This ticket is from the single greatest concert I’ve seen my favourite live band perform, which took place at the Memorial Auditorium in Burlington, Vermont on October 31st, 2003.
That’s right, Hallowe’en*, or more specifically: HalloWeen.
Funny, I specifically remember standing outside in the chilly autumn night waiting to get into the show but I don’t recall at all whether or not I was wearing a costume. I’m guessing I went low-key and just wore my home-made googly-eye vest which – while understated – is a pretty intricate, interesting, and unique chunk of apparel, and certainly Hallowe’en-worthy.
(Years later I took the googly-vest concept to new and wonderful heights for a Hallowe’en concert in Las Vegas, spending months glueing tens of thousands of googly-eyes onto a pair of dress pants, a sports coat, a pair of shoes, a tie, and a hat. When I walked I sounded like the ocean; whoosh…whoosh…)
Everyone else was certainly in costume. One that stands out vividly in my mind was a guy who was wearing a contraption made of metal tubing and bracing upon his shoulders that held a full-sized video camera about two feet above his head. The camera was pointing down at the space directly in front of the guy and was obviously designed to film the dude’s entire evening. I thought it was brilliant. Little did I realize that I was seeing the future of GoPro.
Actually, all the costumes were pretty top-notch, and together they created a general assortment of pageantry. There was an excellent Strawberry Shortcake, a guy dressed as Jesus who was carrying an enormous wooden cross, and my friend Stapes was very convincing as Disco Stu.
As we were waiting in line my friend Julia scored a free ticket from the girl in front of us. Spirits were high as we shuffled through the door and as soon as we found a spot on the floor the band hit the stage, blazing.
There was a beer garden up in the balcony which kept me bouncing back and forth all night and I was raging the whole time; the band was absolutely on fire. During Take Me Away my friend Bradm yelled in my ear, “These guys might just save rock and roll!”
“They already have!” I screamed back, throwing my plastic cup to the floor and raising both fists into the air. I was deja-vu-ing back to when I was sixteen and seeing Ozzy Osbourne at Maple Leaf Gardens. Just then they pulled out Dr. Rock and I just had to get back on the floor, fast. I polite-Canadianed my way to the invisible edge of the frontmost rage-cage area and moshed my way up to second row. I was maniacally rocking out like a wide-eyed teenager the entire time.
Heck, I was feeling (and acting) so youthful that one of the bartenders upstairs carded me. I was thirty-five years old and looked at least fifty.
Have you ever woken up after a great party and you keep remembering a thousand different things…oh yeah, Jimmy fell into the pool…oh right, I was talking to those Siamese twins on the staircase…wasn’t someone dressed up as E.T.?…then I found that whole other party in the basement…oh right, a bunch of us walked through the drive-thru…and there were firemen. Why were there firemen?…
Anyway, this concert is like that for me. I was upstairs…I was downstairs…I was hanging with these friends then those friends and then strangers…oh yeah, the keyboardist had a Theremin…my word, they played the best Voodoo Lady ever…oh my gosh, I was dancing like a madman; I was even moving my feet!…Gener pulled out his mandolin…and there was all that craziness in the bathroom…and the band played All My Love???
Wow. Ween covered Led Zeppelin’s All My Love. Crazy.
The last two tunes killed me. Well, almost. Blarney Stone made me want to race back to the motel and drink a 26er of self-imported Canadian whisky, which is pretty much what I did, but Fancy Pants was the tune that was firmly stuck in my head when I woke up the next morning at 8am hungover almost as much as I deserved to be. And the blissful, cursed earworm wouldn’t let me go back to sleep.
With the motel overrun with Ween fans we had all kept the place lit for hours and hours after the show, so I tiptoed around all the sleeping bodies in our room and stepped outside with a fresh styrofoam cup of instant coffee and a copy of the Gideon’s Bible**. I had barely cracked the spine when a retired couple exited the room next door to ours. “So that’s where all those noise complaints had come from,” I thought, half-interested. The husband threw this dishevelled stinking monster (me) a fiery glare, glancing back-and-forth between my bloodshot eyes and the open Bible in my lap. When I croaked out a raspy “good morning” and gave him a weak wave he grabbed his wife’s hand and stalked away without a word. You could almost hear the Fred Flintstone trombone as he stormed past me. I went back to humming Fancy Pants and reading my Bible.
What a rip-roaring rollicking thunder-hawking mother trucker of a good time that was…I can’t even…I swear I could write an entire book about this show. If I did, the epilogue would see me, Julia, and Bradm embark on a lovely drive through the Lake Champlain island system listening to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon and melting our minds back into semi-consciousness as we surprised each other with more and more forgotten bits of memory from the night before.
God, I love Ween.
(If you think this ticket story is long you should see my notes from this concert…I am leaving so much out…)
*Some might think I’m olde-school for consistently writing it as “Hallowe’en” instead of the more popular spelling, “Halloween” but I’m not being that olde-school. While the apostrophized version started to fall out of favour in the 18th century (for most of you at least), the original contraction of “All Hallows’ Even” (dating back to the 16th century) was spelt “Hallow-e’en”, which is, of course, quite silly.
I guess I’m a retro-modern man at heart.
**Betcha didn’t know that I have a degree in Religious Studies. Betcha also didn’t know that one of my hobbies is to preach the apocalyptic stylings of the Nicolaitans from of the Book of Revelation to people in hotel rooms, usually rather early in the morning. Oh, I know how to show folks a good time.