My Favorite Concert Memory
Posted by jrmurdock
When I was much younger I went to a lot of concerts. If I had $20 in my pocket, I was there. I got to see a lot of great bands, a lot of terrible bands, and everything in between. Being a fan of heavy metal in the 80s meant there was no shortage of concerts to go to. I found myself watching Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy, Metallica, Motley Crue and pretty much everything else that came by.
One concert always sticks in my mind and I shared this story with my favorite daughter a few days ago and based on her reaction, it was worth retelling here. The concert in question was Monsters of Rock.
Yes, I know there were many, but this was the Monsters of Rock that came to the L.A. Coliseum in 1988.
The line up was sure to be amazing.
Now at the time Van Halen was at the peak of the Van Hagar years and I was not really looking forward to seeing them. Kingdom Kome was a lesser known band, but still worthy of watching. Scorpions were just starting to lose their popularity and Dokken was, well, Dokken. There was also a special guest that I noticed isn’t in the line-up and that was Ice-T and his infamous song Cop Killers was getting him into some trouble.
Metallica. Now this is why I went to the concert. I had seen them play with Ozzy and they really blew Ozzy off the stage. Even Ozzy admits it was difficult to follow their act. With their raw power and energy it was an angry teen’s dream come true. Loud angry lyrics to get you to work out all that built up frustration.
Sadly tickets were not purchased. We had gotten wrist bands and waited in line but it sold out in a heart beat. My friend and I were quite upset about not being able to get in. Even the nosebleed seats would have been good. We didn’t care. We just wanted to go.
A few days later it was announced that they were going to open up two sections to sell more tickets. These sections were directly on the side of the stage. The view wouldn’t be that great, but we’d be there. We didn’t care. We had to try.
We went down to Tower Records and waited in line for four hours to get our wrist bands. Now here’s how all this mess worked. You got a wrist band with a number. It didn’t matter if you were first in line or last in line, you got a wrist band. They would then call you in by number and you’d be able to purchase two and only two tickets. It was basically a lottery and getting tickets was not a guarantee.
We waited and decided that whoever got in would buy the tickets. We only needed two, after all. To my surprise, my number got called first. That’s right, FIRST! Heart pounding and money in hand I pushed money across the counter and was handed the first two tickets. The cashier said something to the effect of “You lucky bastard.” I didn’t know why and it wasn’t until we got back to the house and looked up where the tickets were that I realized we were in the front row of the newly opened section. Not just the front row, but at the far end of the front row. We were going to actually be able to see the stage pretty good from where we were sitting.
Waiting began and those tickets were with me at all times. I didn’t let them out of my sight. I had a control issue like that. When the day finally came we headed down to the coliseum. It was a madhouse. There were so many people that I became nervous. I don’t do well with large crowds and I didn’t realize that until much later in life. Regardless, we were there for the concert of the decade!
After getting inside we got to see a large number of empty seats. By empty seats I mean the entire floor had been sectioned off with barricades and folding chairs placed on the floor. I’d never seen so many chairs in my life and would never see that many chairs again. When we got to our seats the first thing we saw was an impromptu fence. All the way around the upper section a fence had been installed to prevent those in the upper sections from jumping the 10 feet down to the floor. Didn’t matter. We had great seats.
Ice-T played to a nearly empty stadium as a large number of people were still coming in and finding their seats. He yelled “They said they’d arrest me if I played this song, F*CK the police!” and he busted into Cop Killers after two songs and left the small side stage. We shrugged at each other and were sufficiently unimpressed.
Kingdom Kome played for a slightly longer time. They played for about 40 or 45 minutes and by this time the stadium had filled. The sun was still high in the sky and it was hot. I’d already begun work on my burn and having a great time. We both wished we had more money to buy beer, but at $3 a beer, that wasn’t going to happen.
It took about an hour to get Metallica set up and ready to play. It was about a year after Cliff Burton died and I hadn’t seen Newstead in action yet. I’d seen Burton a couple years before and the boy had a lot to live up to.
Metallica ROCKED the place. Literally. The kid next to me grabbed onto the fence pole in front of him and started rocking back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.
