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NITWITS IN THE CROWD

 I went to my first punk show back in 1982. Since then I have been to hundreds of shows and seen plenty of odd and bizarre events take place. Not only do I go to these things for great music and a little slam dancing (I refuse to refer to slam dancing as moshing), I go to see how people act. Most of the time I completely forget how the band was, but remember what everybody was doing at the show. When I go to a punk show I often find that my attention has been diverted from the bands to the crowd. More like the nitwits in the crowd. Believe me, I know other people at these shows have probably looked at me thinking that I was a nitwit. We all have done stupid or embarrassing things, including me. I have just decided to write what I have seen or been a part of.

 1995-The Ramones were playing in Boston at the Avalon Ballroom. This show was reported to be their last in Boston ( it wasn’t), so it was a full house. I arrived at the show midway through the opening act’s set. I have no idea who these guys were. After they finished, the lights came on and music was being played on the sound system. Standing next to me was a guy around the age of 25. This guy was a punk rock know it all. He was blurting out facts about every band and every show ever played in the United States. While he was talking away, I wondered if he knew what he was talking about. At one point he stropped talking and started shaking his head with a disgusted look on his face. Then he starts talking to everyone around him saying “Listen to this song everybody. Another Green Day rip-off. Why is there no original music any more? One band breaks the mold and every band follows. Typical music industry!" I looked at this guy in disbelief. The guy then starts yelling ”Green Day wanna be!” He starts waving his arms up and down trying to get people to join him. Some body finally threw a drink at him and the guy turned around and walked away. I notice on the back of his jacket was a small picture of Sid Vicious. I now knew this guy was full of crap. That Green Day rip-off song was The Sex Pistols “No Feelings”

 November 92’- A friend and I were walking to catch the Rollins Band at The Channel. We were about a mile from the venue when out of nowhere somebody smashed me across the back of the head with something. I was out cold. By buddy was not so lucky. Three guys beat the snot out of him. They kicked him in the face knocking out five of his teeth, broke his jaw, and nose. We never saw it coming. While we lay unconscious on the ground, the cowards stole our money, leather jackets and our tickets to the show. I later woke up in the hospital so the rest of this story comes from friends who were meeting us at the Channel. After the morons stole our stuff, they wore our jackets to the Rollins show. When our friends saw these guys with blood all over them wearing our jackets (both of our jackets have distinguishing artwork all over them), they knew something was wrong. My friend over heard the guys bragging about what they had just done. After about an hour of talking with the cowards, my friend offered to buy them all a beer and asked for their licenses. The three idiots handed them over. My friend then walked over to the cop on duty and told the story and gave the licenses to him. The three guys were arrested and went to jail on other unrelated charges.

 May 96’-This personal favorite took place at a bar in Burlington, Vermont. I was doing guitar work for a friend's band called Elbow Grease. I can’t play the guitar, but I sure can string one. About 45 minutes before they went on, I was at the bar unsuccessfully trying to pick up a chick. This guy wanders up next to me and introduces himself to the bartender as Ben Weasel. Being a Screeching Weasel fan, I looked up in a hurry. Now, I don’t know Ben Weasel and I’ve never even seen him, but this dude was not Ben Weasel. I don’t think Ben has tattoos covering both of his arms from wrist to shoulder. I also don’t think Ben has OZZY tattooed on his fingers. I decide to play with him. I start talking with him about how much I like the Boogada and Wiggle cds. I will admit he knew his Screeching Weasel, so he was a fan. As the rumor got around that Ben Weasel was in the club, people started to gather around. This guy was getting free beer and asked for his autograph. I couldn’t believe people were falling for this.                The time came for Elbow Grease to play. I went to the stage and hung out doing my job. About four songs into the set I explained to the band about the Ben Weasel impersonator. I had an idea. I took the mike and asked for everyone’s attention. I announced that Ben Weasel was here. Like it had been rehearsed, the joker stands on the bar and starts waving to the crowd. People applauded. I then invited “Ben” to come up and play Ashtray (off of Boogada) with the band. He yells “Most definitely. Right after I drain the dragon!” Yes, those were his exact words. He disappeared into the bathroom and I followed behind him. Sure enough, when I opened the door, “Ben” was trying to crawl out a small window. He couldn’t fit. When he exited the bathroom, Elbow’s lead singer Mike, announced to the crowd what was going on. This guy had to walk out of that bar with people covering him with beer and spit. He wasn’t happy. To this day I can’t figure out why so many people knew Ben Weasel enough to want his autograph, but not enough to know it really wasn’t Ben.

