MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – Getting drunk in a dirt parking lot with old friends always takes me back. The year was 2000, the place – not too far from that sun-scorched Bay Area dust bowl…
I was a budding stick-wide teenager who spent way too many days listening to Punk-o-Rama comps and any other album sent my way by those-in-the-know, but never mind that. The venue was the Fillmore, and the line-up was Tiger Army opening for Nerve Agents and AFI headlining. It was my first real punk show, and I had Psycho Mordenson as my ambassador to the scene. The place was packed with nasty East Bay Punkers squeezing out every corner. Here I was, in the thick of it for the first time, surrounded on all sides… the people looked big and tough, grimaces and sadistic grins. The music was loud enough to shake my bones, the smell of sickly sweat permeated my every pore, the shocking violence of the pit- it was all so appalling. Outrageous! It made me hunger… for more.
Fourteen years later, a bit wiser, a little more jaded, I sat sipping my vodka and beer, thinking about that show, waiting for the onset of my buzz so I could advance into this next adventure, the Summer Nationals Tour. All around me, the crowd manifested through wisps of airborne Earth. They were many. How would this show compare to that first taste, all those years ago?
This was, after all, not some awful sub-culture movement tucked away in a max-capacity club. This was Silicon Valley, the birthplace of personal binary conversion, home to billionaire geeks, the place where aspiring keyboard sorcerers were made, fragmented, and dispersed in a nanosecond. More than a few high-class European sedans were slotted amongst the automobile hedgerows.
The line-up was promising- Stiff Little Fingers, Vandals, Pennywise, Bad Religion, and The Offspring headlining. We missed the openers, The Story So Far, but made it in time to see the tail end of Stiff Little Fingers. The stage was erected in a paved parking lot outside the tiered grass of the actual amphitheater, and the pit was already frothing as we entered.
Despite the credentials of the scheduled performers, the scene had a decidedly “alternative” bite. Corporate telecoms whored themselves in the merch tents, music branded attire proclaimed allegiance to bands like Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, and Marilyn Manson, and a banner flying above the stage notified all in attendance what radio station they should tune to.
But who cares? The music was good, and the feeling was there. Bobbing up and down through the pit was a cardboard sign inked with permanent marker reading “MOSHING PLEASE” as The Vandals pumped “Now We Dance”. Indeed.
Speaking of the pit- I’d categorize it as rough, but fair. Multigenerational, as well. Regardless, there was trust, and anyone that came looking for a beating would get one, that much was sure. No security interference, just crowd surfing, shoving, and circle pit pandemonium.
Best set of the show went to Bad Religion, with the zealots swapping bruises like frat houses STDs.
When the sun was gone, the light show began as The Offspring played Smash, just as promised. The songs sounded damn near perfect, just like the album. And perhaps it was my encroaching sobriety, but I felt as though this technical proficiency was had at the expense of a better “show”, a minor deficiency in the very thing that makes live music so appealing. The crowd, however, seemed to disagree given the level of rapture I witnessed, even after the Smash banner had fallen and the newer songs were played.
On balance, I think it was Pennywise’s Fletcher who said it best- the whole thing was like an “old-school Warped Tour”. Hell, even Fat Mike, who had been lurking stage right all day, came out to play bass for an extended version of Bro Hymn. These were the bands that had laid the first bricks of the now infamous live music behemoth. If it weren’t for the paunchy, white-haired lead singers, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had been transported two decades into the past. And for this particular reporter, dear reader, I knew the relapse was complete on the car ride home, covered in a thick layer of disgusting punk sweat, ears ringing, body broken.
Thank God for opiates.
Until next time,