Week 32: 14 August 2016
After two straight weeks using these entires to talk about the election, I need a break. So let’s look at one of my other loves: music. Earlier this week, Guns N’ Roses played here in San Francisco at AT&T Park. I didn’t go, but I could hear it through my open windows. It reminded me of the first time I ever saw them.
The first concert I ever saw was Tears for Fears at the U.S.F. Sun Dome in Tampa. My neighbor, Julie, had an extra ticket, so I went with her. As a burgeoning metal head, this wouldn’t be my first choice for my first show, but there’s a story about a missed Kiss concert a few months earlier that I can tell you later. Anyway, the spectacle of a big band in a huge venue made a big impression on me, and I went to see any tour I could. I started keeping track — both through t-shirts and ticket stubs and a single sheet of notebook paper — of all the bands I had seen. Between 1985 and 1990, I saw more than 30 concerts.
10 August 1990
1) Tears for Fears (Sun Dome) –
21 September 1985
2) Van Halen, BTO
(Lakeland Civic Center) –
11 August 1986
3) Stryper, Hurricane
(Lakeland Civic Center) –
20 February 1987
4) Ratt, Poison (Sun Dome) –
07 March 1987
5) Stryper, Loudness, TnT
(Bayfront Center) –
12 August 1987
6) Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses
(Lakeland Civic Center) –
24 November 1987
7) U2, Los Lobos, Buckwheat Zydeco (Tampa Stadium) – 05 December 1987
8) Def Leppard, Tesla (Sun Dome) – 31 December 1987
9) Kiss, Ted Nugent (Bayfront Center) – 13 February 1988
10) Whitesnake, Great White (Sun Dome) – 20 February 1988
11) David Lee Roth, Faster Pussycat (Lakeland Civic Center) – 04 March 1988
12) Monsters of Rock: Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica, Kingdom Come (Tampa Stadium) – 05 June 1988
13) AC/DC, White Lion (Sun Dome) – 11 August 1988
14) Jimmy Page, Secret Service (Sun Dome) – 31 August 1988
15) Night of Joy: Stryper (Walt Disney World) – 10 September 1988
16) Def Leppard, Queensrÿche (Lakeland Civic Center) – 12 September 1988
17) Judas Priest, Cinderella (Lakeland Civic Center) – 17 September 1988
18) Sam Kinison (Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center) – 23 September 1988
19) Robert Plant, Cheap Trick (Expo Hall) – 30 September 1988
20) Poison, Lita Ford, Britny Fox (Sun Dome) – 11 October 1988
21) Poison, Tesla (Sun Dome) – 16 March 1989
22) Living Colour, Nuclear Valdez (Janus Landing) – 26 April 1989
23) Tesla, Great White, Badlands (Expo Hall) – 01 August 1989
24) Rolling Stones, Living Colour (Tampa Stadium) – 18 November 1989
25) Voivod, Soundgarden, The Big F (Cuban Club) – 03 February 1990
26) Joe Satriani, Stevie Salas (Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center) – 09 May 1990
27) Aerosmith, Joan Jett (Tallahassee Civic Center) – 10 May 1990
28) Scatterbrain, Grassy Knoll Gunmen (USF Events Center) – 15 June 1990
29) Company of Wolves, Saber (Rocket Club) – 01 July 1990
30) Circus of Power, Every Mother’s Nightmare (Rocket Club) – 30 July 1990
31) Scatterbrain, Spread Eagle (Masquerade) — 03 August 1990
32) Kiss, Slaughter, Danger Danger (Sun Dome) — 04 August 1990
Quite a run. I had a few partners in crime who joined me for most of these, but the one I want to focus on is that sixth show on the list; that was the first time I ever heard Guns N’ Roses.
My friend Duke and I had gone to see The Crüe, no doubt about it. We didn’t really care about an opening band we had never heard of. But thanks to the lead foot Duke used on the gas pedal of what we called the “Draggin’ Wagon,” we got to the Lakeland Civic Center in plenty of time to catch the opening act.
We settled into a pair of seats on the north side of the arena, the stage just passed our left shoulders, as the lights went down. Since I had no point of reference at the time, I can’t tell you what they opened with — I assume it was “Welcome to the Jungle.” We were basically enduring them until the real circus started. But then, something caught our attention.
“Hey, did he just sing, ‘fuck off’?”
I had never heard a song with the f-bomb in it before, and we both sat up in our seats waiting for it to come around again. It never did. They only say it once in “It’s So Easy,” which I know now is what we heard. But all of a sudden, they had our attention.
A couple of songs later, every light on stage went out, save for a single spot following one of the guitar players out to the center of the stage. Top hot cocked just so, he started playing a riff the likes of which I’d never heard. This was the moment I heard “Sweet Child o’ Mine.” I became obsessed with GnR at that very moment.
I bought the Appetite for Destruction cassette the next day. I listened to it at least once every day after that. I taped hours of “Headbangers Ball” just to get a glimpse of them. I read every article I could find about them. And in one of those articles, a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone, Axl Rose mentioned a new band he was enjoying.
Now I had a new obsession.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Soundgarden. Twenty might be conservative. The first time was in the middle of a three-band bill with Voivod and The Big F (that’s show number 25 on that list above). I saw them at Lollapalooza a couple of times, both the 1992 and ’96 versions. I traveled to Jones Beach to see them with Neil Young. I saw them at clubs, including one in Houston. I even got to see them open for Guns N’ Roses, bringing the obsession full circle.
When they announced their breakup in 1997, I was not pleased. I think I still have a printout of the AP press release in a box around here somewhere. But thirteen years later, I was ecstatic. And I’ve seen them three more times since they’ve gotten back together — the best of those was an amazing show at The Gorge with Meat Puppets, Mastodon, and Queens of the Stone Age.
So thank you, Axl, for introducing me to my favorite band. I’m sorry it’s not yours, but waiting for more than a decade for Chinese Democracy was too little, too late.
Oh, one last thing: If you’re still going out to see live music, and you should make sure to catch the opening band — they may change your life.