Monday, October 19, 2009

Motley Crue

In the modern history of questionable musical taste, I'm pretty sure that no one has ever spent their weekend seeing PJ Harvey on Friday night, and Motley Crue on Saturday. And even if they did, I bet they didn't cross two state lines in order to do it.

((Honestly, I don't even remember it happening in this sequence, but the ticket stubs speak for themselves.))

Ok, so Motley Crue:

It's just too easy to diss them, with the ridiculous lifestyle and the drugs and the hair and the girls and the bikes and the image that every other lousy faux-nasty hair band aspired to. And to top it all off, they were so, so, so stupid.

But still...That's the easy way out. It's the easy way out to say that they were just copping the Dolls. It's the easy way out to say that each of them are lousy human beings. It's the easy way out to say that they always cared more about coke and pussy than making music.

Because the fact is that the Crue released two absolutely stellar hard rock albums. And even when carnal pursuits officially overtook their priority on musicianship, the band still managed to string together a list of hits that must have left Don Dokken tearing his hair extensions out.

No matter how many ways you want to discredit Motley Crue, somehow those guys pulled off ten years' worth of nasty riffs and outstanding hooks.

And, of course, there was Tommy Lee - such an absolute moron of a person, and yet one of the very few rock and roll drummers who you can actually can a true musician.

Oddly enough, I wasn't a huge Crue fan when I teenager. I liked them just fine, but in one of those awkward manifestations of sibling rivalry, I somewhat shunned Motley Crue for no better reason than because they were my little brother's favorite band.

And because of that, I never got around to seeing them live when the Dr. Feelgood tour hit the Capital Centre my senior year if high school....even though a lot of my friends went and raved about it the next day.

I'd have opportunities in the future - that silly tour with John Corabi, and I think even on that tour behind the God-awful Generation Swine album - but I didn't bother with either. Over time, as I began to appreciate "Too Fast For Love" and "Shout at the Devil" all the more, I regretted missing out on them.

So, when the reunion/greatest hits tour was announced, my co-worker Scott and I rushed to check out the dates -- only to learn that the closest stop on their tour would be in Philly.

Undeterred, we teamed up with my boss, Jeff, and his then-wife, Joanna (North Jersey natives who were plucked straight out of a Bon Jovi video) and planned to caravan up together Saturday afternoon.

As we were all pulling out of the driveway to Scott's house, I jokingly told Joanna to try and keep up with me, as I was leading the way.

"I get a fucking speeding ticket and you're gonna eat it," she spat at me.

I'm pretty sure that was her way of showing affection.


Well, we made it up to Philly with no speeding tickets (and, consequently, on an empty stomach). But, of course, things still went wrong.

The concert was at the Tower Theatre - a venue I'd been to at least twice before. I more or less knew where it was, but I asked Scott to print me some directions. And that was the last I thought of it, until we ended up in Center City, and Scott told me, "Ok, it should be just over this bridge."

I looked across the bridge at the Electric Factory - a different venue all together.

Somehow, we had printed directions to the wrong fucking club.

This was pre cell phone, so I has to find some way to get the message to Jeff and Joanna that we'd fucked up - a message I'm sure that they would greet with great frustration and ire.

So, we pulled over - of all places - in front of a bus on Broad Street. It seemed as though every horn in Philadelphia was honked at us over the course of the next two minutes, while I quickly brainstormed a plan.

"Jeff, please tell you wide to stop yelling at me," I pleaded, as Jeff gave me a blank, yet expectant, stare.

"Ok, the Tower Theatre is somewhere near Market and 69th Street," I stammered. "Market Street is right there. We're just going to have to go about 69 blocks West and we'll get there."

Since no one actually knew anything about the lay of Philadelphia, they all agreed that this was a logical plan. Gulping, I jumped in the car and led them through several very rough parts of Philly. I believe we stopped at every single red light along the way.

But no one actually gave us any trouble, and I didn't really think that they would. But I still knew I was going to catch hell from the New Jersey National Guard as soon as we arrived.

