Jen and I always thought Sebastian Bach was the mega-king super-hotness god. We were both 15 year old high school freshmen who had spent our junior high years together as raging hair-bandaholics (after we recovered from New Kids On the Block sickness, of course). We both adored music like few others; actually, our whole circle of friends were the types who wallpapered their rooms in rock stars and spent all of their money on tapes or CDs. It was almost a competition among us as to who was more devoted to our respective interests and who could be more ragingly fantatical. Changing schools had divided us but never took away our passion.
When it was advertised that Skid Row (with Pantera opening) would be coming to the Five Flags Civic Center in Dubuque, Iowa, neither Jen nor I had to think twice. Not only were we going, we were going to make sure we got right up front. With Five Flags being unseated (or as they called it back then, “festival seating”), our best chance was getting there early and enjoying the day hanging outside of the venue.
While all of this childish happiness was resounding through our respective brains, still, the year we had spent apart in different schools definitely showed that we were running with different crowds. Jen had started dating, and from what I had heard from outside sources, they weren’t the greatest of guys. I had heard rumors of alcohol or drugs, hanging out with guys who long since graduated or dropped out, and a lot of other things that were a million light years from my world. Sure, she seemed mostly like the same old Jen with her musician adorations and hilarious creative streak. However, on my side of the world, I had started settling in with harder music thanks to Headbanger’s Ball and some school friends who listened to Carcass and Morbid Angel. I wasn’t a big Pantera fan, but I knew several songs; I couldn’t say that for Jen. Plus, I knew she still secretly liked the New Kids. I guess it had been much easier for me to walk away from the dream of being the future Mrs. Jordan Knight than she from her dreams of being Mrs. Joey McIntyre.
I had also been in contact with my former neighbor, Shawn. He was a couple of years older than I was, but we were in the same grade due to some oddball situations and we still often spoke. While he lived upstairs from me in my formative junior high years, Shawn had drawn me from Bon Jovi and Def Leppard into Motley Crue and Metallica. Of course he was going to be up for this show. The whole thing was looking to be my personal gathering of buddies.
It was with great planning that I prepared my skankwear for the evening. So I had just turned 15 just a few days before and was an overweight little chunk, but that didn’t prevent me from wanting to look all hot. I had a pair of cutoff stonewashed jeans that I had sewn laces up the outside hems — they were so tight that I thought they would cut off all circulation, but that was a good thing. I don’t remember my shirt, but I’m sure it was some t-shirt of some type, either red or black. So, that was the extent of my skankwear. Hey, we didn’t have Britney Spears to emulate back then and K-Mart wasn’t selling miniskirts for anyone under legal drinking age in those days. Instead I just fluffed my bangs up to insane heights and turned it to Aqua Net stone.
Noon on the date of the show, Jen and I convened to sit in the Five Flags entryway. I don’t remember if we were first, but for the first few hours until 3 PM, there was a small bunch of us all with the same idea, talking and laughing and enjoying our long Sunday camping out. Shawn joined us at some point. My mom cruised by at another point with some sandwiches, chips, and soda. Some guy came along with one of those boomboxes so large it accepts either cassettes or small children, and we jammed out all afternoon to great tunes. Doors opened around 6-ish and we found our way promptly up against the metal railing left of center. We were golden.
I remember the crowd wasn’t bad at all; we were getting crunched against the railing pretty hard, but these were days apparently before anyone in Iowa had heard of a mosh pit, so we were spared any of that madness. Pantera was promoting Vulgar Display of Power, trudging through “Cemetary Gates,” “Walk,” “This Love,” and others while this doofus next to me kept screaming, “PLAY ‘DOMINATION’!” Be it setlist or voodoo, they indeed played “Domination” and ended their set with a beautiful 8 foot stage prop of a smoking joint. It was quite the sight to behold.
By the time Pantera wrapped up, unfortunately, Jen had gotten somewhat choked out by the heat and our lack of adequate liquids; people with elbows much larger than mine had pushed me back from my perfect spot in front of the stage. As disappointing as it was that I wouldn’t be up front for the Skids, I still had a great view. Shawn saved the general area for me as I went to find Jen who was madly flirting with the guy at the merch table. Did I mention Jen’s skankwear included a pair of Daisy Duke shorts, complete with these little lace frillies hanging down? Did I mention Jen was sitting on the actual merch table itself, back against the wall, knees bent and drawn in to her chest? Yeah, Jen was clearly miles beyond me in the whole experience department, so it seemed. She said she was going to stay out a while longer, so I went back in to chill with Shawn before Skid Row blasted onstage.
How much of the Skid Row set do I really remember? They were promoting Slave To The Grind so we were treated to the heavier side of the band as opposed to the glossy sheen of the first album, so if nothing else I remember Shawn headbanging like a maniac to the point of tearing his shirt. I remember them covering “Train Kept A-Rollin'” and I recall all of the typical Sebastian Bach posturing.
To be honest, all of it was wiped out of my mind in one swift moment. At some point during some song, Shawn decided to turn to me and say, “I love you.” Do you have any idea how hard it is to effortlessly continue rocking out and pretending that everything is okay when inside, all of the blood had drained from your entire being and all you wanted to do was run, hide, and never see your ex-neighbor again? Why did he have to ruin the whole friendship thing like that? Why spoil the moment? Perhaps he was thinking it was a different kind of moment, the kind that says we are united in metal forever and will ride off into the sunset. I don’t remember if I had replied at all — if I did, it would have been, “okay” — but I managed to stave off any conversation regarding the whole ordeal. I was cursing Jen for disappearing and I was cursing the band for continuing to play such great tunes when I wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of there. To this day, I am cursing Shawn for completely obliterating any memories I once had of seeing Skid Row in their heyday. Thanks, dude.
In fact, the whole rest of the night is mud in my brain. I lived ten blocks from the venue, but I can’t remember if I walked home, got a ride, if Jen crashed at my house, or if I magically flew to Mars and back. I know that neither Jen’s antics with the merch guy nor my skills at staring off into space ever got us backstage or anywhere near meeting the band. I know my neck was killing me from being metal thrashing mad. I know that Shawn never got anywhere near my pants.
Indeed, the night represented far more than it ever should have. Shawn realized he was getting nowhere with me, started seeing some older chick, and soon became a father. Jen continued her branch from my world, slowly spaced out her contact with me, and soon became a mother (who, by the way, named her son after one of the New Kids). I delved further into my newer music discoveries and became the childfree music freak I remain today. I would love to blame it all on Sebastian Bach, really; he brought us all together, his music invited us to open our hearts and legs, and nowadays he sucks so much that there’s no guilt in throwing all of this mess into his lap.
I can’t close the closet on a shoebox full of bones,