When I was thirteen, I loved fake punk music like Blink-182 and NOFX, and I still kind of do. But every year when the Vans Warped Tour passed through Cleveland, it was always during the week when I had to lifeguard so I was unable to attend. Spoiled rich kids from the suburbs don’t teach themselves how to doggy paddle, you know. I wrote a letter to Motion City Soundtrack, who was my favorite band on the tour. “Why is the show on a Thursday? Who can go to a concert in the middle of the day on a Thursday? Have it on Sunday or something,” I wrote. “Quit your job,” they replied. After I graduated college, I was finally unemployed and able to go. But much had changed, including my feelings toward Motion City Soundtrack and the availability of any of my friends who could accompany me. I didn’t care, I was determined to finally go. So I brought my mom and dad and my namesake Larry, who loves rockabilly and hates Motion City Soundtrack, but for the most part, we all had a pretty good time. Except for when Joan Jett was wearing really tight black leather pants. My mom still bitches about how disgusting that was.
But actually, my mom had the best time of us all. That day changed her life—her love for sk8er boi music was born. Now she loves Against Me!, Green Day, Rise Against, Paramore, etc., and even took me to a Yellow Card concert once, where I stood in the back with moms watching their teenage sons and daughters jump up and down in the cute little mosh pit that had formed in the front. My mom stood with those teeny boppers, coming back with bruised wrists from drumming her hands on the side of the stage. I obviously tried to ground her, but it just doesn’t work that way.
I don’t go to the Vans Warped Tour anymore, but my mom does, every year. Last year she only had one gripe: she was tired of the chaos and having to walk from stage to stage. She wanted a seat in the main pavilion, and wanted her favorite bands to come to her. That’s when I realized that my mom is going to be 95-years-old and still going to Vans Warped Tour. She’ll traverse the grassy concert space on her motorized scooter, which will ensure she will have a seat for all the shows.
The reason she does it is quite admirable—my mom is really good at being happy. The Vans Warped Tour makes her happy, so she goes. She doesn’t care that nobody wants to go with her or that she’s surrounded by pimply teenagers or that when she arrives, the organizers try to usher her to the “Parents’ Tent”. She doesn’t go because she wants to seem cool, and she isn’t afraid of seeming uncool by going. She goes because she loves the music. I love that about my mom.
Being the oldest person at Vans has its perks, though. Mom points out that the beer lines are always really short because nobody is old enough to drink, and that the security guards always let her leave for lunch in the middle of the day, a luxury not afforded to regular concert goers. I like to think of my mom as the Mayor of Vans Warped Tour. I am waiting for them to give her a sash and build her a throne, hopefully at the main stage, where she can watch Paramore and Rise Against until they are too old to play their guitars.
by Mike Luce
It was 2001 and things were crazy for my band, Drowning Pool. Our first record had just been put out and we were blowing up, going all over the place. It was kind of like a whirlwind. When you’re on tour, you’re excited because you’re selling records and you’re on fire. But you’d never be prepared for what happened to us during this one week on Ozzfest.
After the Denver performance, we were walking toward the bus along a chain link fence separating us from the general public. We were stopping along the way to talk to everyone, excited to meet people. Suddenly this woman in her mid to late 30′s grabbed my attention and started saying how we were her husband’s favorite band.
“Where’s your husband?” I asked.
Unfortunately, she replied, he had passed away a week prior. Then she grabbed this huge Ziploc container filled with what looked like to me to be an off-white powdery substance, which made me immediately think I was in trouble. But then she said, “I’d like you to meet him, meet Colorado.” And she pushed her hand through the fence—she had to kind of wiggle her fingers through—and grabbed me by the wrists.
I was completely in shock, standing there, unable to get my hand back. She asked her friends to get something to put some of the ashes in, and next thing I know I’m standing there holding a little plastic wrapper full of dude. She took a little bit of dude and just gave it to me.
“You’re his favorite band,” she said. “I’d like you to take Colorado. I’d like you to take him with you and spread his ashes on the stage.”
“Thank you, I guess,” I said in disbelief. What was she thinking? I realized she was distraught, but what if the Ziploc broke? She was at Ozzfest—anything could have happened. What if she set her bag down and walked away, or someone picked it up? What if she tripped and fell, poor Coloardo’s bag punctured and spilling everywhere? So many questions.
“He wanted to be here, he’d love for you to spread his ashes.”
