Meet the people who find true love at rock shows
Gigs and festivals are joyous occasions. A wonderful mix of music, friends, booze and heightened emotion, all turned up to 11 and drenched in sweat. They can also be the place to declare your love for the person closest to you in life. Not just screaming “I love you, I do!” in your mate’s face during the second encore, but taking a life-changing step in your relationship with your partner. Here, we meet some devoted rock fans who have rock’n’roll woven into the fabric of their proposals and marriages – and in one case, their son.
Debbie and her now-husband Neale got engaged at a Bruce Dickinson show in 1998, after winning backstage passes in Kerrang! magazine. A year later they travelled to Europe to see Iron Maiden on their honeymoon. Two years later, their son was conceived at a Maiden gig in London!
Tell us about the Bruce Dickinson competition.
“My husband, Neale, was the original Iron Maiden fan and when we met I was instantly converted. I entered the Kerrang! competition and won tickets and backstage passes to Bruce’s gig in Norwich. We already had tickets to see him at Norwich and Cambridge, but we wanted the opportunity to meet the man himself. At that gig we got chatting to the tour manager and he gave us backstage passes for the Cambridge gig, too!”
How did the proposal happen?
“The proposal was quite boring – it was like, ‘Shall we get married, then? Yeah, okay!’ We were more excited about the gig! I got so nervous about meeting Bruce that I became completely starstruck and could hardly speak. We did manage a conversation about the wheel of dharma and had a couple of photos taken.”
Why did you decide on going to see Maiden for your honeymoon?
“We got married in August 1999 in Gretna Green and hadn’t really planned a honeymoon, so when Maiden’s first European gig with Bruce and Adrian [Smith, guitar] back in the band came up we thought it had to be done and made it our honeymoon. We travelled with the fanclub to Paris and Rotterdam with several hundred fans. We didn’t make it to the hotel room on the second night as we stayed up all night drinking in the bar with all the fans.”
Does your son know he was conceived at an Iron Maiden gig?
“Much to my son’s embarrassment he knows he was conceived in Shepherd’s Bush. Maiden were playing two nights and we went to both gigs.”
Is he a fan of Maiden now, too?
“We named our son Harry Bruce – obviously after Steve ‘’Arry’ Harris and Bruce. We took him to his first gig when he was five and he’s been with us to every tour since.”
What is it about Iron Maiden that you both love so much?
“It’s just in our blood. We love listening to their music and find it an escapism from everyday life.”
How does it feel having all these ties to heavy metal in your relationship?
“Their gigs aren’t just gigs, they are an experience and it’s been great to have shared these as a couple and a family. Our most recent Maiden gig (pictured below) happened to be my husband’s 50th birthday!”
Dean proposed to his girlfriend Amber at Riot Fest in 2019, aided by his musical hero Mat Kerekes.
Why did you decide to propose at Riot Fest?
“The biggest reason I chose Riot Fest to propose is because it was the one place that a good majority of our friends would be at. We had friends from all over the U.S. there and it just meant a lot to the both of us to have them there to celebrate.”
What is it about Riot Fest that connects you to your fiancée?
“Before meeting me, Amber didn’t go to any concerts. I, on the other hand, didn’t miss a single Warped Tour since 2008. I’ve seen blink-182 every time they placed in Camden or Philly, even Atlantic City. I’m pretty seasoned when it comes to live shows. Riot Fest was Amber’s first festival and one of her first experiences of live music. Since 2018, Riot Fest is basically become the place that our friend group from all over can have an amazing vacation together.”
Tell us about the day. How did the proposal happen?
“It was September 13, a Friday. We planned the day to be as normal as possible so Amber wouldn’t suspect a thing. Got breakfast, Friday the 13th tattoos, then went to Riot. I had my friends hold onto the ring because the box easily stuck out two inches from my pocket. I had also been in contact with Mat [Kerekes, Citizen vocalist] to make sure everything was going to plan. Amber and I decided to wait by the stage he was playing on half an hour prior, just to relax and get some shade. As people started making their way there, I made sure to be right up front and dead centre of the barricade. Mat played a few songs then said my message: ‘Amber, Dean loves you to the deepest parts of the ocean and back and I think he has a question for you.’ I’m paraphrasing because really that whole moment has become a blur of nervousness. It’s still easily the best day of my life.”
Did Amber have any idea it was going to happen?
“Amber had no clue. She always had suspicions that I was going to propose in some big way. She once thought it was at a show with The Wombats or a Broadside show – a band that I featured in the playlists I made her when we started dating. But for whatever reason, she overlooked Riot Fest.”
