I was the biggest nerd in the crowd of a couple of hundred bouncing rockers, and also the only one screaming: "Play some Slayer!”

My mate Dave had texted me that morning, he had a spare ticket to the Exponents* at Smash Palace, did I wanna go?

He didn’t know I was writing the opening scene of a story where the setting was a rock concert. I love a good gig, so I said yes please. I didn’t tell him it would be research.

My protagonist is Eli, a young man who plays guitar and sings in a band. Things aren’t going so well for him. The lead singer is a manu waiata — a songbird. She’s a genetically modified human with the double syrinx vocal chords of a tui, meaning she can make complex harmonies by herself, in a new musical genre called featherpunk. Poor Eli, with his single larynx, can’t keep up. He’s trying to get the same gene-mods, he wants to be a songbird as well. It’s the only way to keep his place in the spotlight.

Myself, I’ve never had serious aspirations for the stage. In the happy crowd at Smash Palace I felt the familiar anxiety creep in, the pointed discomfort of being in a crowd. My strategy for dealing with this unease came back quick, it’s like falling off a bike — you only remember how to do it once you’re back in the thick of things.

Here’s the nerdy part: during a song I wasn’t so familiar with I went outside and took some notes. Yeah, I took a pen and paper to a gig. I documented sensory details and how I coped with being stuck in a crowd. I can’t tell you the coping process here — that’s all going into the story. I haven’t based the Eli character on myself, but during this gig I decided he could have some of my social anxiety.

Big thanks to Dave for inviting me along, I met some cool new people and had a barrel of laughs.

Me (throwing the goat): SLAAAAAYYYEEEERR!

*It was actually the Jordan Luck Band; Jordan, the singer, was the only member from the classic New Zealand band the Exponents. And they were rocking. Bloody good. But this ain’t a review.