The pole fell and a huge section of fence sagged forward. I’m not sure who had put the fence up, but they did a terrible job. The section of fence was nearly twenty feet wide. The kid, without thinking, hopped down to the floor and ran into the floor crowd. A security guard tackled him. A couple other kids jumped and those that ran were tackled. Those that walked on were left alone. I looked at the section of people behind us and HOLY CARP! A wall of people were headed to the opening in the fence.
I looked at my friend and said “If we don’t go, we’re going to get trampled.” He said. “What?” I grabbed his arm and pulled him down with me. We hit the floor hard and rolled out of the way of others mumping down. After a couple of minutes of waiting eventually the security guards got out of the way and we pushed our way onto the floor.
Not only did we push our way into the mosh pit, but we circled around and worked out way up to the stage. Chairs and barricades had been pushed over and the crush of people became a nearly out of control mob.
Metallica started playing Whiplash. During their set a lot of ‘stuff’ got thrown up on stage. Eventually James Hetfield got hit with a shoe and he stopped playing. The entire band stopped playing. They all looked to see what was going on. Het took off his guitar as did Newstead, and Hemmet. All four got beers and came around the drum riser and sat down.
This went over with the crowd in a weird way. People started throwing everything on stage. Bottles, cans, shirts, shoes, and suddenly, a chair. Het held up his beer and drank. The crowd cheered and more chairs went up on stage. The entire security force came out of hiding and lined the stage and every folding chair on the floor went up and was passed to the stage. Every chair. Every barricade. Pieces of fence. Mats. If it wasn’t nailed down it came forward. My arms hurt from passing so much stuff forward to watch it all magically disappear under the stage.
The chaos went on for long time. When you’re in the middle of it, time has no meaning. I think at some point I threw up from the stress of being among so many people and the heat, and the strain. After all was said and done, the guys donned their guitars, came back around. Hetfield yelled, “Did you get that out of your system?” The crowd went nuts. And almost like they hadn’t stopped, they went right back into Whiplash and continued as if nothing had happened.
After they finished their set, my friend and I needed a break. The half of the coliseum we had been on was now empty of people. Security had left their posts to maintain positions on the stage. Anywhere we wanted to go we could go, within reason. All the concession stands had closed. The water fountains gave only warm water, but it was better than nothing.
It took another hour before Dokken was set up and ready to play and by this time we’d worked out way to the nosebleed seats to get some fresh air. We mused over how Dokken would follow that up and they were fairly weak during the concert, but one funny part was when the lead singer took off his hat and tossed it into the crowd. Watching from above you could see the hat get shredded and pieces fly around almost like a pack of dogs tears apart a rabbit.
This seemed to be the bands moment of inspiration. They played their final song and the guitar got tossed to the crowd still plugged in. Plink. Plunk. Gong! And it also got torn to pieces. The other guitar, same result. Bass guitar. Same result. We joked that it would be funny to see the lead singer get thrown in as well.
Then the drums went into the crowd. It was easy to see where the kick drum was due to the massive circle of people trying to tear it to pieces. In the hour between Dokken and the Scorpions that drum kept moving further and further away. I’m not sure what ever happened to it.
By the time the Scorpions played it was sufficiently dark and my sunburn thanks the darkness. The scorps put on a great show, but without anything memorable happening.
It took nearly two hours between the Scorpions and Van Hargar. The waiting sucked. I mean, really sucked. I think I fell asleep at some point. Even though I wasn’t a Van Hagar fan, they did play their best stuff in concert. The drummer had a spinning drum riser, I’m guessing because Motley Crue had a fancy moving drum riser and they felt the need to compete.
Then came the long drive home. Ears ringing. Eyes sore. Skin on fire. Came the three hour struggle to leave the parking lot of doom and find our way home. To say I’ll always remember this day is an understatement. Like I said, I’ve been to a lot of concerts back in my day and I think I can honestly say, I’ve nearly seen it all. Short of an all out riot similar to what happened in Canada during the GnR/Metallica concert, I have seen pretty much everything.
Until next time!