one fancy-pants David Bowie show that I had now shed my dubious musical leanings.
Quite to the contrary; one week later I was off to see Ozzy. AND Danzig. (Again with the Danzig....argh).
I well remember standing in my guitar player's, kitchen telling the guys that I couldn't make it to practice the following week because I'd be at this show. I even attempted to made a joke about it, because I knew of their disapproval towards my sad-ass musical tastes - and looking back it's pretty obvious now just how insecure I was becoming about this heavy metal nonsense. But they said nothing - glancing briefly at one another and allowing this to slide.
(This knowing look of silent resignation among my older peers vaguely reminds me of the time that my little brother and I nearly had a fit in the Erol's Video on Rockville Pike in 1985 or something when my Dad unsuccessfully tried to prevent us from renting the Great American Bash. One could say that it has been a lifetime of disappointment for those loved ones who sought better culture for me).
I often wonder why my bandmates put up with me at all. I was immature as hell, I tended to be oversensitive to any kind of criticism, and I had the most god-awfully shallow understanding of music, despite everything I thought that I knew about the Stones and David Bowie and jazz and the blues. I was such a little suburban dork.
(But I was pretty f-ing good drummer if I do say so myself. And I brought beer to practice.)
So anyway, relieved from my practice duties, the following week Fran the Man and I headed out to Columbia, Maryland (the site of repeated bad-taste moments for me) to check out the “fat and bloated” tour.
For some reason I feel the need to point out that this was before Ozzfest and the Osbournes had made Ozzy totally safe for public consumption, and before anyone knew who Sharon Osbourne was (except, of course, for those of us who read liner notes and bought Hit Parader magazine.....). Ozzy was a lot less of a comical fuddy duddy and at least slightly more of a lunatic in those days. He may not have been the “Behind the Music” bird-eating, Alamo-pissing, ant-snorting, fox skin coat-wearing crazy man of the 1980’s, but he was still that motherfucker from Sabbath. Not some medicated old stroke victim.
Where was I?
I have a little trouble remembering the dates, but I *think* that this was the "Retirement Sucks" tour......Ozzy had retired from the road at the end of the tour behind "No More Tears" (THAT tour, I believe, was called the "No More Tours" tour), and something like....oh, I dunno, three months later he took his ass back on the road.
Why? Because, of course, Sharon Osbourne is pretty much the biggest fucking enabler this side of Malcolm McLaren.
Now, I'd been a little crestfallen that I'd missed the "No More Tours" go-round, so I was determined to see this one. AND he was touring with Mr. Danzig, which FTM and I were probably pretty horny about (against our - or at least MY - better judgment).
Also on the bill were Sepultura - who I'd been hearing pretty rad things about at the time - and Prong, who I believe actually had some kind of local connection to the Baltimore/D.C. area, but I have never actually known what it was. (I have a bad feeling that it was because my old friend from that era, Jenny, might have given Tommy Victor a blow job at some point in her past, or something....but I also have a bad feeling I made that up a long time ago, and it has since become fact in my head).
So, anyway, we were running late and we rolled in at the end of Sepultura's set. Never in my history of missing bands have a regretted missing a set more than I miss this one. We basically walked into the amphitheater as these guys finished what I believe was Refuse/Resist. As I remember it, one guitar player played a riff over and over and over, while all the other guys threw down their instruments and started wailing in synch on these acoustic, tribal drums. This was not some pussified, hippie-ass Meridian Hill Park drum circle; this was music to sacrifice virgins to. It was bad ass, and it was over in a minute's time. I remember thinking that the other bands were going to have to work their asses of to top that.
Little did I know that I'd just witnessed the pinnacle of the evening.
Up next was Prong, who kinda underwhelmed me. They were rocking some kind of vaguely industrial pre-aggro thing, and it just wasn't doing it for me. While Sepletura sounded savage and raw, Prong was fully measured and controlled. Tight, but lacking any kind of teeth. Fortunately it was a short set, so FTM and I wouldn't have to wait long before getting our punnanis all wet for Mr. Danzig.
What happened next, however, was unexpected: A little guy got on stage with what looked to be a battery-operated microphone and explained that the power in the building failed shortly after Prong's set, and that they were working with the county to fix it.
As you might expect, this was something of a bummer to the thousands of white trash metal heads in Columbia that afternoon. The first 20-30 minutes weren't really a problem at all, but after the crowd consumed the next three or four rounds of cheap beer, things got increasingly frightening. People were getting antsy. Memories of riots in Montreal and St Louis weren't really that far removed at that point, and as fate had it we were seated in the pavilion (i.e., down stream from the thousands of far drunker people who were sitting on the grassy knoll....who would only be too happy to stampede FTM and myself in the hopes of pillaging some guitars).
An hour or so later, they figured it out, and Danzig came on out and played a shortened set.
I hate to say this (because I’ve made it abundantly clear how gay I was for Danzig when I was younger), but I honestly can hardly remember a damned thing about his set.
I know he played some song off the X-Files soundtrack (WTF, GLENN?), and I remember that during “Long Way Back From Hell” the hillbilly girl in front of me totally dissed the 6’5” mullet dude she was with, turned around, and shook her hair and her boobs at me for basically the whole song.
It was not pretty.
I also have a feeling that none of the other original members of Danzig were on this tour, which bummed me our completely. (I could be wrong, but the guys in Prong actually might have been backing him up….)
Anyway, Danzig does 35 minutes of (apparently) unremarkable performance, and next up comes Ozzy.
I don’t know what to say here. I had looked forward so badly to finally seeing Ozzy live, and yet again, I remember hardly anything about this concert. It’s not like I was drinking or doing drugs; I was stone cold sober that night. Ozzy just happened to fart out a completely unremarkable show that evening.
What I do remember is that he opened with a crazy ass retrospective video/music montage of his career. I remember that there was some sick-ass video playing during War Pigs, full of stock footage of villages being bombed in Vietnam. I remember that some jackass ran onstage and climbed the stacks then fell off of them. I remember that there was no Zakk Wylde on this tour – just some skinny-ass kid who sorta looked like him.
But in general, I can’t remember the set list very well, or anything that I thought was particularly good about this show.
Most vividly, I remember Ozzy’s voice cracking unmercifully every single time he hit that high note at the end of the verse in “No More Tears” (Your lips are so cold/I don’t know whUUAAAAEUEUEUElse to say”. It was truly cringe-worthy, and it happened every fucking time.
(Seriously, it was the SINGLE WORST concert moment I have EVER heard. I have never, ever been temped to see Ozzy again after that moment. I’m serious. It was Just. That. Bad.)
And then a few songs later the concert was over.
It was night time and it was crowded, and FTM and I were both feeling like we’d rather go home and get past this evening.
Running up the stairs of the amphitheatre, I vaulted the low guard rail that separated us from the sidewalk, and I landed squarely in the path of a hard-looking, rolly-polly, tank top-wearing, 40-something woman with very sun burnt skin. My spider senses indicated that she might have been somewhat intoxicated, even by Ozzy’s standards.
I glanced backwards. Her bloodshot eyes slowly squinted as they came into focus on my face, and her lips pursed around the Marlboro Light dangling from her swollen lips.
“Well, EXCUSE the flying fuck outta me,” she spit out as I ran past her.
My thoughts exactly, Mr. Osbourne. Excuse me, indeed.