((Quick aside - at one point we crossed over a particular street and Scott immediately noticed that the potholes had cleared up, and the streetlamps were working, and that there was no more garbage piled up around us.

"What the hell just happened?" he asked.

"What happened? We just left Philadelphia, Scott, that's what happened."))

We arrived at Upper Darby and had about an hour to kill, so we went into a local mini-mall and decided to grab some absolutely nasty cheesesteaks. Noticing an overwhelming police presence, I asked a local cop what was going on.

The officer eyed, me - he was about my age, but a dead serious guy. One of those angry-looking Irish-Italians that Philly is full of.

"They've got their movie opening up tonight," he said, glaring at a bunch of amped-up African-American teenagers who were lined up to see "Belly" at the local theatre. He didn't really have to say any more than that. I remembered well how screwed up race relations were in the Philadelphia area.


The show itself was a blast. Nikki Sixx's new "find" opened up for them - a band called Laidlaw that was comically lousy and who couldn't get off the stage fast enough.

The Crue was on soon enough after that. They opened with a very strong "Dr. Feelgood", and I watched in amazement as Tommy played high hat, cowbell and snare at the same time, all while doing a stick twirl that appeared almost second nature to him - as though he had so much spare time that he was compelled to do something else with his hands while playing three other parts.

((The guy is a god of a drummer. Seriously. If you don't get that, I probably can't convince you of it. But he is, and this is fact.))

Just about everything was greatest hits that night. "Shout at the Devil", "Girls Girls Girls", "Wild Side" know the set. They even threw in their last great single ("Primal Scream") and their last not-completely-terrible one ("Afriad"), and they both sounded fine.

It's funny the little things you remember....I vividly remember that Tommy asked for some extra time between songs. "What Tommy, did you break something again?" Vince asked.

"Yeah, hold on," Tommy could be hear saying away from the mic.

"Yoooooooou fuckin idiot," Vince grumbled, to which everyone laughed. It seemed familiar and friendly - like two old buddies messing around.

Of course, a read through "The Dirt" reveals that things between Tommy and Vince were at an all time low at this point, with fist fights being semi-regular occurrences. Weird to recall that moment, and how wrong I was in my interpretation of it.

Very long story short, I was glad I went to this show - they were complete professionals and kept the dumb ass rock and roll shit to a minimum. focusing instead on a catalog that's pretty damn fine. Even to a self-conscious snob like me.


After semi-trashing them for the past several hundred words, it's probably worth noting that I met Nikki Sixx two or three years ago, when he did a book signing at the Georgetown Barnes & Noble for "The Heroin Diaries". It was a long line, and it ate up my entire night, but I did want to get a book signed as a birthday present for my little brother.

Upon finally reaching the front of the line, I mentioned this to Mr. Sixx just after he'd finished signing the book.

"Give me the book back....can I write him a note?" he offered.

Between the words "Kevin" and "Nixxi Sixx", he scrawled a quick "Happy B-Day!"

It was a kind offer, and a completely unnecessary one that held up the line a few moments longer. And it was a completely cool thing for him to do. Completely fucking cool and classy and awesome.

So, I'm sorry if I in any way trashed him or his band in this blog post. Here's a lousy photo I took of him.

((For the record, my brother never even noticed the autograph or the message. Seriously.)).


Scott said...

wow, I had forgotten all that pre-show nonsense. LMAO. Did you blog about Sebastian yet?

Andrew K Lau said...

Great story! Couldn't agree with you more about the boys in the band. Who knows how many times I've said about Tommy: "How can someone be soooo dumb and such a good drummer at drumming at the same time?"

t-o-n said...

Scott - I don't think that I have a stub from that show, but it certainly belongs on this blog. Jesus, what a silly way to cap off an office holiday party than with a washed up hair metal star?

Kevin - It remains one of the great mysteries of music. Totally moronic and utterly unstoppable. Tommy Lee would totally still be living with his mom if it weren't for the drums.