PUNK ROCK, PATHETIC OR PANACHE? MY DAMNED LIFE.
Originally posted: April 16th, 2017
A day before The Damned concert here in Portland I reached out to three viable leads for a VIP pass. I love this band with all my heart. Of the big three punk bands, Sex Pistols and The Clash, I am a Damned Girl as you can see here.
When The Damned documentary, Don't You Wish That We Were Dead? came to Portland last yearI rounded up lots of people and made a night of it.
Dedicated and no I do not wish you were dead.
You won't believe this story unless you have heard my other unbelievable stories.
The only purpose of the pass was so that I could actually see the band. I had a ticket. I just couldn't get to The Crystal Ballroom 5 hours early to stand up front which is the only place a five foot three girl can see the stage. Otherwise you stand on your toes in the back by the water cooler and simply be happy you are there at all. One of my connections was through the venue and the other two were through the band itself. I rarely call in a favor and as gorgeous as a venue as Crystal is, as amazing as the sound quality is, as friendly as the staff are, as reasonable as ticket prices are to see incredible bands and all things otherwise fantastic, the floor is flat and the tallest guy at a show will inevitable stand in front of me and I will be miserable. Few things get me stressed out and keep me up at night. They are vital things and then there is "How will I see the band at Crystal?" when I am going to a show there. Also vital.
One of my friends that I reached out to lives in England. We have known each other for ages via the internet. I messaged him to see if he could help with a pass figuring a decent person to ask was an early member of The Damned. . i felt anyone local who could get one would be inundated as every rock musician in town was going. I was stretching for sure. He wrote back that I have "panache" and was confident I would find a way to get a pass and lay my eyes on the band. The other one, who also lives in England didn't get the message until after the show. As connected as he is to the band as well that one was a long shot for reasons that are in the history books. And the other? I dunno. It just couldn't be done unless she went to the show with me and I don't think The Damned are her cup of tea. Too bad. A better band than most and certainly more influential than, say, Coldplay whom they mocked onstage. It was quite funny because they knew they were talking to people who have entirely different tastes.
I got there. Stood in line which I've not done in forever. But, I rose to the occasion, went in and found a pretty decent spot as far as proximity to the stage. If I stood on my toes and craned my neck I could see Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible's microphone. "This will do" I told myself even tho I began to question my panache. They are the only two original members of the band so OK. I filled in the rest with the likes of Rat Scabies on Drums and Roman Jugg on keys or guitar, depending on the song. I grimaced at the girl's knit hat in front of me. It was unnecessarily poofed out taking up a good four inches of valuable space. I considered asking her to squish it down. I realized that was totally inappropriate.
I will use any manner of excuse to show this one off. Great story behind it and, no, it isn't true but it is awfully sweet.
Meet the author of that book here.
My spot was just on the outside of the VIP area, a mere waist high curtain stood between me and greater happiness. Outside of being able to see from inside there there were no other perks. I didn't need perks. I NEEDED to see The Damned. I mean what if they lit something on fire and all I could see was the smoke??
I could see a couple of my friends in the VIP area. They weren't attending to my "SOS! Get me in there" Facebook messages. Why would they? They were busy having fun knowing they can see and have nothing to worry about. They had everything in life they needed. I was yet suffering.
Just as the band was about to go on stage I felt the dreaded push of breasts up against my back. I turned around and had one of "those" concert goers, the kind who show up last minute and shove their way to the front. I wasn't having it. "Don't do that" I said to a girl who looked like a Coldplay fan and probably worked at Nike and had a house in the burbs. She didn't belong. She wasn't our people. "All those people in front of you got here early so they cold have a good spot, don't push your way in and if you don't stop touching me I am calling Security.' She wasn't having it. Instead of chilling out and removing her breasts from my back she persisted with her pushing and was basically being a total bitch. I was not being a bitch tho I was being firm and holding my ground. I didn't want to be Siamese Twins with this girl. If it were just crowded I'd be OK. One should expect they might be skin on skin with strangers at a sold out punk show. I dig. But she was mean-spirited and that is not cool.
