"His voice betrayed a craving for terrible things." -- Don DeLillo
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May 24, 2004
The Slipknot Concert Story--OR--Ways To Channel All That Pent-up Aggression
So, a few weeks ago, I embraced my inner animosity and went to the Slipknot show at the Electric Factory here in Philly. For quick reference, the Factory is the largest of the club venues in the city (capacity roughly 2,500-3,000), but is still much smaller than the cavernous stadiums (Wachovia Center, Tweeter Center (on a side note, hasn't corporate homogenization gone too far when it's possible for my friend Peter in New England, my brother Sean in Illinois, and myself in Philadelphia to all see shows this summer at our local Tweeter Centers? Doesn't this bother anyone else?)). With no assigned seating and an open floor, the Factory is an ideal venue for some concert violence. Now, before I go any further, let's get my credentials out in the open: I've been an avid concert goer for the past, oh, seven or eight years, and have attended my share of aggro-metal shows. My personal highlight was attending two Marilyn Manson shows over two days at the Factory with the to-be-expected, punishing crowd of disturbingly large sweaty guys and tall, thin masochists (remember the words of Tyler Durden: "Skinny guys fight until they're burger.") Hell, I even fought my way close enough to the stage to be hit by Manson spitting into the crowd (I can see your looks of disgust from here, but let me tell you, when you're already pouring sweat and screaming along to "Antichrist Superstar," it becomes a sort of perverted communion (and only topped by being covered in fake blood before Mudvayne took the stage at Ozzfest a few years ago, but that's a story for another time)). So, I knew what I was getting myself into and I'm certainly not unexperienced here--I'm in the union. This was even my third time seeing Slipknot, though my first at a venue as small as the Factory.
Fear Factory was one of the opening bands (wait a minute, Fear Factory got back together and no one bothered to tell me? It doesn't get much better than "Edgecrusher" bellowing out of a bass-heavy club sound system) and the crowd was suitably crazed and aggressive. I had the misfortune of being behind one of the token short, skinny goth chicks that help make up the maybe 10% female population of shows like this (an entertaining reversal since the last show I saw before this one was Liz Phair--which probably gives you a clear sign of my schizophrenic musical tastes). Now, many of the goth girls at shows like this either hide behind their much larger boyfriends or gang up and shove their way to the front of the crowd as a groupie phalanx. This particular one in front of me decided that anyone
that remotely touched or bumped into her would be the recipient of a painful elbow stab. Needless to say, with the crowd moving as its own entity, I didn't have much choice but to be pushed into her a few times and get some jabs in the gut as a result. The pits formulating around the crowd seemed more welcoming every minute.
Soon enough, though, Slipknot took the stage and the crowd violence was cranked up to 11. Not wanting to begin sparring in the mosh pits, I started shoving my way to the front of the crowd since the moshers usually never make it that close to the stage anyway. By the time Slipknot is a few songs into their set, there are only maybe four or five people in front of me before the stage. Again, though, bear in mind that staying on your feet at this point is like fighting a tidal wave: the crowd shoves forward, you shove back; the crowd pushes you left, you push right. It then hits me that there's something critical I forgot to attend to before Slipknot hit the stage: I never remembered to securely
tie my shoes. This may seem ridiculous to anyone who hasn't been to a show like this, but my feet are barely touching the ground by this point anyway. With all the people pushing and shoving all around me, my feet and legs are constantly being stomped on and I'm returning the favor. Sure enough, as we're moving, I can feel my right shoe is a little loose. At the end of the next song, I make an attempt to reach down and tie it quickly, but I literally can't kneel down or lift my foot up. The last thing I need is to lean over, have someone behind me shove forward to fill the empty space, knock me down, step on my head a few times, and before you know it, I'm a statistic and Slipknot is dedicating the rest of their tour in my memory. In the middle of the next song, someone clamps down on my shoelace and quickly my entire right shoe is untied. Unable to even reach down to stick my shoelaces in my socks, I decide it's time to fall back briefly. Push my way back out of the crowd, regroup, and head back into the fray. Unfortunately, since the crowd's momentum is forward, it's actually harder to move out than it was to push in. I'm shoving people out of my way, moving my way back, and I can actually feel my right shoe basically dangling off my foot. Not good. I'm about halfway through the crowd when it happens. My left
shoe gets stepped on and goes flying off my foot. You can't make this stuff up. For a split second, I contemplate trying to find it, but in this morass, it already must be fifteen feet away. There's no time to think about that anyway, since now the sound echoing in my ears is what all the bones in my left foot would sound like snapping into tiny pieces if one of the 250-pounder moshers errantly smashed into me. Or the sound of it happening in both
of my feet if my other shoe finds its way off. I continue pummelling my way through the crowd and, luckily, emerge far in the back into relative crowd sanity.