 1988-This happened along time ago and I will never forget it. Six or seven local punk bands were playing at a VFW Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There were about 50 people in attendance. This was an all ages show and no alcohol was being served. Three of the bands played without a hitch. Every one was having a great time. Before the forth band went on, I saw a guy about 20 stagger into the hall. This guy was messed up on either drugs or alcohol. The next band started playing and they were unreal. I have no idea who they were, but they had the entire hall going crazy. Maybe five minutes into the set, the drunken guy starts a fight in front of the stage. The band stops playing and the lead singer stands in between the two combatants and says “ Come on guys, I’m catching some bad vibes down here. Lets calm down.” The singer stops and looks at the drunk. The drunk shakes his head and mumbles “ Ya, ya, ya all right,” Then he yells “ Here’s a finger in your eye!” This jerk buried half of his index finger on his right hand into the singer’s eye socket. It happened so fast. It was absolutely the most painful looking thing I’ve ever seen happen to anyone. The singer fell to the ground screaming and I don’t blame him. The rest of the band and about 10 kids jump on and started beating the drunk. A friend and I picked up the singer, threw him in my car, and drove him to the hospital. He ended up being all right. The finger went under the eyeball. The drunk was given a brutal beating. I haven’t seen him since.

1992-I was in South Carolina working for a few weeks and decided to go to a few punk shows. I was in a bar called something like Jumpers or Jumper Cables, I can’t remember. I didn’t know anybody so I was standing off to the side watching the slamming. In walks this guy who was about 6’ 4”, 250 lbs. This guy had more muscles than most small towns. He walks into the middle of the pit, sporting his cut off shirt and shorts, and stops. He reaches into his fanny pack (?) and pulls out a plastic spoon and a jar of Gerber’s baby food. He stood in the middle of the pit, rocking his head back and forth, eating his baby food. After eating his second jar, he turned around and left. Technically, this guy might not be a nitwit, but he sure was a weird one.

1989-Before I write this story, I must explain something. Before The Channel (Boston) closed down a few years ago, the bouncers who worked there were known for being maggots. They enjoyed grabbing people half their size and throwing them around like a rag doll. They often ruined good shows.

Danzig was playing on a hot summer night . The place was jammed and it was unbelievably hot. The crowd was having a good time and of course there were plenty of stage divers. The bouncers tried their best to grab, over aggressively, the divers and kick them out of the club. No big deal. One skinny kid gets on stage and leaps off. This huge bouncer grabbed the kid by his arm mid air. Some of the people in front of the stage grabbed the stage diver’s feet. The result was a tug of war. Another bouncer joined in ripping off the diver’s shirt. The huge bouncer was pulling hard on the kids wrist and before you knew it, the kid’s arm suddenly became six inches longer. The kid started screaming. His shoulder or his arm became dislocated. The crowd immediately let go, but the bouncers proceeded to yank the kid around in obvious pain. I know bouncers have a job to do, but they don’t have to tear off people’s arm in the process.

 1996-Tree was playing at The Middle East in Cambridge, Ma. The crowd inside was a violent one. Lots of fights.  After catching an errant boot to the groin, I decided to go outside for a while to shake (not literately) the effect. While sitting on the sidewalk, two groups of men came out and started arguing. One group was three or four Latinos; the other was six or seven white guys. No punches were being thrown, only pushing. I sat and watched as one of the Latino guys walked away towards a car and opened the trunk. I thought this guy was getting a gun. I was wrong. Instead he pulled out a two-foot machete. He walked back to the group of arguing men. He stopped about ten feet from them, bent over, and started to scrap the machete back and forth against the concrete sidewalk. While he did this, sparks were flying all over the place. The whole time he was yelling in Spanish. Needless to say, when the white guys turned to this maniac with a sparking machete, they turned and walked away-intact.

1994- Rollins Band in Providence, Rhode Island. When I walked into Lupo’s I thought I had just entered study hall. Seventy five percent of the people were writing away in notebooks. Obviously, these people were also fans of Henry Rollins the writer and spoken word artist. So am I in fact. I was standing up against a concrete wall. At my feet sat a young kid basically twiddling his fingers. From around the corner walks Rollins himself. He stops about five feet from me and the kid next to me. The kid suddenly reaches to his back pocket and pulls out a folded notebook and pen. He starts feverishly writing into the notebook. He was really going at it. Feeling a little nosy, I look to see what exactly he is writing. Get this, he was writing absolutely nothing. He didn’t even have his pen cocked to write. Rollins walks away and the kid puts his notebook and pen away.

Copyright 1998 by Denis Sheehan

 

 

 

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