Gigs: How To Survive If You’re 5ft5

A few weeks ago, quite possibly the shortest man ever to top the UK charts entered a capacious O2 Arena stage and performed a headline set for thousands of fans attending London’s biggest indoor festival, all hoping to catch a glimpse of this pocket-sized prodigy. Standing at 5ft 3”, even the tallest of fans had trouble watching this performance, but I say to them – welcome to my world.

Indeed I shouldn’t really be mocking teeny Tinchy, as I myself am a mere two inches taller than he. As a vertically challenged Music Journalist, I regularly travel to gigs and find that the only thing I can really review is a crop circle of baldness obscuring my vision. Arriving early to try and avoid this predicament usually affords me a fantastic view of the support act, but then once the headliner emerges and the crowd go wild, all is often lost.

Making conversation during intervals can be just as frustrating. That 6ft friend now begins to look down on you, leaning closer with pity to ask for thoughts on the band, knowing full well you didn’t even see one because you were fighting to keep your head from being nestled in the small of someone’s back while jostling for position.

Any drinks spilled find their way down to you too. After ruining an innocent woman’s dress I saw a man so angry that he demanded she buy him another pint. This soon stopped when her gigantic boyfriend stepped in. I have had my head used as a beermat and my shoulders as an armrest on many occasions at lesser entertaining events.

We’ve all had moments where someone moves, and then for a brief instant there’s a perfect view. On one occasion – coincidentally while watching Yuck sing the lyric “You can see me if you’re tall” – I was forced to watch helplessly while a spherical head moshed in my direction before blocking out all the stage lighting in a re-enactment of a solar eclipse.

Now, I know there are plenty of other people out there who have this problem – in fact I myself have probably obscured the vision of the odd Ronnie Corbett doppelgänger or two – but today, in an attempt to liberate ourselves, I say ‘short people of the world unite’ and share tips.

The best way to ensure a great spot in which you can enjoy the whole thing with relative comfort is to flirt with a tall person and ask to sit on their shoulders. Admittedly this only really works if you’re female, as most males are not particularly fond of the idea of hoisting another man up on their shoulders, no matter how well you flirt. Also, as a man blocking other people’s view by sitting on shoulders, you’re much more likely to have plastic glasses containing various liquids thrown at you by others, not all of which will have been purchased at the bar. This happened to me while being reluctantly used as a look-out to find friends at the recent Arcade Fire Hyde Park gig.

If flirting your way to the top (quite literally) isn’t for you, then you could always bring a periscope which, while ridiculous, is surely no stranger than all those watching through camera-phones.

Onto more serious advice, rather than trying to push your way to the front it’s often advisable to hang back. Many venues have a sloping floor and as the crowd surges forward there’s often space to overlook the rabble. In my experience the majority of crowd members are pretty understanding, so it’s always a good idea to just ask someone to move a little. It may seem like a tall order to have the courage to do so, but most people are merely unknowingly blocking your vision, and given space will move.

If you’re polite others will be too and if they’re not then fulfil the cliché and show them a bit of Napoleon complex. Alternatively, go and see bands that are exclusively aimed at short people – I had a great time watching Bodger & Badger headline Glastonbury in 2010, not an ogre in sight.

So what about your experiences? Do you struggle to see at gigs? If so, how do you rectify this? And how often have you climbed on another bloke’s shoulders? Let us know in the comments below.

Words: Simon Butcher

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