People say you shouldn’t meet your idols. I say fuck that.
Picture this if you will: The year is 2006. It is a chilly April evening. The 12th to be specific. The place? Peoria Illinois. The East Peoria Event Center An unassuming building that looks more like a commercial warehouse than it does a concert venue. It might actually have been a converted warehouse.
See what I mean?
But that isn’t important. Because what is about to happen will be one of the funnest nights of my life.
Our story actually starts a scant 3 days before the night of the show. I’m in the shower. My girlfriend at the time (who is now my wife) comes in the bathroom.
“Hey honey, you like Rob Zombie right?” She asks, very facetiously. She knows the answer. I’m a HUGE Rob Zombie fan.
“No shit…. why?” I answer, very suspiciously. I could tell by the sound of her voice she was up to something.
“Would you like to see him in concert?”
“I did. With Korn. Why? Is he playing somewhere close?” I ask.
“Yea, in Peoria. On Wednesday. Do we want to go?” She asks. Like I’m gonna say no….
There is some more conversation had. It is decided that we’ll go. Her, her 17 year old sister, a friend of said sister, and myself.
Three very long days later…
At the time I was working at Best Buy, on the Geek Squad. I’ve got to work the day of the concert, but have managed to get someone to shift swap with me so I’m off the day after. That was far and away the longest shift I’ve ever worked. Or at least it felt that way. I’m scheduled to get off at 4:00pm. Doors open at 6:00pm show starts at 7:00pm. It’s an hour and a half drive.
I should mention at this point, I am obsessively prompt. If I’m not early, I see it as being late. For work, dates, doctor’s appointments, anything. If I’m supposed to be somewhere at a certain, you can count on me being there 15 minutes ahead of that time. At a minimum.
So, I have my wife and crew meet me at work and we leave straight from there. After I change clothes, obviously. I’m not going to a Rob Zombie concert in my fucking Geek Squad uniform. At precisely 4:01pm, I’m in the store bathroom doing my best Clark Kent impersonation. Geek Squad Dave goes in, Metal Head Read To Fucking Rock Dave walks out.
The whole drive up, we’ve got the tunes cranking. Getting amped up for the show. And in a rather uncharacteristic display of excess… we made the 1.5 hour trip in an hour and 15 minutes. I rarely speed. But I did that day.
We get to the venue at about 5:30pm. There are a total of 3 other cars in the parking lot. This can not be the right place. A bit of investigation shows that this is indeed the right place. And suddenly the parking lot is filling up fast. The only appropriate course of action is to get in line.
The doors open promptly. Naturally, there is a flood of people into the venue. I’m in no hurry. Not particularly interested in the opening act. I wasn’t a fan. But we’ll touch more on that in a bit. Shows never start exactly on time, and we had an hour to find someplace to stand to watch the first act. The entire place is standing room only.
Fast forward an hour, the house lights go down. It’s time for the opening act. Lacuna Coil. I had a passing familiarity with their music but not a fan by any means. That changed pretty quickly. They actually put on one hell of a show. That isn’t the first time I’ve walked into a show kind of “meh” and walked out a fan. But that is a story for another time. They played for probably an hour and a half but it flew by. Then the lights come up for intermission.
Being a concert “veteran” at this point, this was the moment I was waiting for. While other suckers were getting drinks and buying T-shirts, I maneuvered us closer to the stage. There were 3 people between us and the barricades. Almost dead center stage. Perfect.
Now we get to an audience participation moment. And by that I mean I have a task for you. Open up Spotify. Search for Rob Zombie. Find the “Educated Horses” album. Click play on Sawdust In The Blood and just let it play. Then close your eyes and picture this.
Less than 10 feet from the barricades. Surrounded by a couple thousand amped up metal heads. The curtain is still down. Then picture the curtain flies up right as good part of American Witch kicks in. Stage lights start going crazy. There he is. 15 feet away at the most. The man, the myth, the legend. Rob Motherfucking Zombie.
I thought he’d be bigger.
The crowd goes absolutely ballistic. Bedlam is an understatement. The surge of bodies is overwhelming. Mistakes have been made. If I were alone, I would be fine. But I’m not alone. I’ve brought the love of my life and two teenage girls into this madness. They are my responsibility. What the fuck was I thinking?
If you’ve followed my earlier directions, you heard the intro to American Witch. Approximately 30 seconds of a voice repeating “This is a journey back to fear, guilt, anxiety”. Truer words have seldom been spoken. Because that is exactly what I was feeling at that moment.
I did my best to become a human shield. I was kinda skinny back then. But a strong skinny. I could pick up 110lbs and throw it like it was nothing. I had my wife in front of me, and the girls were in front of her. I had kinda warned them. A little. Don’t fight the crowd. If the crowd wants to go left, go left. If the crowd wants to go right, you guessed it.. go right. The crowd is most likely going to follow the singer. Gut it out for a few songs and things will sort of settle down. At least a little.
