Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tampa, Florida

I originally wrote this in November of 2008.  I have bumped it up to today because, well, I can.  It is my blog.  So there.

What follows is a memory written as accurately as I can with dialog added to keep the tale from getting dry.  Hence the label "fictional truth".  I did not use anyone's real name except Mountain Boy and mine.

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"Mike, where ya been? We have a real cluster fuck going on here."

"I've been hassling with the boneheads at the hotel and the cops. I guess that vending machine I destroyed last night is a bigger deal than I thought it would be. You know it's gonna cost me $1500 to straighten it out."

"Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. You should have never knocked it over in the first place you idiot. You know how crazed everyone was. And why in Hell did you tell them you did it?"

I looked at Masher. He was dressed in his normal Showco Tee and the same jeans he wore everyday. I always wondered if he had more than one pair of jeans. Or just four or five identical pairs torn and frayed in the same places. His face showed real concern. That was not like him. If anyone kept his cool usually, it was The Masher. I was going to fill him in on the idea of guilt and what it did to some of us. Share my experience learned the hard way that a pre-emptive confession always seemed to result in punishment less severe. But I could tell he was not on the same page anymore. I skipped it and got to the point.

"So, what's up? After the hotel raped me, they got all nicey nice and told me I had a message. A message from you. By the way, that coke machine stole my money."

"Look out at the crowd. They just got word the concert's been canceled. By the governor no less. We need all hands on deck. I think the whackos are going to rush the stage."

I walked onto the stage and gazed out toward the stadium. That high falutin custom built portable security wall set in place to keep back the crazies at outdoor gigs looked like a black wave. One end would lift and then fall. The next section would rise and then fall. So on down the line like a black snake wiggling in front of the stage. The sound of the people in the crowd was an ugly sound. 50,000 fans not happy that they would not see Led Zeppelin this day. Many had become a mob intent on getting revenge. The rest just seemed to hang out as if they had nowhere else to go. A bottle landed near me and exploded into thousand pieces covering my Chuck Taylors with what I hoped was beer or pale wine. Jumping back I tripped on the bull dick cable taped down on the stage floor and fell on my ass.

Still seated, I turned and looked over to Masher. "So why was the concert cancelled?" More objects began to rain onto the stage. Bottles, cans, even someone's hash pipe. I scrambled back out of the way.

"Look up." Masher's eyes drifted skyward and he pointed to the fabric canopy hung over the stage. "We had a screamer of a thunder storm an hour or so ago. The fire Marshall came through and said if we couldn't get rid of the water, the show was done. He was not impressed with the scaffolding fix we came up with. And then he called his guys who then called their guys and now the damn governor is involved. We need to start loading everything up before the crowd breaks through and starts destroying stuff. Get your truck backed in ASAP. And then get back here to help Security keep the crowd back."

Above me the canopy erected to keep the hot Florida sun off the pasty faces of the band was filled with water. It looked like a swimming pool's worth of water. And to be fair to the Fire Marshall, I was not impressed with that scaffolding fix either. Water dripped down at a steady pace right where the monitor board would normally be. The monitor board had been yanked as had everything else on the stage. Just the lights, a couple of lonely looking mic stands and speaker stacks remained. Water dripped on a bare stage and pooled under the dead cables that connected nothing anymore.

I had not been hired to be a head breaker. I was a truck driver. I didn't mess with sound. I didn't do lights. I drove trucks. Busting on poor drunken or drugged slobs definitely did not fit into my perception of my job description.

I began to run all this concern by Masher, when Bob, the head engineer on the tour came over and roared, "Get your fuckin truck and back it in. Let's move!"

I beat a hasty retreat. No one argued with Bob. He was lead engineer for a reason.

Outside behind the stadium, I was impressed with the calm compared to the anarchy I had just left. No irate fans, no tense roadies or security guys. All there was to indicate pandemonium inside the stadium was the roar of thousands of voices as if cheering a continuous touchdown or never ending home run. The trouble was inside not out here in the real World. Outside the Sun was shining, cars drove by and seagulls stood on the dumpsters next to a chain link fence near my truck.

Backing up to the gate, I did not have to get out to find someone to open it. It opened as if by remote by two security guys wearing their standard black security Tee shirts. I backed in until Masher popped out in front of the mirror and jerked his hand in a halt kind of way. Before I even had a chance to get out and unlatch my ramp, it had been removed and I saw two roadies running with it towards the rear of my trailer. By the time I had walked back my doors were open, the ramp was down and the first piece of equipment was almost on the trailer.

I stood there considering the tense vibes all around me. My musing lasted but a moment when Dave, the new driver with the biker attitude, walked over and handed me a mic stand. "Let's kick some ass."

I stood holding this mic stand and looked at him. He was enjoying this. I don't know who made me more nervous, the out of control crowd or this maniac waiting with bated breath to lay into someone. But I kept quiet and followed him over to stage left.

Just then the barricade broke. The crowd had finally found a weak spot and quickly threw it to the side. A sea of long haired fans streamed through the opening. They jumped on the stage. Several were more intent on the victory of the breach than paying attention to the defense mounted against them. A few danced in circles with arms raised. Dave laid into the closest one with his mic stand. Caught the poor bastard right in the kidneys. He went down and Dave moved onto engage his next unlucky target.

I looked over to stage right and two security guys were having their way with another fan. It was mayhem. Violent and instant mayhem. All I could do was stand there, mic stand in hand, and watch.

