It was 1992, and I was single and living in Indianapolis. I fell in with a crowd that inhabited several haunts in Broad Ripple listening to bands that played original music. Yes, an original music scene in Indianapolis – go figure.
Most of the time was spent at the Patio, where local bands played along with smaller national acts. It was there that I met and hung with (a bit) the Birdmen of Alcatraz, which were a great rock-funk-rap group ala the Red Hot Chili Peppers but with less pandering and more reality.
I saw them play around town, too, and they introduced me to their tattoo artist, where I got my first tattoo. It was a trident (“the symbol of the sea” as I sad to my less-than-hip friends).
It was also the logo for the band Prong.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s Prong went from being a scuzzy hardcore-ish band that inhabited the NYC scene to a national hardcore metal-y act that played loud and denomically. The logo I got tattooed on my arm was from their first full-length album (Force Fed), where they played detuned punk-metal songs without abandon. I dug that record tremendously.
By 1991, they had released two major-label albums. They also changed bassists and added a little funk and swing into their doom-laden punk metal. During the tour for the Prove You Wrong record they played in Indiana. Not in Indianapolis, though. In Bloomington, home of Indiana University.
Bloomington had a couple of clubs that were like the clubs in Indy, where local artists or national acts played almost daily. And when the national acts came through, local bands opened up for them, usually. The Birdmen were going to open for Prong, and damned if I wasn’t going to be there.
I got my ticket and headed to Bloomington, found a place to park nearby, and went into the show. I went up front near the edge of the stage so I could be nearby without being in the actual mosh-pit. See, I wore glasses, and I couldn’t afford to have them broken, and I definitely couldn’t drive from Bloomington to Indianapolis without them. So being on the edges gave me some protection. I could move people back into the pit without being in the melee.
After the Birdmen set, I noticed people gathering closer to the stage. I then had a brilliant idea.
I ran back to my car, put my glasses in my glove box, and came back to the club. I worked my way back towards the front, knowing that I’d be more likely to be part of the maelstrom than not even if I was near the side.
It was a wide move. While the band was blurry, I could hear everything, and I did get swept up a few times (and helped girls in the front away from goobers that were just there to be violent idiots). It was fantastic, but the best thing happened about 2/3 through the show.
My favorite cut by then was “Freezer Burn”. It was the song that inspired me to get a tattoo. So after a song I was there by the stage where Tommy Victor’s mic was. I rolled up my shirt, showed the tat, and said “FREEZER BURN!” I didn’t think they’d play it because they focused on their latest release for the most part, with their new, funkier bass player.
Next thing I heard was, “Here’s an old one” and he launched into the riff of my favorite Prong song. I was ecstatic. My eyes were wide open (though I was pretty much blind – thanks astigmatism), I sang every word. I banged my head. It was glorious.
I don’t remember anything much after that. I know I went back into my car all sweaty and smelling like beer and bad cigarettes. I got to my car, put my glasses on and headed back to Indy. I got up 20 minutes before I had to be in work, but I made it, somehow. (I had a key to the back door so I did slip in that way).
Did I see the show? Not really. I saw forms and shapes. But I felt the show. And that’s what mattered!