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For four impressionable teenage innocent boys, it was a night met with as much anticipation as Christmas Eve. We were going to our first concert.
Tickets were hard to come by, but not near as difficult as negotiations with our parents. We pledged to do anything – including improve our grades! After prolonged begging, we were allowed to attend the biggest and most popular concert on tour that year. Stipulations were placed on our attending, but we didn’t care.
Our bedroom walls were decorated with posters of the band. We had bought every album and eight-track (remember those?) and knew the words to every song. We were even official members of the fan club, or Army as the band called us. The band had sold out two shows in our town and we were headed to the second night’s concert!
On September 2, 1977, we arrived at Summit Arena in Houston, Texas a full hour before the doors were to open. We milled around outside taking in the atmosphere with our two “grown up” chaperones. Yes, they were part of the stipulations handed down to us. Once the doors finally opened, and the crowd started to rush in our excitement level began to rise. This was it. The big night.
Just as the four of us were set to enter the “grown up” chaperones notified us that they were not going in and would wait outside the arena for us once the concert was over. A small level of anxiety set in. We had never been to a concert before and by the looks of the characters in the crowd we were just a little out of our element here.
Setting fear of the unknown aside, we rushed into the arena and found our seats. Our tickets were in the upper most level and in the far back. We were only a few rows away from having the worst seats in the concert hall, but we could care less.
That is until we spotted the guy struggling to walk up the steps. One hand tightly held the handrail, the other circled around him like a helicopter blade as he tried to maintain some level of balance. His long black hair waved back and forth, dancing across his face like car wash brushes across the hood of your car. His eyes were half-opened and unfocused as his head flopped around like it was on a puppet string.
The four of us spotted him at the same time. We elbowed each other in the side, but were too afraid to say a word. The guy continued to stumble his way up the aisle closer and closer to our seats. On several occasions he nearly let go of the rail and somehow avoided falling into the people seated along the aisle. He continued closer and closer to us. Time to panic. We were young, but not dumb. We knew what was about to happen.
As fast as we could see it coming, we saw it coming. A steady stream of Pepto-Bismal colored vomit erupted and landed all over the poor kid sitting on the aisle step below us. The kids head was turned away talking to his friend and never saw what we saw coming. We didn’t know if we should run, scream or laugh. There was no way we could offer the pink colored kid any help. So we just sat there in stunned silence.
As would become a tradition for every concert, my friend and I decided now would be an opportune time to buy our concert shirts. The concourse was packed with people from a world two 15-year-olds had never seen before. The kids our own age had hair longer than our sisters. There were Afros the size of over-inflated basketballs. Men wore makeup, and the women, well lets just say they were confused as to which bathroom to use. Everyone was dressed in costume, and we were still over a month away from Halloween.
We made our purchases, and as we turned to head back to our seats we were greeted by a couple of rather large Hispanic men. They demanded we hand over our concert shirts. We stood in shock. Frozen in complete fear. Suddenly one of them reached out and grabbed my buddy’s concert shirt. Natural instinct set in. Chris immediately, and with all the force and muscle he could gather, pulled back. It was then that we saw the switch blade knife fall out the man’s hand and onto the ground.
We had no doubt what to do next. We ran!
Once back in our seats the voices of our parents concerns began to make a little sense. Maybe, just maybe they were right. Concerts are dangerous and no place for four teenagers. But the parental voices in my head were soon turned off as the arena lights went dark. The moment had come. A loud roar of anticipation came from the crowd. People held up lighters illuminating the crowd in an orange glow.
The PA announcer came over the sound system: “YOU WANTED THE BEST AND YOU GOT THE BEST. THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE LAND….KISS!!”
Our eyes were glued to the stage and the pyrotechnic show. The band came out playing “I Stole Your Love.” Our little juvenile heads bobbed to the beat of the music. Smiles were transfixed across our face. We raised our fisted arms in triumph.
Then something funny started to happen. It was if someone had let a family of skunks loose in the arena. The “skunky” smell came from all-around us! Suddenly, little, white, hand-rolled cigarette-looking objects were passed our way. What the hell? We passed them right back. Offering our best and polite “no thank you.” We were warned (yes by our parents) about marijuana at concerts. Well, this skunk smell must be it. For the first time in our lives, our senses took in the smell of pot. I have to admit, I still like the smell. Just never been a fan of partaking.
The band played all the fan favorites and as usual put on an entertaining show. They performed all the antics we had read about – fire breathing, blood spewing, explosions, smoking guitars. We left the concert excited as if we had been to the mountaintop. We were on our own “natural” high, or maybe a second-hand smoke high. We met our two chaperones outside and told them what a great concert they missed. They music was so loud, they said, they sat outside and could hear the entire show. I could tell they were relieved it was over, and we had made it out safe and sound.
I look back at that concert with fond and amusing memories. Did we actually go see four grown men dressed in makeup and high-heeled boots? It’s strange that my former concert arena, which hosted the best and loudest concerts, and played host to thousands of drunks and dope heads is now home to preacher Joel Osteen. The Houston televangelist turned the arena into a church. He better perform an exorcism if he expects to rid all the demons from that place!
I don’t remember if we ever lived up to our promise to make better grades. I have a feeling we didn’t. Our little world was never the same after that night. But I’ll never forget my first concert when the circus came to town.
Going to your first concert is like a first kiss (no pun intended) or a first date. Do you remember your first concert? Did you walk through mysterious doors into a world never seen before? Can you remember the opening band? (FYI – the opening band that night was Styx.) What long-lasting memories came from that night?