I stepped out of the crusty hostel into the blinding light of the Budapest sun. Eleven of my best men followed behind me with sunglasses on, shorts short and their best (or loudest) shirts on. I say eleven of my best, a few were invited from my brides side as is custom, but it will not be long until we became brothers for life. A weekend founded on freedom and laughter. Stories will be made, secrets kept and memories forever relived whether we see each other next week or in ten years from now. Bonds are formed on stag do's, and I couldn't wait. This was the first night of two, tomorrow will be done with a hangover, so let's get it started! My entourage made their way through the European streets, voices louder than they ever would have been if going out in London, their swagger exaggerated. Everyone seemed to halve a bowl to their step now, even me. Untouchable. Men that didn't smoke had cigarettes in their fingers and knocking back a can of the local beer with the other. We were walking through an Eastern European city like we were on the beaches of Miami. No woman could pass without a glance, her dress stripped off by perverted eyes, quickly forgotten when the head turn could crank round no more. We were under strict instructions by Brandon to go to Szimpletkert - a ruin bar known for its rustic, graffiti and up cycling vibe - and of course £1 pints. As luck would have it, in the outside courtyard a bench sat free as a bird waiting for the arrival of such a party, the locals however, were not as welcoming. They see it all the time in this kind of city. Not just from brits but from people all over the world flocking for stag parties, hen do's and generally boozing holidays. The bars, the clubs and general vibe of the city (but most importantly the cheap booze) is an open invitation for large-scale guzzlers like me and my posse.
One round in and the hype and excitement of the weekend was sending the alcohol to the heads of my peers quicker than usual. Laughter was raucous, 'banter' undeniably exaggerated, immature games, dares and bets flowed faster than the copious amounts of booze that must've given the owners of the bar enough money to close for a month. Hours passed and groups of women came and went and not once did we even consider talking to them. You stare every now and then, you may comment to your conversationist mid sentence if a particularly attractive female passed by you but the attention wasn't on them, it was on me, or shall I say the whole stag do. The event. The boys. There was nowhere else I'd rather be. Brandon, my best man, had another idea up his sleeve. This was just the pre-drinks before the main event. I wasn't going to protest. You can be in the best bar in the world but if your best man says he has something better planned you trust him completely, as does everyone else.
Drink up! We're heading out.
A twenty minute walk, two cigarettes, a can of beer (for the journey) and a piss up a wall later and we arrive at a proper dive of a bar. If the other place was a ruin, this is the outhouse to whatever building that ruin was, most likely a cattle barn by the looks of this place. It was a music venue, specifically for heavy rock music, the black painted exterior made that clear. Brandon knows me, I'm a big metal rock fan. Yet, half of the party wasn't, so how on earth did he get them to purchase tickets for whoever was on? Who is on? I thought. Some local talent? Some big name in the Hungarian scene? I saw the poster. Brandon had been waiting for this moment along with a couple of my other close friends: the look on my face when I realised who we were seeing. Conspiracists. My favourite (and most underrated) metal band in the world. I was ecstatic. The beauty of it was, my father and a my cousins were here who have never given heavy music a try no matter how many times I had asked them. If I played one note at a party they would quickly switch it off. I had forever preached them the electricity at a live concert, but they would not be swayed. To have them here, right now, on my stag, so they can see with their very eyes and hear with their very ears the raw aggression that comes with metal music they might find some new found respect for the genre. For that I gave Brandon a huge hug.
We went in. The stench of sweat, urine and stale beer over powered our senses in the dark pit of the club, and my cousins let me know it. Their jest only jeered up the rest of our party who barged their way to the front of the queue for a beer. The first support act had just taken to the stage when we had all received our beverages, and their musical talents were not well received from my family. Although they did enjoy watching a few blokes bash each other up at the front of the stage, I had to remind them it was a form of dancing and not to be taken seriously. I shouldn't have told them that. One cousin of mine in particular is partial to the odd scrap. If he knew he could get involved in this new 'dance', I don't think I could subdue his reaction to a harmful punch in the cheek. As I stood, beer in hand, half taking in the music and half the shouting in my ear from Daniel, who was clearly on his way to an early night, I spotted Brandon coming out of one of the 'staff only doors'. What is he up to? It appeared my best man had another trick up his sleeve, Conspiracists had agreed to meet me as a gesture of goodwill and had invited us backstage. Are you kidding?! As the adrenaline overpowered the alcohol running through my veins we all, as one big group, filed through the crowd, down the 'staff only' corridor into the backstage room where the band stood waiting. The room that could comfortably fit ten people was now filled with seventeen men - a bustling reception of hand shakes and shot pouring. They say never meet your heroes but they've never met these guys. Their rider table filled with spirits from every country and province poured double measures into plastic cups, and what was essentially a meet and greet became a party like no other. This band had to be onstage in 90 minutes and they were drinking with us like it was New Years eve. Even my family couldn't turn their noses up at a group of men who live their lives on the road, travelling around the globe playing music they love to a cult following of fans. I wondered how many other lads have had this chance or even this experience in life - to have a private party with your idols, and for your idols to LOVE you and yours. The only person missing from this captivating moment was the woman I had asked to spend the rest of her life with me. What a moment that would be. Yet, it would not be the same. This was a moment for the boys. Even for these musicians who travel from town to town and city to city, in front of hundreds or thousands of fans everyday, faces of all shapes, sizes and colours staring back at them, screaming for that split second attention during a song, it was this moment, this 90 minutes of outrageous laughter with strangers, that made their tour worthwhile.
When the band hit the stage, we all partied to Conspiracists' music like we were possessed. My family, who had never listened to their music in their life, danced and rocked and moshed like they had been fans since childhood. I could not pick a moment in this day that could have been a highlight. The peaks flowed like the taps of beer in Szimplakert, and this was only the first day. Will the married life bring this rawness of happiness? Is the stag do the first step to how married life should be lived? Or is it the end of what life has been for you since the day you could walk. Of surprises, friendship, spontaneity and loyalty, of new experiences, making new friends and saying yes. I do hope it is the former.
And as I glance at Brandon, leaping around the dance floor like a rabbit shot in the dark, I realised my hero was here all along. I could see how ecstatic he was, so happy that I was having the best time, that his months of planning and the frustrating headache of dealing with my family (let alone nine useless blokes), knowing exactly how to plan the perfect evening for me had finally paid off! Well, if you really shouldn't meet your idols, how will you ever have a best friend?