Earlier this evening, as I was doing the dishes, I was thinking to myself that it had been almost ten years since I won a pair of tickets to see Quiet Riot on one of their comeback tours and gee, wouldn't that be a funny story to tell? After doing some quick historicizing in my head, I realized that the Quiet Riot show occurred in the spring of 1998, so I planned on shelving the story until next May, if I even remembered at that time.
But as Dr. Jung would have it, there was a reason I was thinking about these minor metal deities this evening: they found the lead singer dead in Las Vegas today
! And while I'm far from broken up about this, nor do I feel particularly comfortable with the fact that I'm using someone's tragic death as a springboard for a light-hearted story about a young man straying far from his element, I do think that the universe works in mysterious ways and that I was meant
to relay this little vignette to you this evening. Either that or the gobs of acid I ate in the Nineties are having some consequences that I never could have foreseen.
At any rate...
In the spring of '98, when Seinfeld
was about to go off the air, the local rock station KZEL was giving away prizes for being the n
th caller with the correct answer to some piece of Seinfeld trivia. I'd always wanted to win something from a radio station and so when they asked a question to which I knew the answer (Tweety Bird Pez dispenser), I called in and lo and behold, I was the proud possessor of two tickets to go see Quiet Riot at the Mill Camp Saloon in Springfield.
To be clear, I was never much of a Quiet Riot fan in particular, or a metalhead in general (although I will cop to loving first-time-around Roth-era Van Halen and Guns & Roses), so I planned on going to the show and enjoying with a healthy does of irony. My friend Kooky - a New Jersey metalhead squatter turned hippie activist (at the time of this particular story) turned gender-bending anarchist - loved
Quiet Riot and begged me for the other ticket. Since my then-girlfriend didn't want to go - nay, was absolutely horrified by the prospect of going - Kooky and I got righteously stoned and ventured into the wilds of Springfield for some heavy metal.
The Mill Camp had something of a reputation back when it was open - I seem to recall a number of well-publicized brawls (maybe one involving Akili Smith?), maybe a stabbing or two - it was a classic, shall we say, Springfield night spot. To its credit, it did have a gorgeous stained-glass window behind the stage. So we arrived, two stoned hippies amidst a sea of black metal tour shirts, too-tight denim, and mullets as far as the eye could see. Ordering the typical Eugene drink fare was not an option for the evening: no microbrews and no hipster friendly PBR or High Life. It was Budweiser like everyone else (plus a few trips to the car during the opening band to smoke more pot), or none at all.
Honestly, I was terrified for the first part of the evening and did my best to stay out of folks' way. Kooky, on the other hand, threw himself into enjoying the show in earnest, thus heightening my state of terror. What would the be-mulleted masses think of this goofy hippie banging his head to this washed-up hair-metal band? They loved
him, and soon Kooky was surrounded by a menagerie of paunchy 40 year-old bikers with big, thick mustaches, all banging their heads in unison and high-fiving each other after each song.
At that point, I felt that things were going to be okay and started to enjoy myself, going so far as to make passable chit-chat while pissing out large amounts of cheap beer in the bathroom.
I couldn't tell you what most of the songs they played were. They may have even released a new album which they were supporting. For most of the first part of their set, I marveled at the full head of hair on the lead singer as I seemed to recall him balding back in their mid-80s heyday. It wasn't until the end of the set that I heard some familiar tunes - "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)," "Cum On Feel the Noize," and one other that I seemed to remember from childhood, but the name escapes me. By this point, I was filled with enough cheap booze and weed that I hollered out the choruses along with everyone else in the joint, and even managed a few high-fives and "that was so fucking awesome!"s to my fellow Quiet Rioters.
We ended the night by grabbing some more beer and heading back to my then-girlfriend's house to regale her and her roommate with tales about how fucking awesome the show had been. They were as drunk as we were, having done away with the better part of two bottles of wine, but had spent the evening listening to Ella Fitzgerald and discussing something far more civilized than Quiet Riot. Within fifteen minutes of our return, my ex publicly ruled out sex with me until I recanted my newfound love of hair metal.
I recanted half an hour later.
Labels: Flotsam and Jetsam, music