Friday, October 07, 2005

The worst concert experience: A memory

That Grim Reaper review is coming soon, but the rain today made me think of another rainy day back in August of 1992. I have not been to that many concerts, but they have mainly been good experiences. Actually all but one have been overall good and that one is what I wanted to write about today. It was August of 1992 and I was going to start college in a few weeks. I was 22 and I had bounced around trying to figure out what to do before deciding to go to college. The four years of full time work had allowed me to save enough money to pay for college on my own. I had gone to zero concerts in 1991, but I had managed to go to several shows all in the summer of 1992. One of the best shows I saw was Wrathchild America at Hammerjacks in maybe June or July. They were really tight and just tore through songs from their two albums plus some new material. Well, in August I heard that Wrathchild was going to be playing at a speedway in south central Pennsylvania about half an hour from where I live. Along with Wrathchild were Harpo who were a veteran hard rock band from central Pa. and Cry were a young band from York, Pa. whose demo had gotten a positive write-up in Rip magazine earlier that Summer. Also on the bill were Trouble Walkin, Spellbound and some other local band I had never heard of. A friend of mine lived about ten minutes from the speedway and asked if I wanted to go so I was certainly up for seeing Wrathchild again.
The day came and it was cloudy, but I'm hopeful the sun will come out. I went with my friend, his wife, his younger brother and two of his friends. Now I have to tell you that I live kind of out in nowhere and this speedway was further out in nowhere. As soon as we pull up there are two security guards who have us get out of the car while they search it to make sure we aren't trying to smuggle in beer. Why is it that the least important events tend to have the most serious security people? Anyway that was overwith and we went in. The stage was actually a fair size and there was an open area in front of it for people to be and metal stands behind that. We sat on the stands and waited as the temperature was dropping and the skies were getting dark. Soon enough the rain started and people tried to find shelter. It rained for most of an hour and then stopped. During the rain, I had overheard someone say that Harpo and Cry weren't going to be playing yet no formal announcement of this had been made. Once the rain cleared, equipment was set up and a band called Spellbound came on. I think they were from Lancaster, but I am not sure. Now this was a small nothing place in south central Pa. in 1992, but Spellbound looked like they thought it was 1985 and they were and LA band. They had big hair, lots of scarves and several of them were wearing make-up. Unfortunately they didn't sound like Ratt or Motley Crue, they just sounded like a poor cover band with even worse originals. Actually the music was okay, but the singer was bad and I mean sounding like a cat being strangled kind of bad. I think their rock star posing is what got to me and there were plenty of teenage girls who thought they were good. They did a cover of Def Leppard's Let it go which I had to admire them for picking a more obscure Lep song, but they butchered it. They even thought enough of themselves to toss out guitar picks and t-shirts. Once they finished, I truly hoped the next band would be better. After more rain and an even longer wait, guys came out and set up different equipment. During this time, I overheard someone point to an RV nearby and say they thought Wrathchild were in there. The next band came on and it was a three piece cover band called Trouble Walkin'. They were local and unlike Spellbound, there were no costumes, posing or make-up. Just a decent band who did some cool covers of Metallica's Seek and destroy and Van Halen's Ice Cream Man plus some other covers and a few originals. They were nothing spectacular, but they were solid. After their set, I couldn't help notice that the RV that was nearby was now gone. I also wondered why the t-shirt stand had shirts for Spellbound and shirts for the event, but no Wrathchild shirts. I had just seen Wrathchild weeks earlier and they had lots of merchandise for sale. The rain really set in at this time and the area in front of the stage became a big mud pit. At this time the murmuring began that Wrathchild had pulled out because the promoter didn't have their money. However some more equipment was being set up, but there was no Wrathchild banner and there was some weird pillar being put up to the side of the stage. Finally a guy came on the stage and he was obviously straining to try and smile. He went up to the microphone and said he had good news and bad news. He started with the bad news which I was afraid of and that was "Wratchchild America will not be performing tonight". The name of the promoter was Charlie Starr (I think) and as soon as this announcement was made, one guy near me shouted at the top of his lungs "Well, Charlie Starr can kiss my ass". Even though he was drunk, I agreed with the sentiments and almost everyone else did to and they let a loud round of boos. Once it quieted down, the guy said and the good news is "Scary Mary from Littlestown will be playing instead". This lead to another round of boos even though I doubt anyone knew who this band was. Littlestown lives up to about half of it's name as it is little, but I am not sure it qualifies as a town. Anyway after the boos died down, the guy said Wrathchild America would be playing there in two weeks with four other bands and anyone who had paid for this event would receive a pass to go to that event for free. Only problem was I was leaving for college two days before that event so I would be rooked. About twenty people left after these announcements. We decided to stick it out and see Scary Mary. They came on and the singer was shirtless and well, if you are chubby and white as paste then you should put your shirt back on, but he was good. They came on and played Wrathchild by Iron Maiden in honor of Wratchchild America and it was tight. They played covers by Judas Preist, Accept, Metallica plus Soundgarden, Nirvana and Alice in Chains. They were solid and their originals sounded a lot like early Metal Church. We watched about an hour and then left because it was getting late and the rain was getting worse.
I went home and took a hot bath because I was cold after sitting in the rain all day. It wasn't a good concert experience and it just made me feel that I lived in a small area where I shouldn't have expected a real concert to take place. At the end of the day I was left knowing music as I knew it had changed and it was a bit sad to me as a big metal fan. The metal I knew had been getting pushed out for almost year by this time even though I didn't want to admit it. Seeing the spectacle of Spellbound trying to pretend it was still the mid-80's sunk in as did the fact that Scary Mary were obviously a metal band who now felt the need to play grunge covers in order to stay current. Another sign was that most of the people at the concert were over 20 and most of the over 20's were wearing metal shirts like Ozzy, Maiden and Priest while the under 20's were wearing shirts of Soundgarden, Nirvana and Pearl Jam. It was a bit of a last hurrah for me, I just wish Wrathchild had played so it would have been a good memorable experience. Still, I am glad for my memories both good and bad.


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