“Okay,” I said. Although I was thinking, I don’t know that the rest of the people on stage would want that, too. But far be it from me to clutch those ashes and lie to this woman.
I tucked Colorado in my pocket and walked off, afraid the security guard would take him from me. I went to the bus and told the guys what happened. “What do we do?” They said.
“Well, I can’t just pitch this guy,” I said. That was our last show for two days. So with as much respect as we could muster, we put him in a candle holder and rode from Colorado to Washington DC with him in that cinched up baggie, knotted it up so he wouldn’t spill on the bus. Every morning we’d say “Good morning, Colorado,” and talk to him, but we didn’t know what we were going to do. “Guys, I think we need to do this.” I said. “How are we going to do this?”
When we got to the next Ozzfest town, we were playing second stage at the time and my drums were set up. I took Colorado from his temporary resting place in the candle holder and brought him up with me on the stage. I checked my drums to make sure they were tuned and positioned. I took a seat at the kit, holding Colorado in my hand, wrestling with the fact that physically there was no way I could play drums during the show and release Colorado into the wind at the same time. Obviously, I’m occupied. Also, there were social ramifications involved—maybe people don’t want to get hit. This is all territory I’ve never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be a part of. So I did the only thing I could while we were sound checking. I just waited for a nice gust of wind and said goodbye to Colorado.
I have seen some out-there things at concerts—bloody, broken noses, people who want me to sign their diapered babies and Bible pages. But that was the craziest thing that ever happened. I hope I paid respect to his wife or girlfriend, or whoever that was. It was her bidding, after all.
by Dave K.
If you grew up in central North Carolina and loved punk rock, you were an idiot, which is to say that I was an idiot. I must have been, because there’s no other explanation for why my buddies and I would drive three hours from my hometown to a Hell’s Angels bar in Hickory, NC to see shows. We didn’t even know it was a Hell’s Angels bar. It’s amazing that we could get our shoes on the right feet, in retrospect.
The bar I’m talking about was, and may still be, called the Wizard’s Lounge, and was surrounded by a chain link fence with barbed wire strung around the top. The floor was that same dingy checkerboard you see in lots of dive bars and lower-tier rock clubs, and the patrons were a weird mix of bikers, skinheads from nearby Statesville, and a few kids of indeterminate age and odor who studded their leather jackets and talked your ear off about squatters’ rights. Oh, and out-of-place suburbanites like myself and whoever came with me.
The one exception to these crowd demographics was when ANTiSEEN played in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. ANTiSEEN are a proudly Southern band who are pretty much a redneck version of the Ramones, but they make a lot of questionable racial statements instead of invoking questionable Nazi imagery. They also attract an audience that’s a lot like that scene from the Beverly Hillbillies movie where the camera pans out to show all of Jed’s relatives on the plane, going to his wedding.
Anyway, ANTiSEEN’s singer, Jeff Clayton, is a huge pro wrestling fan and regularly cuts his forehead to bleed all over his face, which is known in wrestling parlance as “blading.” The night I saw them, Jeff was clinking two beer bottles together in time with the drums, then suddenly smashed one and stabbed it into his forehead ten or so times. Later, when a rowdy fan wouldn’t get off the stage during their encore, Jeff just hog-collared the guy and slashed him with the bottle.
If I sound cool or matter-of-fact in the retelling of this incident, it’s because I have enough distance from it to see the absurdity therein as pretty straightforward. At the time, I was pretty convinced that someone, possibly me or my ride home, was going to get the mortal dogshit beaten out of him in retaliation for that. Maybe not the most logical response, but I’d seen Roadhouse. I knew what was up.
But no, the guy shook Jeff’s hand (as Jeff was getting stitched up by his guitar player) and said something like “That was awesome, man!” And Jeff turned out to be a pretty chill guy when he wasn’t hurting himself or others.
So yeah, idiots. No other explanation.
Jackelopes, Fuzzy Math, and Shane MacGowan
by Aaron Pacitti
I am big fan of the Pogues. I play banjo for the Boys from the Country Hell, a Cleveland-based Pogues cover band that has been together for over ten years. We have toured with original Pogue tin whistle player Spider Stacy in 2001, played the New York, New York in Las Vegas, and a ball in Bangkok in 2004. But my surging interest in the Pogues occurred after they split up in the late 1990s. So when they reunited in the early 2000s, I quickly made plans to see them up close, live, and in person. Little did I know just how close I would get.
