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Official Article

90's Concert Experiences Part 2

In the first installment of my 90’s concert memories I told the tale of how my fear of moshing kept me from seeing Green Day live in 1994, using “Weird Al Yankovic” as my stepping stone to live music and breaking down the walls at a KISS concert. By my senior year of high school I was finally ready to get in the pit and mix it up with violent punk rockers, so let’s jump into the next stage of my rock concert evolution. WARNING: Stuff Gets Weird.

With the release of the album Famous Monsters, iconic 80’s horror-punk band the Misfits gained my musical allegiance. The wailing vocals of Michale Graves, the literal one, two punch of Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein and his brother Jerry Only on bass with Dr. Chud providing fierce tribal beats combined to terrorize and thrill my teenage heart. So naturally I wanted to see them live.

The guys in my high school garage band had already been to several Misfits concerts promoting the band’s American Psycho album 2 years earlier, so I figured they would be my battle-worn guides to surviving a punk show. Plus we were all at least 6 feet and 200+ pounds, so sheer mass was on our side. When we got our tickets and I saw the other band on the bill was GWAR, I had no idea what to expect. Maybe that was a good thing.

As I passed through the doors of the tiny club that night, I could feel the buzz of adrenaline coming off the outcasts of society who had assembled themselves in the venue. I was watching my back believing that at any moment a beer bottle or tattooed fist would come flying at my head. My only exposure to Punk at this point was that NYC gang from Crocodile Dundee II after all. As the lights went out, a wave of bodies collided with mine and carried me toward the front of the stage. I had never felt a force like that in my life and was using all my leg strength to keep myself vertical.

When visibility returned, a strange puppet like archaeologist and his assistant were attacked by a group of literal monsters who took the stage with war-like instruments in their hands. They growled and cursed, then started to play some less than melodic distorted guitar music. After a few songs a strange puppet person who looked like Marilyn Manson wandered on stage and the band proceeded to chop his head off, causing a garden hose like stream of blood to spew out over the audience. This type of mayhem continued for the next 30 minutes until my buddies and I were soaked with various colored fluids causing the stage to look like a 5 year old had unsuccessfully tried to make Kool-Aid in the kitchen. 

When the Misfits finally took the stage I was already exhausted and then my moshing baptism began. Elbows and shoulders of all shapes and sizes knocked into mine, bodies flew over my head as I learned the etiquette of supporting the crowd-surfing daredevil who had entrusted his life to the sweat soaked hands of his rowdy brethren. Then the skull-faced lead singer of the band, Michale Graves, started crowd surfing himself and I felt like I was an official part of the Fiend Club as I helped hold him aloft by his right shoulder.

I did my best to stay away from the empty circle in the center of the storm where buzz-cut guys in cargo pants were taking runs at each other while spinning like maniacs. I couldn’t fathom why people would take it that far, but the sense of unity and excitement was exhilarating. It felt like an anything goes atmosphere and yet, there was an unspoken understanding that this was all in good fun. Go wild, go crazy, but don’t hurt anybody. It was an experience like no other and I’m sure my parents had no idea what I was up to.

For the next year my bandmates and I would go to see the Misfits live at every West Coast gig within a 3-4 hour driving distance and each night was a different kind of madness. At one show the opening ska-punk band called the Voodoo Glow Skulls were the first (and luckily the last) band I ever saw spitting on the audience. Oh yeah and their drummer was completely naked behind his drum kit! 

At another show my buddy, Galen had traded shirts with Michale Graves in the middle of a song, which blew my mind. He actually stopped the song to read the cartoonishly vulgar statement on the shirt to his band mates and then motioned for the trade. Unforgettable.Towards the end of our odyssey we found ourselves traveling to Las Vegas to see the band with a fill-in lead singer, but the real show came after the music ended.

The opening band, called the Impotent Sea Snakes or ISS were basically a carnival act of freaks who played a few power chords behind their antics. They had a big light-up KISS sign as their backdrop that was missing the “K” so as to spell out the band’s initials, which pulsed while women in Nun’s habits poured hot candle wax on skinny dudes with dreadlocks. Bizarre stuff. After surviving another hour of Misfits moshing, I fell asleep in the back seat of my buddy’s car as we headed down the highway to California. I was briefly awakened by my friends shouting, “Whoa!”, but quickly drifted back to dreamland. 

Next thing I know I’m being shaken awake and asked to hand over my sweatshirt as my buddies shut the car door and ran off down the road. It was then I realized our car had stopped moving, so I looked out the back window and was amazed to see an RV in flames on the side of the road behind us. I didn’t know what to think. Did lightning strike the mighty vehicle? Had we somehow caused the accident while I slept? 

About 15 minutes later my buddies came back with a stack of t-shirts and hats bearing the Impotent Sea Snakes logo and going on about how they had saved somebody’s life. Apparently the RV belonged to the band we had seen only hours before and one of the members had passed out drunk with a cigarette in the back, setting the vehicle on fire with the spilt alcohol. Galen had used my sweatshirt to cover his face while he dove right in to the flaming wreckage and pulled the guy out!

In gratitude the band gave us some swag and their private telephone number so that the heroes could go backstage at any show they ever played. That was actually my last Misfits show, but my pals took them up on the offer and hung out backstage at several concerts in the years that followed, getting pictures and autographs from the Misfits, members of the Ramones and more. Galen even got the shirt he had been traded years earlier signed by Michale Graves and showed off the bright green Misfits logo tattoo positioned across broad shoulders.

As the 90’s drew to a close I couldn’t help but wonder how much craziness I had missed out on being afraid of a single mosh pit back when I was 13. The truth is that “My Misfits Year” and our trip to Ozzfest ’99 (to be revealed at a later date) were more than enough rebellion for the this guy, but these somewhat censored concert stories certainly made me feel like youth wasn’t wasted on me.

So what were some of your favorite concert stories from the 90’s? What bands did you get to see?

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