"Where were the cops", I wondered? "And why were our guys so damn violent?" It just did not make sense to me. Any of it. It was then something solid sailed right at me. I turned but not quick enough. I felt the blow but adrenalin had kicked in. I turned back and looked for the source. All I saw were people in various states of grappling violence. Anger came in a flash. Tossing down the mic stand, I ran to Dave's rescue. I pulled two guys off him and kicked another one hard. Dave extricated himself and all he said was, "I had it under control bud." And he was off again rushing another fan who had violated our space.

I threw up my hands in retreat and backed up to where a group of roadies and stage hands had gathered just outside the circle of pandemonium. If I had to guess, I would say we all stood there with the same thing on our minds. How crazy was this? Just look at those guys. They are beating people because they like it. What the fuck?

Wanting nothing more to do with this stupidity, I retreated towards the Green Room. On the way, one of the light roadies popped out of the bathroom and walked by me. "Hey Mike, there's some chick in the men's room giving everyone head. Get in line."

I shook my head and continued to where I knew food and hopefully some quiet place could be found for me to escape this day that had started so wrong for me. Finding the the Green Room I quickly filled a paper plate with leftovers and plopped into one of the over stuffed chairs. All the while the noise outside the door continued unabated.

At some point I noticed it was not as loud as it had been. I figured the worst was over and I left the Green Room's false security. Back behind the stage I saw cops streaming by and people in handcuffs with bloody parts trickling blood being led away. A whiff of Tear Gas lingered. The crowd had been controlled. The security barrier lay in ruins in front of the stage. And the bulging canopy continued it's steady drip drip drip of water. Out in the stadium, riot cops were busy clearing the fans determined to hang out. There was no hitting, just determined lines of uniforms moving everyone towards the exits.

Masher found me. "I had Mountain Boy pull your truck out. Are you okay? I saw that shot you took. I don't blame you for leaving. Find the ambulance, they'll fix you up."

"What shot?" I looked at Masher. I had no clue what he was talking about.

"Feel the back of your head Mike." He turned and left.

I reached back and felt my head. A large bump had formed. My hand came away red. I found the ambulance. They cleaned me up and cut me loose.

I sat in my truck numb. I tried to digest and come to grips with what I had just witnessed. What I had just been part of. All I could do was think about that damn roadie coming out of the bathroom and informing me some chick was giving everyone head. And I started to laugh. Deep chuckles that started at my asshole and purged all the anger and fear built up over the last 30 minutes. In all the chaos, hate and discontent, Life still moved in predictable ways. The flow of what was normal, SSDD, always found a way to coexist with any upheaval placed in it's way. No matter what madness existed, people still ate, people still got head. Some parts of Life just happened naturally paying no mind to whatever else was going on. It was then I realized this business of rock n roll was going to be one of the most memorable times of my life.

8 comments:

Randal Graves said...

Heh heh, now that's excellent, some would say rock and roll. The burning question is, was the food any good?

Stickthulhu said...

Dig your writing.

If I had had a Zep concert yanked out from under me back in the day, I would have been right there with 'em - one PO'd, hash-pipe throwin' 9-year old.

PipeTobacco said...

Mr. MaCrum:

As always the writing is excellent, but for me, this story is especially valuable for the positive and negative memories it recalls for me of that time period. Although (unfortuantely) I did not have any memorable, extreme adventures, the time you speak of is memorable enough even from my tepid grad- school-at-the-time perspective

BBC said...

I've never been to a big concert, glad I never bothered to, I'm not into those kinds of mayhem.

I got enough of that crap from my brother when around him.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

No wonder people of a certain age know what is meant by the wistful expression, "Rock and roll, baby."

Crum, have you ever considered writing a book about your time on the road? You'd have stories, photos, not to mention the detailed prose of a skilled author.

Think about it!

BBC said...

El Cerdo Ignatius....

Every trucker has tales to tell, should we all write books?

Well, I guess our truths would beat the shit out of that Harry Potter crap.

Hey, did I tell you about the time I tried making a U turn in that farmers field with six inches of snow in it and had to chain up to get out of that mess?

Or the time I drove a long wheel base cab-over and my first shot of hauling 65 foot beams on a 40 foot trailer?

Damn, you had to be careful about going into truck stops or you would take the fuel pumps out.

Or the time when I was sleeping at a quite fuel stop in Oregon when another trucker backed in beside me in the night but backed up to where I didn't see him beside my right side when I got up at 4 am?

I had to pull to the right to get out, he was lucky that I heard a crunching noise and stopped right then.

Or my powerful T-800 would have just destroyed the left side of his anteater instead of just taking his mirror off.

MRMacrum said...

Randal - I do not remember how good it was. Just that there always seemed to be huge amounts left after the groups and their ligger friends were done with it. I basically lived off the grub in the Green Room often times. That and fish sandwiches form Mickey D's.

Stick - Up until I became part of the business, I was one of the inebriated fans I later made fun of. It's odd having the perspective of both sides.

Pipe - We all have adventures. And while those of another may seem more grand and extreme, all one need do is search their own past, and they find some of their own. They are there.

Rock n Roll was nowhere the glamorous or exciting life my few posts have made it out to be. Yes, when it was exciting or exttreme, it got very exciting and extreme. But I would say the business was more akin to being a soldier in war. Many days, weeks, months of mind numbing boredom and hard work, interspersed with moments of intensity. It was a grind. Most drivers only lasted 6 months or so. I hung in over two years.

Billy - Most concerts were not this whacky. This one was an exception.

Should we all write books you ask? Why not. Everyone has truths and tales if they have lived long enough.

El Cerdo Ignatius - Yes, I have considered it. But only if I can come up with enough interesting slices tied together in such a way as to make it flow the right way. Until then I will keep producing these short short stories and maybe one day have enough to make it into something grander.

JACKIESUE said...

rock and rooooooollll