Monday, December 29, 2008

Growing Up on "Skid Row"

When I was ten, I was something of a geek. Heck, I'm 30 now so I guess that means I've got at least two decades of geekdom under my belt. The big difference between myself then and now: acid wash jeans. Thank goodness I outgrew those two pairs of pants. I just hope some poor kid didn't have to wear them as hand-me-downs.

My one saving grace at the time was that I knew what was cool in music. Guns 'n Roses were relatively new to the scene but my big love was for Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet" follow-up, "Bad Medicine." I owe a lot of my love for rock to my sister. She was constantly leading a quiet rebellion in the backseat of our family car reading Hit Parader and Circus and getting me into the hair bands like Poison and Motley Crew.

But Bon Jovi was king in our mainstream metal mansion. So when it was announced the band was coming to Vancouver (a mere ferry ride away), my sister determined it was her teenage destiny to make the trip. She had no cash so buying tickets was not an option. That left the radio contest. But she was already the underdog as it took a long-distance call to get through to LG73, the AM station that had the monopoly on the radio giveaway tickets. One would assume the lightning redialling required to win such contests would be hampered by the longer connection time.

Apparently not. One afternoon a round of screams came from my sister's room. She'd not only gotten through, but somehow she was caller 73. She had the tickets. Now it was time to convince the mother that she was old enough to go to a concert.

After a discussion she was allowed to go, but there was a provision. One that delighted this then 10-year-old who longed to torture his sister whenever the chance arose.

"You can go," my mom told her, "but your brother gets first dibs on the second ticket."

My mind started racing. I may have be new to the double digits in years lived but there was some simple and delicious logic here. How better, as a 10-year-old, could I destroy my sister's hopes at coolness than by being her chaperone to the concert of the year?

"You bet I'm going, mom!"

A few weeks past and my grandma took my sister and I on the ferry trip to Vancouver. My sister spent at least an hour getting ready. I guess the concept of craddle robbing hadn't been grasped yet. To this day I think she believed she was going to not only be picked out of the crowd, but be swept away and married by Jon Bon Jovi. I had my doubts and here's why - she's in the photo below (I won't say who, but a hint is "glasses") taken less than a year before the concert.

Even if it was 1988, Jon Bon Jovi was not going to marry someone wearing teal tights. So while my sister was busy getting on her dress, blow drying the hair and caking on the make-up, I was sitting in the hotel room watching TV in my track pants. I was ready to go.

The concert itself was awesome. Our seats sucked - nose bleeds facing the speakers with little view of the stage other than a sliver of the front. But the show ruled. They were filming footage for the music video of "Lay Your Hands On Me" so there was a big camera in the back of the floor section. In a surprise, toward the end of the night Aerosmith made an unannounced appearance and sang "Walk This Way." It wasn't quite the same without Run DMC, but Steven Tyler did do an awesome back flip.

What stood out for me was the "discovery" of a new band nobody at my school had heard of - Skid Row. Fronted by an ironic Sebastian Bach, they were the opening act for the night. Skid Row was still a few months away from making it big on the charts. They would later go on to have such hits as "18 and Life" and, well, that's about it.

Debuting toward the end of the hair metal movement, Skid Row never found much success as a band beyond their first album. I remember hearing about them here and there, but nothing compared to the time I saw them live wearing a pair of worn out K-Mart track pants while my sister stood next to me screaming her head off at the sliver of the stage we could see.

When I saw that Bach was signing for 2008 Upper Deck Spectrum's Spectrum of Stars, I knew one day I'd get one. I bid somewhat aggressively at first but soon saw the metal stars were very plentiful and there's only some much nostalgia to go around. I sat back patiently for a few months and eventually found one for less than a price of a pack.

Bach looks a lot older than I remember him from back in the day. But the hair's still there. Since his Skid Row days he's been busy, performing on Broadway, guest starring on the best Canadian show since Beachercombers and The Littlest Hobo - Trailer Park Boys, and becoming a whore for reality TV shows.

A few years ago I learned a revelation that I wish weren't true. I was merely a pawn for a complex game of teenage cliquiness hatched by my mom. My sister had two best friends at the time. If she took a friend, she'd be forced to choose to pick between the two. Enter the brother card. By "forcing" my sister to take me, the choice would be unneccessary. The story was better when I got to be the boy in black KMart track pants getting a big win over my older sister. But still, when I die I can say I saw the front of the stage where the once great Skid Row performed.

1 comment:

gritz76 said...

I went to that tour too. My Mom was and still is the biggest Bon Jovi fan ever and my Dad, not so interested. She used to "drag" me to concerts with her. We went to two shows that tour. I still have all the old concert shirts from the '80s. They were too big for me to wear so most of them are still like new. If I remember correctly Skid Row blew Bon Jovi out of the water!