In early December, I sat at my desk at work voraciously clicking refresh.
I had just discovered about 2 hours before that I would have the opportunity to buy VIP tickets to an Alice in Chains show I was planning on going to in NYC as a birthday gift to myself. This VIP ticket would include a meet and greet with the band, thus allowing me to check that off my bucket list on the final eve of my twenties.
You know, I never thought I would be that girl; the girl that cared much at all about turning 30. But, it turns out it’s just something psychologically programmed into your brain. It’s the full scale life eval, and it began over a year ago.
To make a long story short, I spent my twenties in two long term relationships with the two most opposite guys you could dream up. Both ended in me realizing that I didn’t want to settle. It’s scary to wake up one day and you’re 29 and maybe you’ve never really, truly been in love.
So here I am, almost a year later. I’ve focused on my writing, I’ve made some of my music related dreams come true, and I’m on my own really for the first time. But I’m also the most alone and financially precarious that I’ve ever been. I mean, I knew I needed to be single for a while, but almost a year of it and not having even been asked out on one date yet has made me a little insecure. And doing all of these events hoping to grow my site is not a cheap initiative. So as the fingers of depression slowly grab hold of me again, I’m fully realizing exactly why I go to so many shows. It’s the only way I feel love anymore. Live music has become the prostitute for my soul.
I arrived in NYC a couple days before the show to spend some time there, since my last trips for NIN were very rushed. I stayed with my friend Christine, who gave me the NY experience (art + subways + cabs + car services + 4am bars filled with bad music and guys who love to talk about themselves + pizza + sushi + chinese takeout + a couple of tourist photo ops + a night in with the Oscars). But the show on Monday night was my focal point; the final of 3 shows this tour with one of my favorite bands.
In the town car ride on the way over, I’m helping Christine learn the band member’s names and the songs since she’s not very familiar with them- which gave me a bit of deja vu to when I took her to the NIN M&G with me in Camden. It’s kind of a funny feeling to be teaching her the basics when I’ve been obsessed with this band for almost 20 years. In turn, she was telling me how bad Terminal 5 is, which I had kind of heard from others, but was trying to remain positive. As soon as we turned the corner, I could sense the bad energy of the place. There’s no marquee, no box office, not even a sign. It’s a warehouse front next to some car dealerships, and the entrances are concealed behind large industrial garage doors.
We waited outside for a little while, and then we were checked in while in line and given our laminates and posters. We’re let inside and told to line up against a wall. The organizer gives us what he calls the ‘inspirational speech’. The signing part would happen first- you are allowed to have 2 items signed, do not take pictures in the band’s faces, the flu is going around and Jerry is getting over it but Sean is still sick so don’t touch them. The line moves up a bit and we are about in the middle. The tour manager comes out and introduces himself. He walks down the line kind of eyeing everyone and immediately comes up to Christine. “How many shows are you going to?”. She tells him this is my third but this is her only one. So he invites her to come to more since they are in the area all week, and tells her she can ride on the bus! Bold move. My jaw is on the floor at this point. He starts explaining where they would be this week and essentially starts making plans! I’m cracking up at this point, and the guys walk out and sit down at the signing table. The whole thing probably helped me take my mind of the fact that I got really nervous. I let her go first. The order they sat at the table was Jerry, William, Sean, and Mike. When Christine walked up, Jerry was like, “yes, tall girl!”. I walked up after her and had my poster and setlist from the Fillmore show signed. He didn’t say anything to me, so I was like, “so that is from your show at the Fillmore the night your album came out’. And he said, ‘oh’.
And then I did something that I kind of regret. About a week ago, I decided that I would print out two of my pieces- the Fillmore show and the Palladium show, and give it to them. I just thought that it would be the only way that I could share my feelings about them, that those two tend to get a lot of responses from people, so I consider them some of my stronger pieces, and maybe they would be bored on the bus or something and read it. They were in a plain white envelope that was practically bursting at the seams. I set it down between Jerry and William and told them, ‘this is for you to read if you are interested- I’m a writer and this is some stuff I’ve written about some of your shows’. No response. So I just said thanks and moved on to Sean, who said something like, ‘watch out for this one, she’s the quiet one’. I think I nodded my head. Meanwhile, Christine is telling them that the TM has invited her on the bus for the other shows, and Mike gets this horrified look on his face and says, ‘Do we need to have a talk with him? We don’t even ride on the bus!’. Then when I handed him my poster and setlist he asked me where it was from. It was actually the least rushed signing I think I’ve done.
After that, we were re-queued to go back around and take pictures. The TM comes over and hands Christine what at first I thought was a pass, so I practically yelled, ‘hey, where is mine?!’ He handed me one. ‘I thought you were sisters’. Ha. It was his business card.
The TM took the picture. We’re all kind of laughing about ‘the bus joke’ and how we’re going to join the tour. I’m kind of frozen because I ended up standing next to Cantrell. He was smoking a cigarette. He told me to lean in and then he blew smoke on my shoulder. He says something like, ‘do you have a car, a chauffeur’s license, can you drive us?’, and my response was, ‘sure, why not.’ Sure, why not.
Weirdest rock star conversation, ever.
All the laughter caused the picture to be blurry. Christine looked at it right away and realized it, and recommended I ask for another one, but we were getting escorted out, and, let’s face it, I’m not good at asking for stuff.
