It’s stupid, but it does make memories
By Geoff Reading on March 17, 2010
The Seattle Center Coliseum, as I’ve said, was where I saw almost all of the rock shows in my teens and early 20s. I am thankful I got into the habit of going to see concerts when I did and quite bummed I didn’t start earlier. I missed some great shows. But I got to see some amazing bands. Seeing Van Halen’s original line-up on the 1984 tour, and seeing The Cars for what would be there last tour – supporting their album Heartbeat City – stick out as historical, if only that those particular line-ups have never returned to the stage since. Wang Chung opened for The Cars. They were great. That was the first (and maybe only) time I ever saw a guy play an all-electronic drum kit.
I saw Billy Squier, supported by Molly Hatchet, on the tour behind the record that killed Billy’s (first) career. The offending video had our man dancing around a bedroom of pastels – dancing in a very non masculine way. It was really, really bad.
I saw these tours (in the name of being thorough), in this order: Van Halen 1984 with DLR, Sammy Hagar I Can’t Drive 55 tour, Van Halen 5150 (Van/Hagar) and David Lee Roth Eat ‘m and Smile.
They were all great shows. Here are a couple things that stick out from shows that I haven’t written about previously. Sammy Hagar was (is?) known as the “Red Rocker.” On the ICD 55 tour, there was a part of the show where Sammy went around and picked up things that had been vomited from the crowd onto the stage: shoes, hats, panties. …
Anyway, at show’s end I waited at the prearranged spot inside the building for my compadre. It was winter, and there was some snow on the ground outside. Soon, I saw my buddy waiting for me and approached. Right off, I noticed he had only one shoe. It might have taken a bit longer to notice – had the sock on the shoe-less foot not been stretched out and just hanging there. And filthy.
He explained he’d been up front for the majority of the show (this was in the days before the 20 feet in front of the stage was called “the pit”), and at some point he had lost his shoe. Once that happened, it was almost easier to stay in the churning crowd, as a person almost never has both feet on the floor at the same time any way in that environment. He had been so close to the front that he was able to see everything.
“You know that second shoe Sammy painted red?” he asked me.
“That one was mine,” he answered.
We started the long cattle march out of the venue and back to the car. With each snowy step, his sock grew longer and longer until it started to resemble Mr. Snuffleupagus’trunk. There were literally thousands of people in front of us and thousands more behind us, trudging the same snowy steps, mostly in silence – everyone’s energy having been happily handed over to Mr. Hagar and Co. in exchange for some serious good times rock ‘n roll hits. Halfway through our 20-minute walk back to the car, my friend breaks the silence and says to me “All of these people. Everyone of them. All I can think is ‘they all have two shoes’.”
Another item my list of possible dumbest decisions of all time happened after the 5150 show. I had looked at the T-shirts when I first got inside, even though I didn’t have money. After the show, I continued trolling for shirts I couldn’t afford. There was this one. It was basically the stripes from Eddie’s Frankenstrat in red and blue on a white T-shirt with a 5150 logo somewhere on it. It was killer. I can’t remember what story I had recently heard that filled me with the misguided notion that stealing a shirt at a concert would be some kind of cakewalk, but I’m pretty sure the story took place BEFORE the concert – when the crowd was still swelling. In hindsight, I think said story must have involved going INTO the crowd and disappearing on the concert floor.
I approached the merch table and asked about the shirt. The man (who must have been at least 65) said the only size left was XXL. It’s not even going to fit me. What am I doing? He sensed my apprehension and mistook it for pre-buyers remorse, so holding it by the top of the shoulders he unfurled it in front me as if to entice me with its (literally) massive coolness. He’s a good salesman. Maybe he’s on commission.
I leaned in, truly torn about what to do. I found myself sighing to the man, “Wellllll, what’s it made out of?” – reaching up the length of the shirt and actually checking the label to see if as 100% cotton, thinking it might shrink up.
And then I grab the shirt out of the man’s hand and turned and ran.
That is the moment I first put together the part about it being easy to steal T-shirts BEFORE the show during the crowd swelling. It was coupled with the realization that there are a lot fewer places to run and or hide or even blend in when people are leaving. I was fucked.
The old man started yelling his ass off the second I had the shirt. The merch booth I had chosen was vaguely on the south east corner of the building. With no clear plan, I started running – dodging concert goers and trying to stay low. There was nowhere to hide. The crowd was quickly thinning, not swelling. I had not thought this through. By the time I decided remaining inside the building was a death sentence, there were three yellow shirted event staff guys chasing me.
I shot out the main entrance, security in tow. Just as I did I heard “BEAST!” the nickname my buddy and I annoyingly called each other (it was short for Beastmaster, which was our handshake). I look over to see my buddy and another guy sitting waiting for me, mouths agape. I made eye contact and gave them a frowning, eyebrows raised, “Not exactly sure what I’ve gotten myself into here, got any ideas?” look. But I didn’t have time to stop.
Like a confused bullet I ran. First heading vaguely to the right toward what was the flag pavilion, then coming to my senses and cutting back left toward the fountain. The OLD fountain. I don’t remember what time of year it was, only that it was very, very dewy out. At almost a full sprint, I jumped up on the outer ring of said old fountain and as gingerly as possible (a cop had joined chase at this point) jumped down onto the inner ramp that led downward – toward the giant pointy rock garden that served as moat to the giant spike filled eyeball that used to act as center piece of the fountain. The grade was treacherous, and it was at least 20 feet down. At one point on my trek through the inner rings of the fountain, I looked up to see a cop, standing on the outer ring, facing away minding his own business – apparently deaf to the commotion of the chase that came within 10 feet of him.
It was seeing that second cop that really made me think I was done for, and wonder, if gave the shirt back, would they just stop chasing me? My heart was going to explode. My lungs were on fire. At some point I had stuffed the shirt into my pants. I ran flat out all the way across the grass, all the way passed The Center and Opera House – and out the Mercer Street exit of the Center. Still at full sprint, I darted diagonally across the street and up the three flights of stairs to the top of the parking garage and over to the side of the building to see how far behind me they were.
I saw no one.
I was unconvinced. My mind raced. Of course they must have figured out another way to catch me. They must have noticed my friends calling to me as I left the venue and grabbed them. They’re probably forcing them, at this very moment, to give up the whereabouts of our vehicle.
I returned skeptically back to where we had parked the Beast’s VW van, positive that at any moment the authorities were going to jump out and slap the cuffs on me. My nerves were on high alert. After all, I had stolen a $25 T-shirt. I could do serious time.
The bus was parked in a long line of cars on a street that was boarded by a sidewalk, then a few feet of ivy and then a long hedge that was thick and tall. There was no way to get a good view on the approach to the van so I decide to quickly burrow myself into the hedge – and wait.
Finally my friends approached. When I was certain they hadn’t been followed, I let out a just audible “Beast” and jumped out of the hedge.
They filled in the blanks on what had transpired in my wake. I learned they had followed at a safe distance after I passed them in such a hurry. Turns out, that the gentleman directly behind me in pursuit took one running step down off the outer ring of the fountain and slipped on the rock ramp inside – slamming right onto his chest, and sliding all the way down into the moat, face first. End of chase.
I showed them the shirt and we all agreed that, except for the fact that it was eight sizes to big, it was lord.
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.