed us up the entire length of the arena to a corridor where there were toilets and a “bar hatch”. Manchester Arena isn’t the most modern or luxurious. I sat Girl Child down on the floor, propping her up against the wall and ran to fetch her a Coke in an attempt to get some sweet liquid into her.
It had a little effect but she was still not really with me.
An annoying little drunk came over to chat. Instantly the security supervisor was at my side chasing him. With the drunk duly despatched, the supervisor suggested we head to the first aid station.
In the background, I could hear Black Stone Cherry playing The Rambler – I could’ve cared less! My baby girl was my focus.
The first aid room was on the opposite side of the arena. I half carried her across the back of the hall as Black Stone Cherry belted out Peace Is Free (or was that Pizzas Free) accompanied by Lzzy Hale and other members of Halestorm.
The first aid room was basic beyond belief. The first aiders, although very pleasant, had basic knowledge and little in the way of help to offer me. I explained what had happened etc etc then asked if Girl Child could lie down for a few minutes with her legs raised. After about ten minutes (it felt like forever) she began to feel a little better and began to talk to us again.
I then began to fret about how I was going to get her back to the hotel. Was I going to have to drag her up all those stairs through the seating area again?
The first aider put my fears at ease and said, as we were staying at the Travel Lodge, he would bend the rules and let us leave by the “back door.”
To the strains of White Trash Millionaire, I helped Girl Child along the corridor and out into the secure yard where the tour buses were parked.
When we exited the gate I discovered the hotel was only about 100 yards away.
Once safely back in the hotel I ordered some food and drinks from the bar and eventually we took them up to the room with us. A combination of Irn Bru, Coke and fresh air had revived Girl Child and she managed to eat her meal.
My nerves were shot!
While she slept all night, I lay awake worrying about her.
Next morning, she was more or less back to normal. I was shattered!
When we went down for breakfast, the dining room was a sea of exhausted, hungover rock fans all wearing new band merch. I’d had one beer and about three hours sleep at best and I felt as rough as they looked!
Bags packed, we checked out and headed out into the sunshine in search of some retail therapy at the Arndale Centre.
After a medicinal stop at Starbucks for caffeine and a whirlwind shopping trip, it was time to head back for the train to Carlisle.
I’d spoken to the Big Green Gummi Bear earlier on and he’d very kindly offered to meet us in Carlisle and save us the two hour bus trip and forty minute train ride.
The train left on time. We had the entire first class carriage to ourselves. Bliss!
A bout an hour and three quarters later the train stopped at Penrith. The service was terminating there. Some poor individual had jumped under the train that had been in front of ours. Icy shivers ran down my spine.
A quick call to the Big Green Gummi Bear caught him before he turned off for Carlisle and he agreed to drive the extra few miles to fetch us at Penrith.
I don’t know when I was last so glad to see him!
As he drove us home, Girl Child chattered away. In the passenger seat, I finally relaxed.
We’d survived. From listening to Girl Child, I gathered that despite everything, she’d enjoyed her trip. Despite all the dramas, we’d both enjoyed a memorable weekend.
Perhaps not the mother/daughter weekend I’d envisaged in my head but most definitely one to remember.
Wonder where we can go next?