I was lucky in 1994. My cousin was married to a Beastie Boy and you know what that meant? Backstage passes, boyee! Not just for me, but for my parents, my grandparents (they set up a couch for Grandma at one of their Florida gigs), my friends, you name it.
But the best part wasn't just seeing them for free or experiencing backstage shenanigans, it was the hanging out BEFORE shows that rocked. If the gig was in NYC, we'd most likely meet up for dinner before a show at Adam's sister Rachel's Manhattan apartment and I'd just sit back and people watch. I think his old bedroom still had some graffiti on the wall that he did when he was much younger. And since my cousin lived in LA, it was always a treat to see her in NYC and hang out (still is!).
The funny thing about 1994 is that I didn't even live in NYC. I lived in Lawrence, Kansas and got to see the Beastie Boys play Lollapalooza that summer at the Sandstone Amphitheatre in nearby Bonner Springs, Kansas. My good friend Colin flew in from NYC to experience this whole backstage thing, and he wound up playing basketball with the Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest and Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins).
We saw most of the line-up from behind each band, literally standing on stage while they performed. There's nothing quite like seeing the audience from the perspective of very popular bands; thousands of kids going absolutely APE SHIT on a beautiful summer day while their favorite band rocked out. Such an awesome spectacle to behold!
A month later I would come back to NYC to visit, and of course, milk the Beasties/Lollapalooza connection even further. I had no shame!
As the cooler weather approached, I found myself returning to NYC at the end of '94. Blackout Books was just opening up on Avenue B, Moon Ska Records was opening their first storefront around the corner on East 2nd Street, and my friend Christina hooked me up with a job at the New Prospect Cafe in Park Slope, which led to a $400/month apartment on Sterling Place from their liquor guy and ANOTHER job as babysitter for their accountant. This would equal four jobs (three paid and one volunteer), so plenty of cash on hand to go see...Skarmageddon!
This was also around the time that I awkwardly shaved my head with a #2 comb (that's REALLY short), leaving a ring of bangs, payes and a mild case of mullet on my nape. No, this wasn't a Jewish Upsherin ceremony, but rather my own initiation into a slightly lesser known club: skinheads! I know, images of nazis and Geraldo Rivera are filling your mind, but if you know anything about anything you'd know that real skins aren't racist and listen to reggae. Confused? Of course not. Eventually I would get the haircut right, but somehow still be mistaken for a young Jewish man while drunkenly roaming the streets at night in Williamsburg (back when Hasidim still lived there).
I'd keep this look up for the next five years, which may or may not be obvious with my ticket spread, but it sure was fun. Most of the time.
I only have one gig from '95, which of course, is another Beastie Boys show:
At least the backstage pass has a Vespa on it...
And would you believe I have nothing to show you for 1996? Strange. Probably spent all my gig money on pitchers of Dark at Sophie's...
1997 starts off not with a concert, but with a show much more entertaining (and not all in a good way): a D.C. United vs. Metrostars away game:
Okay, so the day starts off at a bar where we all get beer buzzed before heading for D.C. Most of us have shaved heads, Metrostars jerseys, soccer scarves for one country or another, and are feeling boisterous and proud about attending an away game in support of our home team. We get to the stadium in D.C. and enjoy the first half of the match without incident.
That was the first half.
By the time the second half rolls around, most people worth their weight in Lotto sneakers are wasted, us included. The first sign of trouble was the ice. Someone seated above us was throwing ice at us from their soda cup. This quickly turned into the rest of contents of their soda cup, packets of mustard and ketchup, and then full cans (of beer? soda? I don't remember). We had to get the fuck out of there.
So, what does stadium security do for us? Escort us out of the stadium, but to the parking lot EXACTLY OPPOSITE from where our bus was parked. You can imagine what the walk back toward the bus was like: drawing the ire of every drunk D.C. United fan (some of whom were also bald and boisterous, just like us! Yay!) and a few pushes and shoves along the way. We get to the bus where we're confronted by a sizable posse headed by some real local winners (friends who were there will remember the clowns I'm referring to) who threatened all kinds of nonsense if we didn't get out of there quickly. Well, we WANTED to get out of there, so later skaters! But before we left, the bus driver cleverly emptied the very full contents of the on-bus toilet out onto the parking lot...
The drive home consisted of our own internal squabble where I ended up punching someone in the face. For what? I don't remember. This would be a common theme for me during the late '90s... Oi!
But being a skinhead didn't mean we were traditional dorks about it. We loved other kinds of music besides the obligatory oi, punk, ska, reggae, etc. Some examples include the Chemical Brothers and Rage Against the Machine:
The Rage show was awful. Wu-Tang Clan opened and they just sat on stage with 40s in their hand while poorly lip syncing the lyrics to all your favorites from "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" which were no longer your favorites because they fucking destroyed it.
The sound was bad, too, which you wouldn't expect from an arena gig (or would you?). At least we knew Rage would be amazing, because, well, they're Rage. But what happens, like, two songs into their set? Singer Zack de la Rocha slips and twists his ankle while jumping around on stage. He lays there in agony while the band keeps playing for a second until everyone realizes he's totally fucked. The band stops playing and escorts him off the stage, the crowd starts booing thinking "that's all folks!" but Zack limped back on a few minutes later and they completed their set, sans Zack's usual maniacal hopping around.
Now, gigs at Wetlands didn't typically have ticket stubs (at least I don't remember it that way), but this Slackers gig had a nice line-up:
The singer for the Adjusters dropped down on one knee and proposed to me at this gig. I said no.
We end 1997 with an Atari Teenage Riot gig:
We took them out drinking afterward and all I remember is Carl Crack talking intelligibly about nazi skinheads in Berlin and me swooning hard over Alec Empire. Alec would stay in touch for another year or so by sending me mix tapes of his private party sets in Germany, and unfortunately, Carl Crack would die of a drug overdose four years later.
And since I only have one item for 1998, we'll end with a gig for which I have a VIP pass but no memory of: