I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of The Prodigy frontman Keith Flint this morning. The work he had done throughout The Prodigy’s career has brought many happy moments to the lives of many, including friends and family of mine and in this weeks post I want to pay tribute to him.
I was born in 1994 when The Prodigy were already a well known band with a strong reputation, particurlary in the Northern Essex area where both I and the band are from. Throughout my life I can always remember being aware of songs such as Firestarter and Smack My Bitch Up. But I didn’t become a proper fan until the late noughties, most notably 2009.
In August 2009 The Prodigy were sub headliners at Reading Festival, which was the first festival my older brother ever attended. To me, the only music festivals I was really aware of were Glastonbury and the local V Festival so I didn’t really think much of what they were all about.
That was until my brother got back from the festival, he had seen such a huge list of bands such as Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon and Bloc Party, but for weeks after, the only band he was talking about were The Prodigy.
His continued enthusiasm and overall love for how crazy a show it was on the Saturday evening of August Bank Holiday weekend inspired me to start listening to them, so I took a trip to HMV to buy a copy of the Invaders Must Die album, and before long I was also hooked.
During 2010 I finished secondary school, started sixth form, but most importantly, booked a ticket to my first ever music festival, V Festival 2010 in Chelmsford, around 20 minutes from where I grew up.
So many people from my year at school had tickets to go and we were eagerly awaiting the line-up for what would be for many of us our first ever music festival.
The two headliners of the main stage were Kings of Leon and Kasabian, other notable acts were Calvin Harris, Faithless and Stereophonics, but the big name that stood out for me was headlining the 4Music stage of the Sunday night, The Prodigy.
For me and one of my oldest best friends, Adam, The Prodigy were the name that got us most excited and we simply couldn’t wait to see them. Once my older brother saw the line-up he instantly rung me to tell me that out of all the people on that list, The Prodigy were the band that I had to see and before long it was a matter of counting down until we were at Hylands Park, Chelmsford watching their set.
The Sunday at V festival proved to be an exhausting day in itself. Starting with a main stage opener by then love of my life Pixie Lott before seeing Peter Andre, Example, Madness, Jamie T, Calvin Harris and Faithless before the end was in sight and it was time for The Prodigy.
There was a huge group of us sat by the side of the 4 Music stage waiting for The Prodigy and when we had a ten minute warning before they would be on stage it was myself, Adam, his brother Mark and two other friends of mine, Josh and Sam that would make our way to as close to the stage as we could.
What followed was 2 hours of just the most mental thing I have ever been a part of. At that time I was fairly new to concerts and live shows but I was already aware that very few could do what The Prodigy were doing.
The band, and in particular Keith had the entire crowd of thousands upon thousands of people in the palm of his hand as they smashed through Invaders Must Die, Worlds on Fire, Warriors Dance and classics Firestarter and Out of Space.
By the end of the show it was raining pretty heavily, but none of us cared, in particular those that got as close as we could. The Prodigy were the final act of the entire weekend and they rounded off my first music festival experience perfectly.
A few days later I returned to school to collect my GCSE results, while I was there I met up with a lot of the people I was at V Fest with. One particular conversation I remember having with Adam was us both confessing that our ears were still ringing from The Prodigy, and they later carried on to do so for a few more days to follow.
I’m sure many of you have forgotten about the theory of the world coming to an end on December 21st 2012 as ‘predicted’ in the Mayan Calendar. It may seem hard to believe but a lot of people got pretty worried about it, and The Prodigy’s reaction? Two live shows at their favourite venue, O2 Academy Brixton which would start at midnight and end at 03:00am.
As soon as I heard of the shows I got in contact with two of my friends Joe and Elliot, who hadn’t seen them yet, telling them that we HAD to go and they were both up for it and I got us tickets for December 18th 2012.
None of us lived in London at the time and with the show ending at 03:00am we’d have missed the last train home by a few hours and would have to wait a few hours more until the first train back to Essex, but we didn’t think about that until the day in all honesty.
After the show we had to loiter around the London Liverpool Street area, waiting for the gates to open in a blistering cold December night just 7 days before Christmas, but we didn’t care, we had just seen The Prodigy in what is the best music venue in London in my opinion and were buzzing for that reason.
As for the show itself, it was very different from the V Fest show and for others I had been to around that time.
With this Prodigy show my mental health disorders were very evident, but only with me, I was in the stage where I wasn’t telling anyone out of fear, embarrassment and overall caring too much what people would think of me as a man because I was struggling with depression. As a result of this I locked up my feelings, ignoring them as if they weren’t there.
During that 2 hour Prodigy show in Brixton I noticed something I didn’t notice at V Fest, perhaps because it was a smaller, enclosed venue, or maybe it was because during that time I would focus more on the behaviour of people more as I tried to understand what was going on inside my head.
What I noticed with the crowd that night is that they were all screaming their heads off, throwing their arms in the air/bodies all over the place as if no one was watching, getting completely lost in the music and in the moment, and the conductor of the orchestra that night in South London – Keith Flint.
The energy in the crowd that night came as a release for my locked up emotions and The Prodigy with their music would often be something I would turn to when I needed the help. If I wanted to go for a drive just to take my mind off things I would often turn to their music and when I first started running I would fill my ears with their songs.
During that concert I would look to the stage and in Keith Flint I would see the presence of a man who, with his punk piercings, spiked hair and intense stare, as living proof that it was possible to be the most different person in the room and still be respected for who you are. Which, given my mental state at the time and what it went on to be in the years to follow was hugely important.
During the 17/18 Premier League season West Ham weren’t doing particularly well, and I can clearly remember a train journey home after a miserable defeat where I was talking to a fellow hammers fan who had tickets to see Foo Fighters and myself having tickets to see The Rolling Stones, with both shows to be played at the London Stadium.
We would joke saying that the respective bands would bring us more joy in two hours at the London Stadium than West Ham had in two seasons. During this conversation an older West Ham fan from Essex got involved saying The Prodigy are the best live band in town, numbering off the countless times he had seen them live in venues small across Essex in their early days and the larger venues in London and beyond when the fame hit.
He even went on to talk about his days as a builder, when he had done work at Keith Flint’s house in Dunmow and had nothing but good words to say about him. He would make bacon sandwiches for them at lunchtime and always had teas and coffee on the go, which says a lot about what he was like as a man.
To me, The Prodigy are one of those bands where, no matter if you’re an Eminem fan or a Red Hot Chilli Peppers fan you know their songs and can have a full appreciation for their music, and what they did for their genre.
Through the crowds drawn to their shows across the world throughout their career, The Prodigy had the control in the palm of their hands, and as the frontman, Keith played a huge part in that. However, with all the fame that came their way they always remembered where home was, which is Braintree, Essex, which is very close to where I grew up and is the very town where I work.
They have hero status throughout the town and Keith’s legacy will live forever through the music of the band.
RIP Keith Flint – Thanks for everything.
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or e-mail email@example.com.
In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.