My good friend Chris, another member of the Boys from the County Hell, and I decided to go to London in June 2002 to see the Pogues play at the London Fleadh and then catch a plane to Dublin where would see them the following night. We missed the first few reunion shows they performed in the winter of 2001, so this trip was heavily anticipated. And, to top it off, our friend Ryan, who is also a member of the Boys from the County Hell, would also be there, but not as a spectator; rather he was the mandolin and whistle player for the Dropkick Murphys.
The day could not have started better. Chris and I went to meet Spider and his girlfriend at their new house to say hello and thank him for the guest passes to the Fleadh. We chatted with him as he ate ice cream and showed us an original “Never Mind the Bollocks” poster signed by all four Sex Pistols he just had framed.
We ambled over to concert grounds in Finsbury Park and flashed our guest passes to get to the backstage area and poke our noses around. However, the passes really didn’t get us anywhere interesting, unless you consider a shitty concession stand with private port-a-potties interesting. We were extremely disappointed because we figured Spider would get us access passes, which could be used to actually meet the rest of the Pogues and, maybe if we were lucky, their cantankerous, anti- punctual, and unpredictable lead singer, Shane MacGowan. But it was clear that backstage area was off limits to all but the real VIPs, of which we were not a part.
We had to figure out how to find our friend Ryan, who would be arriving soon, amidst 50,000 people. But since neither of us had cell phones, this was going to be tricky. So we decided to conspicuously sit by a driveway off of the main gate to intercept the caravan of taxis carrying band members. I put the probability of success of this plan somewhere between impossible and unlikely. Then, remarkably, we see the Dropkick Murhphys being carted in by taxi, so we ran and intercepted Ryan and spent the better part of the afternoon hanging out and catching up with him.
The Dropkicks played a great set, which due to our friendship with Ryan, we got to watch from the side of the stage. But we, along with the Dropkicks, had our sights set on the main stage for the rest of the night. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros would be playing on the main stage, followed by the Pogues. Fortunately the Dropkicks did have all access passes, so we congregated and walked to the main stage with the intent of watching the show from stage right. But Chris and I, and some other members of the posse, did not have passes. The plan was that the Dropkicks tour manager would flash his badge and say “These guys are with me,” and we’d all walk up two flights of stairs to the stage and watch two of our favorite musicians. I put the probability of this plan slightly below the probability of finding Ryan in crowd of over 50,000 people. And, sure enough, we were given access to the stage—the fucking stage!
Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros put on an unsurprisingly great set, which was peppered with Clash songs. When they launched into London’s Burning, I glanced at the crowd to see all 50,000 fans starting jumping up and down in remarkable synchronicity. It was sight to behold.
Then the Pogues took the stage and launched into If I Should Fall from Grace with God, then into Streams of Whisky. It was exactly how I imagined it—only better because we were watching everything from the stage, not 30 feet away from the Pogues. They tore through the rest of their set with unimagined energy and precision—something that can’t be said for earlier shows with Shane in the early 1990s.
After they finished, we saw Shane wander to our side of the stage. A few of us walked up to him to pay him the predictable complements and say what a treat it was to see him in such good form. He even posed for a picture with a few of us. We also ran into most of the Pogues backstage. I, in fact, took a leak with Terry Woods, the cittern player, on one side of me and Andrew Ranken, the drummer, on the other.
So if the night had ended there, I figured that this was as it good as it could get. However, I would have been wrong by a very large margin. Ryan told us that most of the bands, including the Pogues, were staying at the Hilton. It still being early, we went back to the hotel bar to have a few drinks and maybe get to mingle with the Pogues. But the bar was pretty dead and no one was around, save for a few guys from the Dropkicks. Chris and I had an early flight to Dublin and Ryan was heading out early, so we figured we’d have one more beer and call it a night.
We were about two sips away from saying goodnight and heading back to our hotel when I looked toward the main entrance and see Shane MacGowan stumbling toward the door, then fumbling while trying to open the door, stumbling further, getting stuck in the revolving door, then finally stumbling into the lobby with a female friend and her young daughter. Holy fucking shit—there he was! And his group and our group were, literally, the only people in the bar at this point.
