“So where is it again?” he said into his cell phone. My uncle sighed, because putting up with this shit was not part of the plan. What was, was getting to an obscure neighborhood in a part of the city that neither of us had ever been to, to find a soccer stadium. So here we were in his car cruising around a couple of blocks while he was on his cell phone and I just sat quietly, both terrified and excited about the adventure as it unraveled around me.
Why the hell were we looking for a soccer stadium? Mostly because of what was going on in it, and it wasn’t soccer. It was the mighty, the awesome, the eventually less-than-great-but-always-classic METALLICA!
That’s right, my first concert. ever, at the tender age of barely 16, was Metallica. With Monster Magnet, who I had a vague awareness of besides liking their name. But who cares, ‘cause Metallica, man! I know, way to make everyone who’se like infinitely more metal than me both cream their pants and want to vomit in my face out of hate. Unfortunately, if we couldn’t find this fucking place, the ticket my mom picked up for me at the record store during a weekday when I was at school and was currently burning a hole in my pocket would explode with a mixture of disappointment, disgust, but also a small measure of relief.
In case you haven’t heard the story before, I was a nerd. I still am, but back then, whoa boy. A skinny kid in baggy clothes who fell into punk rock because well, it’s what kids with no athletic inclination and a desire to shake off the weekly mockings of “FUCKING FAGGOT NERD” that reading books in public brought me. But that didn’t automatically make me some sort of leather clad badass whose current disdain for culture, authority, and white people in general you see today. Rather, it was just a safety net, something for me to throw out there to help identify myself, something I desperately wanted to do as a kid, & something I needed as a kid probably more than some people realized.
So the prospect of my first concert, in a stadium surrounded by tons of metalheads that, I’d been assured by all my friends, would kick my ass into oblivion if they got a scent of “punk” around me, terrified me more than a little. I’ll admit it, when we finally got there and stood in the back of the floor with only the vaguest ability to discern what was going on onstage, I was relieved. My hip and cool uncle, who’d offered to take me, and his friend, whom we’d met there, were more than content as well, and even though I wasn’t a huge Metallica fan, I enjoyed myself. Also, since every time I’d gone to a party where we’d blasted punk and metal from somone’s parents’ stereo and tried to “mosh” in their living room, I got hurt, I was grateful for not being up at the front.
For the record, Jason Newstead’s bass solo was awesome. All 10 minutes of it.
Hold on, this is where it gets good. After their cover of “Die Die My Darling” topped off the evening’s encore set (I think, I know it got played at one point that night), people made to leave this busted-ass place and get on with their lives. Maybe grab some food from the stands outside, buy a bootleg t-shirt from one of the dozens of stands outside as well. Regardless, as I tried to get out with my uncle and I waved to a familiar face from school who waved back (more on that later), more and more people were figuring something out;
There was, for all maybe 3000-odd people there, only one way out, a door at the rear end of the stadium. Now, in theory, as this was where I was, it shouldn’t have been too bad. However, as the crowd started to spill out, half-drunk on metal, half-drunk on shitty beers they oh-so-cleverly smuggled because they were too cheap to buy beer inside, and another half-high on weed, which would’ve stunk up the air a lot more if not for the various other bodily stenches in the haze around me, were not moving once they got outside. Rather, they milled about in the doorway, trying to buy shirts, get food from stands, and eventually, scream as guys and girls started to get trapped in the press and pass out.
At one point, my uncle grabbed me by the back of my t-shirt and dragged me over to one of the t-shirt stands, where he and I proceeded to cling to the cart as the owner’s assistant lay on top of the mass of Faketallica shirts so that no one tried to rob them. Next to us at a food stand, some kid bounced against it and almost spilled hot oil all over himself, but he was so fucking drunk I don’t think he would have noticed if I’d doused him in gasoline and shit in his mouth. Screams of “out of the way, my friend fainted!” and “hurry the fuck up!” while the surge of people still inside pushing occasionally came up towards us. And with the relatively high walls of the parking lot around us, there was literally nowhere to go until people started leaving the parking lot. It’s hilarious to tell now, but I was so fucking scared for my life I clung to the t-shirt stand like a lost baby in a tsunami to a tree.
The concert had ended around midnight. At 2:30 in the morning, we finally were able to get out of the stadium parking lot (on the other side from which we’d come in so we traipsed around for a while to get to my uncle’s car), my uncle on his cell phone screaming to someone about how he’s gonna “blow this wide open in the papers” or whatever.
All in all, despite near-trampling…ok, I almost said “best night ever”, but that’d be a lie. Mostly because the few people from school that I saw there totally denied seeing me the next day. Fucking tools.