Friday, September 25, 2009

I Like Some Noise While I'm Sleeping

Over the course of my working day I get to see many cool people, and in talking briefly here and there, I get reminded of stories. Don't ask me how this one came up, but here's a good one...

Back in the summer of 1994, I was working at Barnes & Noble in the stockroom. I unloaded trucks, entered inventory into the system, did some light maintenance work too. Two of my favorite bands were touring concurrently, and of course both were going to be in the vicinity on consecutive nights.

Soundgarden was playing in Manhattan on a Thursday evening. I worked that day, then went home, changed, picked up my friends, and we drove into the city for the show. I was living in Queens at the time, so although it was geographically close to Manhattan, NYC traffic is, well, NYC traffic.

So we get to the show, which of course we were looking forward to. They were playing at The NY State Armory, which none of us had ever seen a show at before. No one could remember a show ever being there at all. Turns out, there was a reason for that.

When you go see shows in clubs, it typically is hot. Lots of bodies jumping around in a small, dark, confined, not-very-well ventilated space, usually produces an excess of warmth that tends to be uncomfortable, but not unbearable. Of course, that same description applies to any summer day in NYC as well, so just imagine it that much more uncomfortable, but still tolerable. It's easier to put up with when there's a good band onstage.

As to the reason no one could remember a show ever having been done there by anyone; there wasn't. Why? Because part-way thru this Soundgarden show, it was becoming increasingly apparent that this venue was not designed to hold this many bodies in it at one time. After the initial burst of energy from the band hitting the stage, the crowd became rather subdued, due to the oppressiveness of the heat. There really wasn't much movement from anyone on the floor, because it was kind of exhausting just standing there. I'm pretty sure there was even a cloud forming above us in the venue due to all the heat and humidity. At one point, even Chris Cornell, Soundgarden's singer, thanked the crowd for being at the show, remarking something to the effect of they knew it was ridiculously hot, even for a concert.

Having seen Soundgarden a couple years earlier with some of the same friends, we knew that when Kim Thayil, their guitarist, propped his guitar onto the backdrop, feedback reverberating loudly and repeatedly throughout the venue, it was our cue to go. Last time they did that, the lights stayed out, so everyone expected the band to come back onstage for more. A good 5 to 10 feedback-filled minutes later, the house lights came up, and we let out a collective groan as we now knew the show was over. Having learned our lesson, as soon as he propped up the guitar and left the stage this time, we left the sauna we were in and bolted for the (relatively) cool air of a NYC summer night, leaving behind most of the crowd who, like us the previous concert, were hoping for more. Never had we been so happy to get into 85 degree air with 85 percent humidity, because it was an Arctic breeze compared to the interior of the NY State Armory. Drained and dehydrated, we made our way back to the car for the journey home. I must have made it to bed sometime after midnight, maybe closer to 1AM. The only problem was, this was Thursday night, and I still had to go to work on Friday.

Now, having been at work since 8AM (maybe earlier, I can't remember) Friday, I left around 3PM to go get a different friend. Him and I, along with 2 of his buddies, were going to see Metallica in Middletown, NY, that night. Suicidal Tendencies and Danzig were opening, so we kinda wanted to see the whole bill, as we liked all of them. Getting to Middletown involved a drive of between 90 minutes and 2 hours, and if I'm sitting still for that long, especially having worked and been up half the previous night at a physically exhausting concert, I'm gonna fall asleep. Even if I'm the one driving.

Somewhere along the gently winding, soothing, calmingly flat road that is the Taconic State Parkway, I know I woke up at about 60 MPH, and was quickly startled to full alertness when I realized I was not driving in the same lane as I had been prior to falling asleep at the wheel. Since all 3 of my passengers were completely passed out, no one but me noticed this, so I was the only one who had a heartbeat racing at breakneck speed. While I was still very tired, the rush of adrenalin from this incident was enough to keep me awake for the rest of the journey.

We weren't in time to catch Suicidal Tendencies from the beginning. In fact, I think we walked into the Orange County Fairgrounds near the end of their set. It was time to decide where we wanted to be for the show. As this is a horse racing track, the stage was set up on the infield of the track, the home stretch was the floor for the crowd, and the seats lining the home stretch were also available for those who wanted to sit. Say, me, for instance.

