An excerpt from A Life in Concert
Due to my now established prowess in the concert scene my parents forced me to accompany my older sister to a concert she wanted to go to. She grew up worshipping the band Def Leppard during the eighties… but it was now November of 1992. Once the grunge scene exploded in 1991 all those 80’s hair bands died on the vine. That type of music was no longer relevant.
See, that’s 15 year old cool guy me, wearing my Lollapalooza concert t-shirt for picture day. If you look closely you’ll notice that I’m missing half an eyebrow. That’s from getting high and watching The Wall, and wanting to be as tortured as Pink, but too vain to shave off the entire brow. Well played bro.
But don’t try to tell my sister that by 1992 Def Leppard was irrelevant. They were the greatest single influence of her young life aside from the movie Dirty Dancing, and neither Baby nor Johnny Castle were coming to the Roanoke Civic Center, but Def Leppard was. She pleaded with my parents to let her go and they said, fine, but you have to take your brother with you. Not only did I not want to see Def Leppard, I didn’t want to be seen at a Def Leppard concert. Regardless, one week after my torrid love affair at the Kiss concert, I was crestfallen to have to accompany my dorky older sister to the Def Leppard show.
Now because the show was a general admission show my sister wanted to leave right after school, so she started in on me.
“Come on, I want to be sure we can get close to the stage.”
“No way Nicole, schools out at 2:30 and it’s only a 45 minute drive to Roanoke. I don’t want to have to sit there for 5 hours.”
“Come on! This is my all-time favorite band!”
“Let’s just wait a little while. We can leave at 6. I’ll get you close to the stage, I promise.”
“Come on Daniel, don’t be selfish. This is for me and I want to leave right after school. I want to get there as early as possible.”
Now having already been to the Roanoke Civic Center for a few concerts I happened to know that there was a McDonald’s right across the street.
“Alright, I’ll make you a deal. We can leave right after school, as long as you get me whatever I want at McDonald’s. We’re talking super-sized combo of my choice, plus my choice of either apple pie or ice cream cone for dessert.”
“And nothing less.”
After school we drove straight to the Roanoke Civic Center, me in my grunge garb, my sister decked out in her Def Leppard gear – Def Leppard t-shirt, Def Leppard wrist bands, Aqua Net poofed up hair – she was ready for this.
We got to the civic center at quarter after three in the afternoon. It was so early there wasn’t even an attendant in the toll booth to charge for parking. We drove into the lot, parked, and my sister immediately bolted for the front door of the civic center with me chasing after her yelling, “Wait! What about my McDonald’s! You promised!”
We got into the lobby and there was just one old lady sitting at a booth. In her best southern drawl she said, “Hello there, how can I help you?”
My sister squealed at her, “We’re here for the Def Leppard concert!”
The lady looked at her and said, “Oh, well you’re a bit early for that. Why don’t ya’ll go home and come back in a few hours. We’re sellin’ hockey tickets until 5, and then the doors’ll close until 7 when they open back up for the concert, so I’m afraid ya’ll’ll have to wait outside until then, ok hun.” All that was missing was for her to fan herself and say, “I do declare.”
It was good that we wound up back outside. In my sisters spastic B-line freak-out for the civic center doors she failed to take the car keys out of the door of the car. So retrieving those was probably a good idea. For it was then, and only then, that I got my McDonald’s. Combo number 4: Double quarter pounder with cheese, extra cheese and pickles, super-sized fries and a Spite to drink; apple pie for dessert.
When we finished eating we walked back over to the parking lot and sat on the steps in front of the main entrance. It was 4 o’clock and I had ass-searing Mcfarts. You know, the kind that just sort of seep out quietly, but heated, the type to really pollute the olfactory. There’d be 4 more hours of this until show time. Someone had to pay for the wait, for the horrendousness of Def Leppard, and it was going to be my sister.
Another hour went by when my sister jumped up and started screeching. She ran like hell so I got up and ran after her, brown cloud of backside emission following me like a dirty contrail. She was running alongside a tour bus screaming her head off as I caught up to her. Suddenly the curtains in the windows of the tour bus sweep aside and the heads of the Def Leppard members appeared. I stopped running. My sister meanwhile yelled at the top of her lungs and sexually assaulted the side of the bus as it drove into the back of the civic center. The Def Leppard guys looked back and forth, from her to me, laughing. Five years earlier there would’ve been thousands of screaming girls waiting for a Def Leppard tour bus. Today, one – my sister.
