Flashback Volume 28

Date: November 1993

Location: The Stomach, Palmerston North, New Zealand

On this date I attended the first ''metal'' concert of my life. I was 17 at the time, fairly old perhaps, but in this corner of the world major concerts are a rarity. So instead you have to settle for some dire stuff, mainly appalling local death metal acts. But for a first show I couldn't have done much worse than this. Or betterŠ

One of my next door neighbors was a fellow named Ushaw. He and a few of his buddies, Karl, Dustbin and Milton formed a band called Jughead and practiced at maximum volume every day. They were bad, of course, providing hours of amusement for me and my brother. They went to the same high school as my brother and informed him they were performing their first gig at The Stomach on a Saturday night. This was too good to pass up so my brother said we would be there.

Having never frequented the town's premier concert facility, we were surprised to discover it was no bigger than the average living room. The crowd slowly filtered in, all of them armed with beer and weed. We sat for a while and impatiently waited for it to start. Then the first ''artist'' took the stage, ''Man Alone'' Rob Thorne.

Thorne was a mainstay on the local circuit, a one-man acoustic show. Thorne had some difficulty tuning his guitar and to stall amused the crowd with some hilarious anecdotes: ''Yeah I was hitching a ride here and some geezer picked me up. There was no room for my guitar in his ute so I had to put it in the back. I was worried as I saw it bounce up and down on every bump! Then he hit a judder bar and the case flew 20 meters in the air! My heart was in my mouth, but guess what? It landed back perfectly! How about that?'' The crowd failed to respond and he was informed to begin. ''We'll up yours as well then!'' he protested, and a tepid half hour set insued. Thorne departed and next was a death metal act who remained nameless.

As they took the stage a number of death rejects crowded the stage. One of them recognized my brother. ''Hey what's up, bro?'' he asked. ''Not much man'' came the response. ''Do you want to mosh with us?'' he continued, ''No, I'm fine here'' my brother replied, trying to get rid of him. ''So you're too good eh? We'll get you later'' the freak said.

Little did he know we were packing cut-off pool sticks. The current act began. They sounded as if it was their first rehearsal. Pure noise was all it was and the crowd seemed unaffected by the din, sitting zombie-like, drunk and wasted. ''This next song's about drugs'' rambled the singer ''it's called 'Junkie'.'' Every now and then I heard him growl ''junkie!'' Obviously, he had made it up on the spot. The only redeeming feature of this farce was the two-man mosh pit that unfolded during it.

In front of us sat two guys who had not moved once. As ''Junkie'' played their last song they turned and looked at each other, nodded their heads and started headbanging. It was a sight to behold.

After enduring this slop, Jughead finally took the stage. We wished they had opened so we could have left earlier. But they were the headliners. And this was their first live show. Dustbin on drums seemed to be having problems and vocalist Karl informed the crowd ''Our drummer's left-handed,'' although what difference that made I do not know. He sorted it out and they began. What they played was a mystery, more white noise with no purpose apparently. Overcoming their nerves the guys ''cut loose.'' Bassist Milton was so at ease he placed one foot on the monitor, Steve Harris style, and headbanged with a couple of moshers. Dustbin meanwhile played with one arm, his right arm useless.

And, concluding with a cover of Judas Priest's ''Love Zone,'' Jughead stole the show emphatically. Not that there was any competition. Their future looked bright until their shocking split two months later. Ushaw was arrested for marijuana possession and locked up.

As for us, we made our way home feeling ashamed at having attended this debacle. Hurrying, we bumped into my brother's earlier assailants at the gig. One of them barged into my brother who let it rip with a pool cue shot to the head. As he fell his buddies scattered -- but not before I caught one of them with a blow to the shin. As I slept that night, my ears ringing beyond belief, I knew I had stained myself for life. The next week I read a review of the show. ''The future of metal in Palmerston North is in fine hands if Jughead are anything to go by'' it read. I wished I had seen the reviewer there, I would have nailed him instead.

One day we went back to The Stomach. We walked up to the entrance but wisely turned back and left. ''Hey, come back! Hey bro!'' yelled the owner seeing his potential patrons leave, ''I'll let you in free!'' Not this time.

Never again.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online November 15, 2000

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