Then I went down. I’m not sure what happened. But I went from upright to on my back. This is what we call a “bad thing”. Because the crowd can’t stop to let you get up. I was stepped on, kicked, you name it. And I don’t hold it against any of them. They were doing their best to not end up like me. I ended up with some pretty badly bruised ribs. Might have been some cracking, but my stubborn ass wouldn’t know. Because getting checked out was for pussies. I was banged up pretty good. That much is for sure.
Eventually I regain my footing. My thinky brain has completely disengaged at this point. The only thing I want is to get back to my wife and the girls. And heaven help anyone between them and me. I made it back to my wife and one look at her face tells me beyond a shadow of a doubt, she is not OK. She’s starting to freak out. The girls are fine. They’ve made it to the barricade and are having the time of their lives. But it is time get K the hell out of there.
And this is just the first fucking song…
So, moving sideways, I guide K out of the crowd as quickly as I can. And in no way, shape, or form is any of this an indictment against her. Some people just aren’t crowd people. And we learned that night that she is one of those people. Once we got her some air, she was fine. And had a blast. She even made me go get in the pit a couple of times.
Mosh pits. Don’t confuse the pit with the surge of the crowd. Two completely different animals. The mosh pits form organically after the surge settles down. The surge is a mindless mechanism of crowd dynamics. The pit is voluntary violence. But not malevolence. It is a cathartic violence. A way of releasing stress. If you go down in the surge, you just might be fucked. Go down in the pit and somebody is probably going to pick you up and help you get your wheels back under you. A glorious fraternity dedicated to exhausting the rage we all feel. Just take your glasses and jewelry off first. The mosh pit will not be held liable for lost or damaged items.
The show lasted probably 2 hours or so. It would be easier for me to list the songs they didn’t play. I’d mosh for a song or two, go hang with K for a few songs, then back to the pit.
Get there first, leave last
After the show, and encore, there was the normal mass exodus to the parking lot. A couple thousand people who’ve just had an amazing night. I knew there was a good chance of getting separated, so it was prearranged to just meet back at the car after the show. And that is just what we did. Come to find out, the girls spent the whole show at the barricades. Good for them. They had a blast.
Watching the parking lot empty, we were in no hurry to get in the car. The chill air felt nice after all that time in a packed concert. And sitting in the idling car would just be wasting gas. Instead, we opted to wait until the crowd thinned out considerably before even trying to leave. Every once in a while I manage to have a good idea.
Naturally the girls get a little bit bored. They still have gallons of adrenaline coursing through their veins. So, they decide to wander around a bit. With a reminder to not wander too far, they get the nod from big brother.
A brief aside: I take family seriously. I don’t have “step” or “in-law” family. It sometimes confuses people because I don’t refer to her as my sister in-law. She’s my kid sister. You’re either all the way in, or you’re all the way out. I’ve got family that isn’t even related to me in any traditional way. But they are family. And I’ve got blood relatives who are not family. It’s weird. I know. Deal with it. She’s more my sister than my actual by blood brother is my brother.
Back to the story. Sitting there on the hood of the car, starting to wind down just a little. Smoking a cigarette. Life is good. The parking lot is almost clear enough to start thinking about leaving. I look around for the girls and they aren’t in line of sight. Fuck. Just as I’m standing up to go looking for them, I hear yelling. And then see the girls come running around the corner of the building.
Is it time for big brother to kick some ass?
I throw my wife the keys and tell her to bring the car, while I take off on foot. I was halfway across the lot before she got the car started. I get to the girls and they are incoherent. Or at least both of them gibbering like howler monkeys at me at the same time is making them incoherent. They keep pointing to the side of the building they came from. So I did the only thing I could think of. I went around the corner.
And that’s when the night went from great to unforgettable.
Standing maybe 30 feet away with an entourage of security is none other than the man himself. Rob Zombie. Just kinda hanging out with people. Not an official meet and greet. Not just signing autographs and moving on to the next person in line. Standing there having a conversation with people. What else could I do besides walk over?
As I approached, he looked over at me and stuck his hand out to shake. “I love your shirt, man.” I’m standing there shaking hands with an absolute GOD and he just complemented my shirt. And he hung out bullshitting with us for a good 10-15 minutes. He signed our ticket stubs. He took pictures with us.
Looking back, I feel just a little guilty. He was probably exhausted and wanted nothing more than to get on the bus and chill the fuck out. He puts a lot of energy into his shows. He gave 110% on stage that night. And there he was, still giving 110%.
I watched an episode of the Joe Rogan podcast with him not long ago. I only watched it because it was Rob Zombie. And he mentioned having social anxiety. He talked about how he can play in front of a hundred thousand people and be perfectly fine. But meeting just a couple of people bothers him.
But there he was. Signing autographs and taking pictures. Even if you don’t like his music, you have to respect that.