That broke up the monotony, but we still had three hours to wait, and this was 1992. There was no internet or smart phones, no tablets or laptops back then. We just sat there, me farting. We’re talking turbo-charged sulphurous cupcakes. By the time the doors opened for the show a total of 6 people had shown up for the concert. Six! And for some reason the whole entryway smelled of shit.
When the doors opened my sister ran frantically in, screaming and barreling toward the stage as me and the other six people strolled in casually. As we passed from lobby into the arena, there was my sister, at the partition in front of the stage, jumping and screaming at the empty risers.
Now Def Leppard in their heyday had a stage that was setup in the center of the arena floor. You know, for most bands the stage is setup at one end of the arena, but for Def Leppard the stage was right in the middle, and it would rotate so they could face fans in every direction.
Well, as show time neared, there was no one there. No one. The place was empty. There might have been a couple hundred people in the Roanoke Civic Center, which has a capacity of 10,500 people. 10,500 seats and only a few hundred people showed up. So before the show the civic center staff closed off every section around that floor-centered stage except the one by the main entrance. We could have arrived 5 minutes before show time and walked right up to the stage, but instead we spent almost 5 hours in the civic center parking lot, heated by the setting sun and a chorus of my best air dumps. There were a couple of backside bugle calls where I thought I might have laid a bacon strip in the skivvies. Delete thought I might have.
At eight Def Leppard took the stage and did their thing. My sister freaked out, shaking the partition and jumping up and down. She screamed at the band and carried on. Meanwhile, the other couple hundred people just watched, maybe bobbing their heads. This should have been a moment of great shame for Def Leppard. They were one of the biggest bands of the last decade, selling out stadiums around the world, and here they were in Roanoke Virginia, their revolving stage taking them around the empty arena, only the one section with a few hundred mildly interested spectators, except for one clearly deranged teenage girl.
As the show went on the members of Def Leppard were obviously watching my sister freak out, but they also picked up how disinterested and embarrassed I was. They watched me trying to calm my sister down, or shaking my head, or burying my face in my hands. So they focused on us. Joe Elliot and Phil Collins (not that Phil Collins), they kept coming over and gyrating in front of us, but not so much to my sister, now they were focusing on me. They were taking the piss out of me, as those limey imperialists would say. With every Joe Elliot hip thrust that I flinched at, he and his bandmates laughed, and all the while my sister kept screaming. I got mocked, but to her, she was getting a personalized show.
After a while Def Leppard began to more openly taunt me, like trying to give me high-fives, which I refused, or Joe Elliot announcing me as their new number 1 fan. At one point I told my sister I was going to go to the lobby to pee. As I walked out Def Leppard stopped playing.
Joe Elliot said, “Hey mate, where are you going? I thought we were just starting to rocket, yeah!”
I shook my head and said, “I’m going to the toilet.”
He responded, “We’ll wait.”
Then they and their 200 pathetic fans laughed at me. Me! This really farty grunge solider stuck at the mortifying Def Leppard show with his sister. I was ridiculed by Def Leppard. The fucking one armed drummer laughed at me! The one-armed drummer! What should have been a day of great shame for Def Leppard became my day of shame! God damn you Def Leppard. Oh wait, you’re Def Leppard. Keep it up God.
Now, in a place like Roanoke, when a concert or event comes to town they send the network affiliates local news team out to cover it. So once the concert was over I was pulling on the sleeve of my sister’s Def Leppard t-shirt, saying, “Come on, let’s go home.” But as we headed out of the exit the local news reporters asked if they could talk to me for a minute. The cameras were on me. I hid my face and told them to leave me alone – I can’t be seen at a Def Leppard concert, not after what happened, not after the shame of being lampooned by those cheesy British tossers. I felt your pain that day Steve Bartman. Where’s my 30 for 30 for the Def Leppard concert ESPN? Instead of an interview, I ran for the car, butt barks still emitting heat from the tail pipe.
We got in the car and drove home… with the windows down for obvious reasons. When we got in my parents asked, ‘how was the concert’? My sister talked about how it was the greatest night of her life while I claimed it was the worst concert I’d ever seen. Well, since it was about eleven they went ahead and switched on the local news. The news went through one or two stories and then the anchor said, “At the civic center this evening a poorly attended Def Leppard concert wound up being bliss for one young fan and a nightmare for another.” And there it was, Joe Elliot in front of my sister and I, whirling his hips around, my sister freaking out and screaming, like reaching for his crotch, and me beside her, beating my head against the partition. The news anchors, the weatherman, the fucking sportscaster, they all had a good laugh at my expense that evening. Fuck you Def Leppard and your one-armed drummer!