How did you get Mat Kerekes involved?
“Well, that is a funny story. Mat is one of my favourite artists of all time. Between Citizen, The Flats and his solo work, there hasn’t been a song that I did not enjoy. Luna And The Wild Blue Everything is in my personal top 10 albums of all time. And, of course, I had his music in the playlists that I would make for Amber. When I saw that he was playing Riot Fest, I knew that it would be amazing to propose there, but perfect if I could get help from Mat. So, like any normal person, I blocked my now-fiancée on Twitter and tweeted Mat every day asking him to DM me and help with the proposal. After about a month of my annoying tweets, I got a DM from May saying ‘Sup’ and we worked on the plan from there. I talked to him after the fact and he thought I was just a spam bot so he ignored my tweets for a while. Since then I can actually call Mat a friend, along with his brother Chris and Jacob Sigman who plays keys for Mat on tour.”
Will you be having a punk-rock wedding to keep the theme going?
“Since the proposal, we both decided to not have a wedding in the traditional sense, but instead just have a reception/party to celebrate with our friends and family from all over. Since COVID we’ve had more time to think about everything, and how we want to celebrate as Mr and Mrs when we go the courthouse and officially get married. I would love to have Mat play a set, or somehow get Tigers Jaw, Broadside and blink-182 involved. Basically a ‘concert wedding’ because that just feels fitting.
“We initially wanted to do that idea on 11/11/21, but with the pandemic we plan to at least go to the courthouse on 11/11/22, if we can’t have the concert wedding reception. Also, fun fact for the end of the interview: before Amber moved in, our relationship was long distance, from Jersey to Massachusetts. So every night at 11:11 I would text Amber to make a wish. Sometimes I still say it to her when we’re laying in bed getting ready to sleep. Hence the date 11/11.”
Jennie married Nic on the morning of Leeds 2019, before travelling to the festival for the reception. After bumping into You Me At Six, frontman and all-round nice guy Josh Franceschi introduced their first dance from the stage.
Why did you decide to have your reception at Leeds?
“We always wanted to get married at a festival but the reality was we couldn’t do this legally. So when we heard the Leeds 2019 line-up, and it consisted of a lot of our favourite bands, we knew this would be as close as we could get to our dream wedding! Luckily there was space at the Town Hall the same day for the actual ceremony, too!”
Did you get engaged in equally rock’n’roll fashion?
“We got engaged in 2017 when we went to New York. Nic said he’d thought about proposing at a gig but there were too many of our favourite bands to choose from. I think he knew I’d say yes no matter where he asked me, to be honest!”
What did the reception entail? Did you have speeches in the campsite?
“Well, we only went to the Saturday at Leeds, but it entailed beers on the mini bus, a festival survival pack for our guests, fairground rides, burgers and lots more beer! No speeches – after all, it wasn’t exactly a traditional wedding reception!”
Did the whole wedding party come to the festival?
“Around half of the wedding party. In total there were about 20 of us at the festival after the ceremony; this included my mum, dad and brother, Nic’s uncle Tony as well as cousins and lots of our friends – some who had never experienced a festival before. Everyone loved it!”
What was it like meeting You Me At Six?
“It was a dream come true. We knew that they were at the signing tent but as we got to the festival a little later than expected we thought we would miss out. But luck was on our side and Dan [Flint, drums] recognised me and Nic from an album signing and came over to speak to us with Josh [Franceschi, vocals]. We also bumped into Max [Helyer, guitar] from You Me at Six wandering around after we watched The Wombats!”
How did it feel having them dedicate a song to you for your first dance?
“It was insane! I had no idea that Nic had sneakily asked Josh if they were playing Take On The World as part of their set, when Josh said they were Nic asked him to dedicate it to us. Total dream come true! I was in complete shock when it happened. One of my friends took the most amazing pics of my reaction!”
Was it difficult being at a festival in a wedding dress all day?!
“I had a short wedding dress – not very traditional but that is kind of how I am. I swapped my wedding shoes for some white high tops as I’ve been to a ton of festivals so knew I had to be comfortable! Plus dancing and getting on people’s shoulders was also a must, so my dress had to work for this!”
Will you be going back to Leeds for all your anniversaries?
“We were hoping to be at Leeds festival last year to celebrate our one-year anniversary, but due to the pandemic we couldn’t. If by some small miracle festivals can go ahead in 2021 we will be there, no question. It’s always been our yearly tradition since we met!”
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