They made us go back outside and wait, which seemed ludicrous because there was enough space to watch us all inside. Plus, we were supposed to have early entry, which we got, but by making us go back outside we had to go behind the people who had the slightly upgraded ticket that just came with early entry. So we watched these really lame guys party in their limo parked out in front, and then go across the street and pee on the wall, where they got busted by plainclothed police officers. The TM actually came outside to talk to Christine again.
I booked it inside and just barely got the right corner of the stage. Christine had disappeared- the TM let her go shopping at the merch booth! Once she got there, I went and checked our coats and got us drinks. Then we waited.
I had only realized that morning that Middle Class Rut were the openers. I saw them a couple years ago– they are a Sacramento band that went to school with a friend of mine. It seemed like an odd fit, but once they started playing they were different than I remembered-really loud rock music, rather than kind of indie punk rock that I thought of last time. They are a two piece- drummer and guitarist. They share vocal duties- the drummer uses this weird headband contraption with a neon yellow ball that rests in his mouth as a mic. He also has ‘For Rent’ painted across his chest as he did last time I saw them. I felt really, really bad for them. The crowd kept yelling for Jerry. ‘Where’s Jerry!?’. They were getting really agitated, ‘Here’s our punk rendition of ‘Down in a Hole’. They played 4 notes and stopped. People continued to scream for Jerry.
I made a rookie mistake and decided I needed to use the restroom between sets, and Christine wanted another drink. I had to stand in line forever at the stupid bar, and then people were trying to block me on my way back in, spilling drinks on me. I barely made it back in time, and I was shaking from having to yell at people to please let me through.
So much for getting treated like a princess for my birthday!
At least the music started soon. The band was great, as usual, but I could tell immediately that the smaller stage and weird vibe of the venue and crowd was going to make this show less special than the Palladium. They didn’t even have the same visual setup- all of the live video feeds of the band were fed into a screen along the back rather than curtains all around the stage.
During ‘All Secrets Known’, I felt the first of what would be many beer spills on me from the two upper levels.
For me, this set was about holding up a mirror to myself…and I hate looking into the mirror. All these songs have a lot of negative moments in my life attached to them, and on this night, instead of it feeling like an exorcism of these bad things like it usually is, it was more like I relived them.
Have I been going down the wrong path? In doing what I thought was following my heart really an irresponsible, selfish maneuver that is going to leave me alone with my cat for the rest of my life? Is my new ‘seize the day’ attitude going to leave me broke and jobless?
Time to change has come and gone
Watched your fears become your God
It’s your decision
Overwhelmed, you chose to run
Apathetic to the stunned
It’s your decision
You feed the fire that burned us all
When you lied
To feel the pain that spurs you on
After ‘Your Decision’, William said, ‘enough of this kumbaya shit, let’s get back to the heavy stuff’.
Christine was standing next to me in Lolita heart-shaped glasses, life of the party as usual, which is why she’s my date. I’m giving her my commentary song by song: ‘Check My Brain’ is new and GRAMMY nominated and kicks ass. ‘Nutshell’ is a beauty. ‘Acid Bubble’ is my favorite new song. Meanwhile, she’s having Sean pointing at her between songs and Jerry looking down at her and jerking his head back and smiling in surprise of those glasses. It felt kind of like a middle school love triangle- the band I love are actually interested in my friend and don’t know I exist! I’m jealous, but used to be invisible. It’s my superpower.
Another thing I really didn’t like about this venue is that there was a giant clock in my sight line. So after every song I could essentially see the time ticking down on the set, and on the final night of my twenties, to the 11pm curfew that was plastered everywhere on the excessive signage in the place.
When it came time for ‘Love, Hate, Love’, William came over and sang my favorite verse close to where I was, but Jerry stayed on the other side of the stage for the epic solo at the end.
Lost inside my sick head
I live for you but I’m not alive
Take my hand before I kill
I still love you, but, I still burn
When the song was over, I lost control. Tears started pouring out, and they wouldn’t stop. I didn’t like the way I was feeling, but I couldn’t deny myself the emotions. That song is a giant reminder that any time I open myself up to anything, I get hurt…which is why I don’t generally do it. As a result, here I am alone, and no one knows the real me anymore. I don’t even think I do. Is the person I write about on here the real me? Or is it the one that goes to work at my 9-6 job every day? Or is it the one that watches Netflix on my couch until 4 in the morning? I don’t know. All I do know is that my emotions weigh more than my body, and I can feel them screaming for the exit.
The show ended with the usual songs, where the crowd seemed to actually get slightly rough for the first time and a couple of crowd surfers popped up. At the very end, Sean trotted over and handed Christine a stick. She was very kind and tried to give me the stick and the shirt the TM gave her, but I couldn’t accept them. I wanted the story to read, ‘this time, I got Sean’s stick‘. Maybe next time….
We each got a couple guitar picks, and obviously I’m crazy, but I’m pretty sure one of them says Mike Starr on the back. Now that is fucking hilarious.
Afterward, I kind of wandered around in a haze. Christine thought it would be a good idea to take me to Sbarro and take a picture in Times Square to end my trip (and probably try to snap me out of my mood). It’s weird to be in such a lively, bright, energetic center of the world type place when you feel so empty inside.
When I got home the next day, My AiC Fillmore poster had fallen off the wall and the frame was cracked on the corner.
All Secrets Known
It Ain’t Like That
Check My Brain
Dam That River
Rain When I Die
Got Me Wrong
We Die Young
Last of My Kind
Love, Hate, Love
Man in the Box