About twenty minutes into the show I feel the shock of an entire draft beer running down my hair, my face and my clothes. I turned around just as Miss Breasts was scowling at me as she tossed her now empty cup at me. And then she hit me! In all my years going to hundreds of venues, most much more seedy than Crystal (which isn't seedy at all) and the thousands of shows I've been to I have never once gotten into anything physical with anyone. I have had Security throw out guys who were behaving badly but this was different. And no one has ever hit me. It didn't hurt. Even her repeatedly swatting at me didn't hurt. I don't know what she was doing. I paused to figure out what I was going to do as she ran away. I realized I was shaking. Someone handed me a napkin to wipe up. Nobody else did anything but that is the human condition, kinda stand around gawking I guess. I started to tweet to the venue to send security because I didn't know how else to quickly reach them. In an age where clubs have seen the horrors of terrorism you definitely don't act like a dick. I don't take her for a terrorist and I find the Crystal to be totally safe but you just don't mess around because you don't know who will flip out and do something worse than get you soaked in hops and barley. I realize it was a punk show but it was supposed to be a room full of adults. I heard there were other fights up front. If we were 16 OK. But this wasn't the case. Dance, sweat, sing at the top of your lungs like a fool. I do that. Totally OK.
I left where I was standing to find Security. The closest person was manning the VIP area. He wanted to go with me to find her but there were thousands of people there and I looked at him and said "I've waited a long time for this. I don't think I can spend the show looking for this girl" at which point he said "Come on over to the VIP area" and handed me a wrist band. He was a big guy but I threw my arms all the way around him and thanked him. It was no diabolical plan on my part I assure you to get a wristband but, one way or another, I got what I wanted which was to SEE The Damned. Once inside I found more of my friends and spent the bulk of the show celebrating 40 years of one of my most favorite bands, with friends, soaking wet and smelling like a brewery.
In the safety zone with my good friend Matthew Mendez..The for the use of the top photo Matt Bastard!
Want to contribute to the record with John Ashton just like he did? GO HERE.
I often don't know how exactly I am going to arrive at my destinations. I just always know that I will whatever that road may be, no matter how crazy or what I might have to endure to get there.
There is an added happy ending to this weird story. For now I want to be vague until there is plan and I have permission to speak on this person's behalf. I had gotten back to one my Brit friends who was confident I'd find a way to see the band to give a review of the show (I had not mentioned my adventure only that I did indeed make it to the VIP area.) At the end of our chat he said he was ready to write songs with me, something we had talked about years ago. I nearly cried. The combination of me, John Ashton and this person would be the absolute tying together of everything in music that I feel is its fabric (minus Bryan Ferry but if I work fast enough...)
We got on a video chat. We have only messaged for more than a decade and once in a blue moon. I told him about the incident and asked "Was that panache?"
which got a big smile and a nod of punk rock approval.
We talked about how the record is going. We talked a bit about finance as that is the ONLY thing that adds time (GO HERE) and how you can be flush then scrambling for food money and back again. He said "Michele, that is music. You just keep making songs you love and you keep going." I felt much better as when I bought the ticket I was on the former and by the time the show came the latter (hanging in until the former again.) I felt a renewed sense of purpose. I might go hungry sometimes but the people in my life? The best at filling me up.
At the end of the concert I did indeed stand in back half hoping to find this awful girl. Wasn't sure what I would do if I did but thought I should try. But these were my final moments with The Damned so I stood and listened to New Rose and Neat, Neat, Neat. And when it was over Captain Sensible stood on stage alone waving goodbye. I fixed my eyes upon him and understood that this could be the last time I ever see him. I hope not but just in case I wanted one last look, even if by the water cooler on my toes.
This song came on just as I entered the VIP area. I changed the lyrics to "Just for you bitch, here's a love song" and laughed to myself about my very strange but ultimately pretty damned cool life.