When live music returns, I’ll be there. It is far and away my favorite form of entertainment and has been since Memorial Day weekend of 1981 when I attended my first concert: Van Halen at Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo, Mich., early in the ‘Fair Warning’ tour.
I went with a friend of mine whose older brother bought both the tickets and a $250 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser to get us there. There were five of us in that car and we caravanned with a bright blue gear-headed Nova piloted by a hot stoner chick and three of her friends.
Rave (as he was known) and Daze rode up front. They were both named Dave but were inseparable and had taken the alternative handles years earlier so they’d know who was being addressed. The names also suited them.
We stuck to surface roads, as one does when rolling in $250 ride. But even these proved too much for the old wagon. The engine rattled. Steam billowed. The car ground to halt in a small-town church parking lot.
The Nova pulled over and we piled in. Three people sat in front with one of the girls on the lap of the guy against the passenger door. Three more sat in the back, with the other two girls stacked like lumber across us, backs against opposite sides of the car.
Nine people in a Nova crossing West Michigan to see the mighty Van Halen. I was in 15-year old heaven. Pre-mixed gallon jugs of Kalua and milk started being passed around. Doobies too. I was still scared of weed at the time, but the milk tasted great.
Our seats were about 20 rows up off the end of stage left. I was dumbstruck from the moment the lights dropped and the opening five chords of ‘On Fire’ burst from the PA. Nothing I’d ever experienced had prepared me for this. I’m not sure I blinked for the entire set.
We piled back into the Nova and drove home, bodies once again stacked on bodies.
My friend and I declined the older (19-23) kids’ invitation to join them for some purple microdot. My head was already overloaded with sensory input as it was. I had found live music, the single thread that would continue for the rest of my life, binding everything else together.
So many shows have already been cancelled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. My list alone includes: Killer Hearts, Fun Haunts, The Quireboys, Soulfly, Toxic Holocaust, Bongzilla, Geoff Tate, Bayou Vimana, Ween, Sepultura, Sacred Reich, Crowbar, Rival Sons, Testament, Kvelertak, Fu Manchu, Slaughter, Kix, Baroness, Against Me!, King Buzzo + Trevor Dunn, Primus, Wolfmother, and The Sword.
It’s going to take a while to get back to the Spirit of ‘81. But venues are starting to figure out how to reopen. Bookings are being made. We’re on our way.
I suspect others will get back in the swing of things before me. Most evidence to the contrary, I’ve got a wide cautious streak. But eventually some friends of mine will be playing and other friends will be going to see them and there I’ll be, reborn for the 9,000th time.
In the meantime, I’ve been better familiarizing myself with some Houston favorites and invite you to do the same.
See you out there!
Genre: Hardcore (but with some rock n’ roll)
Notable: Released new record, ‘Cult Leaders,’ Apr. 7, 2020
Standout track: ‘MK Ultra’
Genre: Rock n’ roll (heavy)
Notable: Going into the studio Summer 2020 to record debut full-length
Standout track: ‘Path To Hell’
Genre: Rock n’ roll (pop)
Notable: I don’t know why their Bandcamp page says they’re from Seattle
Standout track: ‘Lips’
Man, The Robot
Genre: Grind (hardcore)
Notable: Released Vol. 1 of a COVID-19 EP trilogy, ‘The Covid Chronicles: Vol. 1: Clotho,’ May 13, 2020
Standout track: ‘The Night the Guy Cut the Power at Our Poetry Reading’
Genre: Grind (thrash)
Notable: More genres emerge during the live set
Standout track: ‘Fuck Cancer’