The next thing that occurs to me? That it's probably not the best idea in the world to walk around a nasty, alcohol-soaked club with only a sock on one foot. I don't know what covers the soggy ground at the Factory and I don't want to know. I'm rather proud of myself, though, that my immediate idea was to head to the bathroom, take off my right shoe and sock, and put both socks on my left foot. It may not be too much protection from any broken glass, but I'll take another layer between me and that questionable floor. Unfortunately, what I also realize at this point is that there's no way I can head back onto the floor during the show. Losing an old shoe is one thing, losing a foot for six-to-eight weeks is something different altogether. So, I did the only other thing I could do: drink heavily. Hey, I think I earned it, didn't I?
I watched the rest of the show from the bar, trying the whole time to balance as much as possible on just my right foot. The show ends maybe an hour or so later and I decide to make a half-hearted attempt to find my poor shoe. After the house lights come up, I wait for most of the crowd to head out and I start walking around the main floor. Lest I feel alone in my self-deprecating bemusement, I came across four other
lost shoes scattered around the area. And there, pushed over into a cordoned off section where the sound and lighting boards were located, was my trampled, but not ruined and certainly not unwearable, shoe. So, it's not without a little embarassment that I tell this story--I felt like the naive kid who didn't know what he was getting himself into. But hell, it certainly made for a fun story (well, I guess you can be the judge of that). I also made me feel ridiculous to have to think, "Man, I'm too old for this shit." I'll be back out there, but I could probably use another fifty pounds of muscle weight first.
Well-deserved congratulations to Michael Moore for picking up the prestigious Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival for his new propdoc Fahrenheit 9/11
. Many will likely see this as a political statement by the panel (in a French
film festival no less and headed by firebrand Quentin Tarantino), but Moore has been making brilliant propaganda for years now and this film reportedly is his greatest achievement yet. I had the thrill of attending the festival two years ago
when Moore won a special jury prize for Bowling for Columbine
and am ecstatic that his new film has received even greater praise. The prize all but ensures that Fahrenheit
will receive a wide release for the summer (Moore is still negotiating with distributors) and I cannot wait to see it.
In other Cannes news, the brilliant Chinese actress Maggie Cheung received Best Actress honors for the French film Clean
director Olivier Assayas). Cheung is probably most familiar to art-house audiences for her role in Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love
, but she's also been a action movie superstar for years (and she'll be seen in Hero
when it gets its long-awaited American release later this year). Winner of the Jury Grand Prix award (runner-up) is Park Chan-wook's new film Old Boy
. Park's previous film Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
played in the 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival
and was one of my favorite films of the fest (and winner of the festival's jury prize). Hopefully, I won't have to wait until next year's festival to see his new film.
Random for the sake of Random
I need an answer: who is responsible for the decision to stop stocking movie theatres with Sweettarts? They deserve the death penalty, no trial. I'm not kidding around about this.
This brightened my day: did you know that the upcoming American Idol
tour is officially named "Pop-Tarts Presents American Idols Live." As ESPN/Jimmy Kimmel writer Bill Simmons
might say, "there is comedy, there is unintentional comedy, and then there is the fact that the American Idol
tour is sponsored by Pop-Tarts." It works on so many levels and they're all funny.