i was either fourteen or fifteen. i lived on a commercial chicken farm. after a squabble with this retarded stoner ska fan named robby my punk rock ass vandalized the drum set that he played in band class, turning one of the rack toms into a huge crass symbol, and scrawling "SKA SUCKS" on the snare. this ended up getting me suspended from school for a day.
as i kicked around the house, i turned on the local college radio station and went about the tasks assigned to me by my parents for punishment for my juvenile misdeeds. perilous cheryl was playing some old stiff records groups adding bounce to my step as i swept and mopped the kitchen floor. it was then that she interrupted my rocking and announced that she was giving away a pair of tickets to see the ramones' last gig in providence, rhode island. the broom dropped and i was franticly dialing 91.7, WHUS. i was the first, if maybe only caller and scored my pass to see what will always live in my mind as the greatest show i will ever see in my whole life.
i meekly stepped up the hill to the main building and approached my stepfather, then 27 years old; a look-a-like for willie nelson and kind of a "rocker." i told him that i had won a free pair of tickets to see a rock group and shyly added that i was terribly sorry for my misbehaviour and would he find it in his heart to forgive me and maybe drive jeremiah, the guitarist for my band at the time, and myself to providence so that i might see the band that i had been blaring from my room for the last two years. surprisingly, he grinned and agreed. my mother on the other hand, was far bitchier and couldn't believe that i was going to see a punk rock band for free on a monday night when i was suspended from school for vandalism. as anyone knows, sometimes a parent will curry the favor of a child when there's a marital dispute. jeremiah showed up at seven and my stepfather, mother and two juvenile punkers were headed to The Strand to see the ramones.
jeremiah and i were so excited. as we rolled into coventry, rhode island to pick up weed from my uncle, my parents puffed on a bomber joint as my cohort and i cackled on at the terrible music playing on the radio. if i remember properly, the collective soul song that had that video where the speaker cone turns inside out and the nursery rhyme song by korn played back to back.
when we arrived i was practically shaking: my first concert! as we made our way in, there was a sign outside advertising a 311/cypress hill concert the next night. i felt almost crushed against the ground due to the sheer size of the place. i guess it used to be a theater: there was a balcony and the ceiling was elaborately painted. the ground sloped downward towards the stage. jeremiah and i made our way to the front. i had freshly magic markered a germs logo on the back of my denim jacket and was wearing a spiked dog collar. i wasn't scared of the older crowd but it was certainly a world i had never dreamed of. people with crazy facial piercings. green hair. leather leather and leather. unapproachably beautiful punk rock girls and their scary boyfriends. stoners. pillheads. drunks. fortysomethings who had probably seen the ramones one hundred times before.
jeremiah and i were snotty juvenile punks at that time respecting only ourselves and pretty much only listening to PUNK FUCKING ROCK and ridiculing most of what was not (although we secretly loved the dumb classic rock that we grew up on) so once the terrible hardcore metal started coming out of the monitors, our tongues were flapping as we watched this weird leprechaun-like dude up front gyrate and flick his tongue to the music. he seemed to disappear as the opening act began to set up. i was standing next to a man of about 35 who was already "in his altitudes" who was clutching a half full pint glass and cheered as "sonic reducer" by the dead boys hissed out of the monitor and swirled around my pubescent mind. the club grew dark and one of the worst bands i have ever seen-"gren"-began to play. they were reminiscent of bush with died green dreadlocks and terrible stage banter about drugs and forgettible licks. as i remember, they were boring, tragic and i feel bad for anyone else who wasn't so bombed that they were amused for maybe a second. four years later i would see their cd in the cutout bin. whouldathunkit. i later heard that joey ramone actually asked them to go on tour with them. poor, poor idealistic joey. old punks fall out of touch, too.
after the gawdawful racket of "gren," everything was still besides the growing drunken revelry of our older peers. my hair seemed to stand on end (not in a GBH sort of way) and again, the club grew dark as the first strains of ennio morricone's theme to "the good the bad and the ugly" began to pound through the monitors. the ramones were about to take the stage and if i died at that moment i could have cared less. the crowd surged forward and my bandmate and i stayed close together while my parents sipped beer in the back.
the lights kicked on and there stood the four gods of my teenage mind, banging out "durango 95" before ripping straight into blitzkrieg bop at a speed nowhere near the record and not stopping until six songs had been dusted off and the audience was already covered in a sweat. it was the first time i had ever slammed and i felt exhillerated (sp?) the older punks were doing a dance that i had read about and still to this day have never seen since: you would run across the room to the opposite side, someone would catch you and propel you towards the opposite bank like a human pinball, but you just kept bouncing around due to the inertia of the dance. there were no elbows or feet. just bouncing back and fourth occasionally knocking someone or your self over. everyone picked up anyone who fell over and you just kept shooting around. i wish people still danced like this, it was some of the most fun i'd ever had, and all the while the ramones blared away. i swear they must have played the entirety of their first three records. joey was an animated stick on stage. it was shortly after jerry garcia died, and johnny was wearing a shirt that said "i'm greatful jerry's dead." dee dee was a solid rock of 1-2-3-4's and the drummer... played drums.
they were and will most likely be the loudest band i have ever seen live, ever. after my ears calibrated the wall of distorted static i began to recognize the songs a little easier and i was in heaven. my stepfather approached me and yelled into my shredded ear that my mom was being a raincloud and wanted to go home. IT WAS THE FUCKING RAMONES!! he was completely cool and took the full brunt by telling her that we were not leaving until the fruit of her womb was thoroughly rocked by his favorite band. go dad. a punk girl grabbed me by the throat and we did the grapple. i screamed "swallow my pride" as it shattered my eardrums. there were some rather douchey skinheads getting macho in the pit and jeremiah later told me that he produced a pencil from his jacket and stuck one of the skins with it, later inspiring a trilogy of oi! songs in our band.
as the ramones finished their third encore, jeremiah and i made our way, bruised and jubilant, to find my parents and head home. my ears rang like they never will again and our bodies were sore but we had just seen the most fantastic concert of our entire lives. my ma bitched and moaned on the way home but my stepfather gleamed at my rock and roll rite of passage.
upon arriving home, jeremiah's dad was waiting. we laughed and exchanged fake nazi salutes saying; "oi skins. gren rules." for the next four days i would have to turn my stereo up to 8 to hear anything out of the speakers due to my ringing ears. my parents had the same problem, so it made for an interesting household.
i will never forget that night or the impact it made upon my life.
rest in peace, fellas.