Even though this was an outdoor, open-air concert, and we were sitting about 20 rows up, plus had the width of the track between us and the stage, the noise level was still plenty high. Danzig came onstage, and gave a great show, performing all songs that I really liked, including a couple of fairly obscure ones from his catalog. I was eventually able to get a recording of this show later on, so I can still enjoy it today on my iPod.

After Danzig left the stage, I was still feeling pretty good all in all, and was fairly psyched to be seeing Metallica. We were having a good time, enjoying the show, the weather was nice, our seats were pretty good, things were fine. Metallica were 3 years on from their self-titled radio-friendly megahit album, which I personally found extremely disappointing. At the time it came out, I nearly chucked the tape I made off the CD out the window of my car upon first listen. I gave it more of a chance, but to this day, there's really only 3 or 4 songs from that album I can listen to, and those rank at the very bottom of a "songs I like the most from Metallica" list, were such a list to be made. However, in their live shows, they've always been very good about mixing in a healthy dose of things from every album, both in an effort to keep the old fans happy, and to show the new fans they've got some other cool stuff too, and those newbies should run right out and buy those CD's right now, so the incredibly greedy members of Metallica can make even more money (a subject I will leave for another post someday, for it will require even more space than this one...).

I can't exactly remember when during the show it was (probably when they were playing some of the drippy new stuff that I didn't like), but I finally had to just sit down. As the song went on, I felt myself starting to drift off, and as loud as they were, I started to feel myself going to sleep. My eyes were closed, and I didn't even try to fight it at this point. I could still hear everything, I knew where I was, and I knew what was happening, but I was definitely getting some much needed sleep. Since I was now asleep, I can't remember for sure, but I think I woke up sometime in the middle of the following song, feeling a little groggy and out of it, but relieved at the same time. I slowly got back into the swing of things, and by the end of whatever song it was that I woke up during, I was pretty much back in the real world. The rest of the Metallica show passed by without further incident, and when they were finishing Enter Sandman, their big single from that self-titled album, we made our way out back to the car, figuring this was the last song...only to hear them, from the parking lot, kick into So What, a cover song by The Anti-Nowhere League that was probably the best thing to come out of Metallica's Black Album sessions, and a song I had yet to see them perform live. I looked at my buddy, who understood the significance of what was going on, shrugged, got in my car, and started on the long drive home.

Amazingly, by this time (again, post 11PM as we left the Fairgrounds), I was actually feeling quite good. My 5-10 minute power nap thru 100+ decibels must have been enough to recharge the batteries, for I actually enjoyed the drive home thru the misty late-nite wilderness of upstate New York. And upon reaching New York City, there isn't any time to be sleeping while driving. Driving in NYC is too much of an extreme sporting event to be doing anything other than paying 100% full-on attention. I must've gotten into the house around 1AM or so, and thankfully it was now early Saturday morning, and I didn't have to be at work until Monday morning. And I took full advantage of that, going promptly to bed, waking up sometime after 2PM Saturday afternoon. I'm fairly certain I didn't wake up once during that 12+ hour block of time. Ah, to be young and stupid...

I've since acquired both video and audio copies of the Metallica portion of that show, so I have both seen and heard anything I may have missed while dozing during their performance.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Led Zeppelin, P.J. Harvey, Eagles Of Death Metal, Iron Maiden, Shootyz Groove, The White Stripes, The Misfits, Clutch, Portishead, A Perfect Circle, The 5, 6, 7, 8's, Metallica, Nirvana, The Doors, The International Noise Conspiracy, Ike & Tina Turner, Tricky, Apocalypse Now Soundtrack, John Lee Hooker, Pearl Jam, and probably other stuff that I'm not sure if I was writing or not when it played...


  1. Hey man, the song says "ENTER NIGHT" so, really, you just following instructions. Sleeping at a Metallica concert, who does that?

  2. I was with you at the Soundgarden Sauna!
    Damn, 15 years goes by quickly.