WEDNESDAY READING: Geoff’s first show
The lasting impact of David Lee Roth and Van Halen on the youth of yesterday
By Geoff Reading on March 10, 2010
This week is my sister’s birthday. Soooooooo… Happy birthday, Jessica. Thanks for the life contributions.
The Seattle Center, and what used to be the Coliseum, is where I saw most of the rock concerts attended during my formative years. The first show I ever saw was at the hands of my older sister and her super hot friend, Melinda. It was Bumbershoot 1947, or something, and we went to see Junior Cadillac play with The Heats. I remember it being dark by the time we got in and we didn’t even bother finding our seats. We hung out right there at the head of our section’s tunnel – and no one bothered us. This was the early ‘80s.
The thing that stuck out to me was the smell. Whenever anyone in the place took a flash photo, you could see the looming smoky haze – it made the floor almost imperceptible from just a few rows up in the seats. The smell recalled (to me) chicken stock – someone cooking it: sweet and a little fowl (no pun intended) – and very pungent. I asked my sister about the chicken stock smell and she made some offhand comment to Melinda about, “someone cooking SOMETHING.” This got a chuckle out of my dates, but no real answer was forth coming. Later, I would recognize the same smell permeating from my eighth grade classmate Dennis every morning (when managed to show up) in our first period English class. He seemed to be barely awake, and while I could see his eyes were a little open, I could never get more than a mumbling little smile from him when I would ask if he had stayed up late the night before.
I also remember hearing the roar of the crowd when the Heats played “The Hit”. Even I had heard the song “I Don’t Like Your Face” – but it didn’t register that day, that this – and the job of the guys on stage – would be a really amazing way to spend your life. That happened a few years later, at the first rock show I went to sans chaperon.
My parents made sure that honor would not happen until after I turned 16. When I hit the milestone, my parents celebrated by purchasing me a ticket to see Van Halen on the 1984 tour. Check that. They got me a ticket and they let my brother buy a ticket – and they even gave me money for a shirt.
The day of the show was a school day, my brother and I met up after third period, walked to the bottom of the stairs that lead up to our high school, and jumped on the Metro. 35 minutes later, the bus dropped us off in another universe – one certainly without parents. From the looks of it, there were almost no rules that applied to a concert day at Seattle Center. There were obvious minors imbibing – over imbibed, even. There were joints being smoked out in the open. It was almost beyond belief by today’s (or any) standards.
When Van Halen finally hit the stage, opening with “Unchained”, I was sold. I looked around and saw all those people in that venue having the absolute time of there lives: immersed in a world where rules don’t apply and pushing the limits is the lay of the land. All those people sharing in an almost religious like experience, and only four of them on stage.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who was going to have the BEST time. Or who would get to push the limits the furthest. It was a conscious decision to point my ship in that general direction, made right after the first song was through. I was standing less than five feet from where David Lee Roth, who had taken his place out on his cat walk jutting out some 20 feet from the stage – splitting the crowd into Michael’s side and Eddie’s side. All the lighters came out and the waves of energy came rolling onto the stage. It was tangible. I could feel it. DLR just stood there in his shit-faced Jesus Christ pose – taking it all in.
Then they played “Jamie’s Crying” and DLR screwed up the words. He sang the first verse twice. NO ONE CARED! I was floored.
So let me get this straight. Not only do they get to do this no holds barred party every night, they don’t even have to even get all the words right?!! Where the Fuck do I sign up?
That was it. It wasn’t a specific, “This is what I’m going to do with my life” proclamation, but until something came along that challenged what I had witnessed as being capable, I was going to work toward a life on stage.
It would take 25 years, creating a life, and a life threatening disease to finally topple the pursuit of that dream as the only possible way to spend my waking hours.
Drummer Geoff Reading – who writes a bi-weekly online column (Fridays) for the Weekly Volcano called “Holding Down the 253” in addition to his weekly Wednesday music column – has played music in tons of Northwest bands – Green Apple Quick Step, New American Shame, Top Heavy Crush and most recently Duff McKagan’s LOADED – to name but a few. He’s toured the world several times over, sharing stages with the likes of Slipknot, The Cult, Buckcherry, Korn, Journey, The Sex Pistols, Nine Inch Nails and on and on. He has called Tacoma home since 2005, and lives in the North End with his wife and son.
The Weekly Volcano’s in-house drummer, Geoff Reading, publishes his weekly music column on weeklyvolcano.com every Wednesday. It’s called “Wednesday Reading”. Get it?