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90's Concert Experiences Part 1

“My dad got me tickets to see Green Day, you wanna go?” A question from 1994 that still rings in my ears to this day, as I look back at the moment that sparked my interest in live music. You might think it’s because Green Day in all their “Dookie” glory rocked my socks off and I never looked back, but the truth is that I was too scared to accept the once in a lifetime offer from my buddy to see the band in their prime. Allow me to tell you the rest of this story along with a few more from my years spent sweating and screaming at rock concerts in the 90s.

“Is there going to be moshing?”, was my first response to the Green Day invitation. “Yeah, probably.” Instantly my mind imagined burly dudes in studded leather jackets and spiked mohawks beating me to a pulp while the rest of the crowd was busy headbanging. In fear for my life I declined the chance to see one of the 90’s hottest acts at their zenith and Lawrence (sounds very punk rock doesn’t it?) had to go alone. It was that regrettable, cowardly decision at age 13 which made me determined to find a concert to attend, just a “safe” one.

What could be safer than a concert at a county fair? How about a county fair concert by America’s most beloved parody singer, Weird Al Yankovic? Now this was right up my alley. I had been a Weird Al fan for most of my life and when I learned I could see him live, I jumped at the chance. My older brother drove me to the fair and we entered the dusty fairgrounds as night began to fall, taking our place in the wooden bleachers of the amphitheater.

Soon Al took the stage singing hits like “Fat”, “Smells Like Nirvana” and “Bedrock Anthem” in full costume. He was bringing his iconic music videos to life on stage and I was right there with him, singing along and life was good. That is until the middle aged woman in front of me with her own child in tow laughed at me and said, “Wow, Weird Al must be your hero, huh?” I politely laughed out a, “Yep”, but inside me there was a conflict and my brain said, “You can’t be cool rocking out to Weird Al, you need to find a dangerous band to enjoy.” And so my concert going screeched to a halt. 

Flash forward to September 1998, after my older school friends graduated, I fell in with a group of musical outsiders and somehow became the lead singer in a heavy metal garage band called Natural Fear. Suddenly I was swimming in music by Black Sabbath, Metallica, KISS and The Misfits. My resistance to loud, slightly offensive music was slowly eroded as I grew my bangs out, started wearing band shirts and realized I wasn’t just waiting for a concert, I was preparing to BE the concert. Then history repeated itself.

“Hey, we’re going to see The Misfits on at the House of Blues, you want to come?” Of course the first question out of my mouth was, “Is there going to be moshing?”, to which Galen (another dangerous name if there ever was one) replied, “Uh, yeah. It’s a punk show, that’s pretty much the whole point”. And guess what, I wussed out, AGAIN! I was so disappointed in myself, I mean, I had played Freshman Football by this point, so why was I so afraid of getting knocked around? 

In the months that followed I grew strong in my determination to man-up and get to a real rock show, so I joined my bandmates in buying tickets for the KISS Psycho Circus show at Dodger Stadium on Halloween night 1998. I couldn’t believe my parents were letting me and my 16 year old buddies drive to Los Angeles alone to join in what I imagined to be a night of debauchery, but there were on the Highway to Hell.

Arriving in the parking lot and exiting our car, I was immediately hit with the putrid smell of what I later learned was beer and cigarette smoke, as a wave of distorted guitar from the opening band Smashing Pumpkins carried over the stadium walls. As we walked towards the entrance, I caught sight of a guy in full Gene Simmons make-up and a costume which appeared to be constructed out of crushed beer cans, which was truly impressive.

Before KISS took the stage they had a literal psycho circus of performers out in the middle of the baseball field including a guy laying on a bed of spikes who had a bowling ball dropped on his abs, motorcyclists zooming around inside a giant metal ball and a dude who threw up into a glass, which another guy proceeded to drink (uh, gross). Then the real show started.

As the opening chords of Psycho Circus boomed through the speakers following the literal drop of a curtain, KISS assaulted my ears with the loudest guitar I’ve ever heard in my life, even though  our seats were in the back of the stadium. I spent most of the 2 hour show with my fingers in my ears, as did the guy in full Ace Frehley garb across the aisle from me. But the rockin’ sounds of “Love Gun”, “Dr. Love” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” (lots of LOVE at this show) were mesmerizing set against the visual display of lights, pyro and the ridiculous addition of live 3-D video on giant monitors (isn’t real-life 3 three dimensional enough?).

By the end of the show, blood had been spit, fire had been breathed and bodies had flown up high above the crowd. After the confetti had finally settled, I was totally buzzed from my first true concert experience and the 15 minute fireworks display that immediately followed the final note from the band. No longer a rock concert virgin, my buddies and I made our way through the bootleg t-shirt sellers and staggering, inebriated KISS fans to ride home in almost complete silence. I mean, what can you say after such a spectacle?

The next day I knew I had to get myself to another live show. This was only the beginning and though KISS is an unbelievable show to behold, nothing could have prepared me for multiple nights spent among punk rock fans at Misfits concerts with openers like GWAR and the Impotent Sea Snakes. So check back for part 2 to get the full story on how I overcame my fear of moshing and met some colorful characters along the way.

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Vaporman87 Posted on Jan 03, 2017 at 11:51 PM

It seems every Weird Al fan but me has actually seen him perform!

fuschnikt Posted on Jan 02, 2017 at 04:41 AM

My second concert ever was Weird Al at the fair! I have since seen him 5 more times and been to a signing where I got him to autograph a can of SPAM.

Also, later this year I will be taking my daughter to see Green Day. i know they aren't in there prime, but last time I saw them, they busted out a full 90's set in the middle of the show. Hopefully they do it again this time.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 31, 2016 at 10:54 AM

These concert experience articles were a lot of fun. I'm glad they are back up on the site again!

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