Seeing that Shane looked homeless, the hotel clerk approached him upon his grand entrance and told him the bar was closing, asking him if he was with a party and what his room number was. But Shane couldn’t—or wouldn’t—explain. So Ryan intervened and spoke on Shane’s behalf and was successful in straightening things out. We invited Shane to sit down with us and offered to buy him a few drinks. We introduced ourselves and found out that his friend was Shanne Bradley, the bass player for Shane’s pre Pogues punk band, the Nips. At this point we are all a little incredulous at what was occurring. He was sitting down at our table, engaging us in conversation, and chatting us up. But then he got up and started to wander from table to table, pouring half drank mixed drinks of various types into his own glass so as to not let good alcohol go to waste. (I have to note that this was a sad sight. The man has serious substance abuse problems.)
We got the impression that he was good sport, so started to have some fun with him. I had him convinced for 30 minutes that there are jackelopes—rabbits with antlers roaming the southwestern U.S. Ryan told him that the British spelling of color was idiotic because it uses an unnecessary letter, the “u”. Then Shane started to partake in the japes. He was mocking Chris’ last name, which is Yohn (rhymes with “LeBron”), by repeatedly saying “Yaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnn”. Then he told Ryan that if he didn’t like the hotel’s British shampoo then he should “bring [his] own Yankee shit”. He smoked half of my pack of cigarettes and talked about oatmeal, gruel, and porridge. He also explained to us why two plus two is actually six. For example, he said, if zero plus zero is zero, one plus one is two, and two plus two is four, then the sum of the latter two equations—six is the answer to the original question. There might have been some logic—there might not have been. He would doze off, then wake up and start quoting James Joyce. If I wasn’t there, I would not have believed any of these conversations actually happened—it was all very surreal.
As the night gradually became morning, Chris and I had to depart for a train to the airport, where we would fly to Dublin to see the Pogues later that night. At the Fleadh, I managed to tear down a gigantic three feet by five feet poster promoting the new Pogues best of compilation. 50 percent of the poster is a giant image of Shane’s head and his guitar. I asked him to sign it. He was treating it pretty roughly, almost signing it upside down, until Shanne intervened and helped him out. He signed it in big black all caps “Go home Yanks and don’t stop in Ireland. Shane”. When I told him that we were indeed going to be stopping in Ireland later that morning and would be seeing him at the show the following night he let out this childish “Noooooooooooooo,” after which we all laughed.
Working on no sleep, we rushed to our London hotel to pack for the trip to Dublin. We arrived mid-morning without any lodging arranged. However, we heard from Spider earlier that the Pogues would be staying at the Bono-owned Morrison Hotel in the heart of Dublin. So we figured we should stay there, too. It was not cheap, but, Christ, was it swanky. We did not deserve this, especially the way we looked. After catching a quick nap and wandering the city, we headied to the show.
This time we were sweatily sandwiched in the front row, not on stage, which makes for a more organic and participatory way to experience live music. The show was just as good as the one in London. We got to go to the VIP bar in the basement after the show, then decided to wander back to the hotel. We almost got our asses kicked by a wandering gang of what appeared to be drunk soccer hooligans looking for a fight. This would have been a prison-style beating. To this day I do not know how we escaped it. I think we dodged into a all-night diner, but why they didn’t follow or wait for us I do not know. But they didn’t.
Security at the Morrison was tight so we had to display our hotel room key to be allowed into the bar, since that is where the real after party was. We got to meet the remaining members whom we did not have chance to meet in London. Finally, we walked up to Shane and asked if he remembered us, which he did. Chris had a vinyl copy of “If I Should Fall from Grace with God” that he asked Shane to sign. After a 20 minute argument about which was side was the front and which side the back, he ended up signing the back with thought bubbles coming out of the head of each band member. I asked him for one final favor: to sign the back of the “Rainy Night in Soho” seven inch single for our friend and fellow band mate Nick’s wedding. Given how Shane signed my poster, I figured he would do something equally snarky, but perhaps more tasteful given it was going to be a wedding gift. Wrong. He signed it—warning: this is offensive—nonsensically: “To Nick and Lisa / Yank slapper prickteaser / And her darling bell / Wid one brain cell! / Whoo yah! / Niggers turn the screw! / Y’All Party! / Shane”. How sweet, I guess.
I had to mail my signed poster home because it was too big to carry on the plane and there way no way in hell I was going to check it. The poster hangs in my living room and every time I see it—or a picture of a jackelope—I think back to one of the most memorable nights of my life: drinking with Chris, Ryan, Shanne, and Shane.