[SleepingDragon]: 268.Metal Daze.Chapter 5 - Saginaw
And we won't change or rearrange, and we ain't never ever gonna lose
It ain't always easy when the goin' gets rough
When you're gettin' even, you gotta show your stuff - tell about it now
Set the world on fire, fight the institution
Gonna stand our ground, feel the new sensation
Something's goin' down - rock the nation
-All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose
“So that’s what they look like huh?” Steve’s mom sat at the dining room table scrutinizing the latest Kiss album, which featured them on the cover without make-up. His dad peered over her shoulder, a sour look on his face.
“They should put the make-up back on.” He said. “They looked better with it!”
Steve smirked. He tended to agree with that statement. Kiss had been his very first concert, back in 1979. His older sister and her husband had chaperoned. For several years of Steve’s life, his parents had become accustomed to his room full of Kiss posters, which had been more like wallpaper than anything. He had been a die hard fanatic. It was only in recent years that he had expanded the scope of his musical interest to include other bands and genres. His interest in Kiss was certainly nothing new to his parents.
“Sit down.” His mom told him. Steve pulled up a chair at the table. Everyone was quiet for a minute. Then, his mom gave a look to his dad as if to say ‘go ahead’. His dad considered him seriously.
“Here’s the deal.” he began. “Tomorrow morning, firewood is being delivered, enough for the whole winter. I want you out there to help unload it. You are to split the whole lot of it and stack it in the basement. It’ll take a few days. If you’re done by the twenty-seventh
“Really?” Steve’s eye’s lit up. “Then I can go?” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He felt like jumping up and down with excitement.
“There are conditions.” His mother told him. Okay, he knew it was too good to be true. They probably wanted to call Roxy’s parents or something. Steve held his breath. His mother cleared her throat. “You are to leave here and drive directly to your sister’s house in Bay City. You will call home when you get there, before you leave there for the concert and when you get back to her place. Got it?”
“I talked to her last night on the phone.” His mom said. “Your friends are welcome too, but she needs to know by the weekend how many tickets to buy. You will pay her back when you get there, understand?”
“Then I can use the phone again too now?” Steve asked hopefully.
“You have full house privileges again,” she said. “Just make sure your work is getting done. We won’t hound you about it, but if it’s not done...no Kiss concert.”
“Yes!” he said, elated.
Steve spent most of the day on the phone, making arrangements for the trip. When he’d finished, it had been decided that Matt, Sherry, Sean and Julia would all be going. They would have a carload and his sister would have a house full. He called her that evening and told her the ticket information.
He spent the rest of the evening playing guitar and reading the latest issue of Circus magazine. He went to bed fairly early to ensure he’d be awake in time for the load of firewood.
Throughout the morning and into the mid-afternoon, Steve unloaded three truckloads of wood into the back yard. Between loads, he got a head start on splitting, producing almost a half cord by dinnertime. By the time the day was over, he was tired and aching. He took the evening hours off and went to bed early.
The next morning when he awoke and tried to climb out of bed, his body protested. Every muscle in his body hurt. He could barely move. He lay back down and took a deep breath, steeling himself. With a couple quick puffs of air, he lurched out of bed. He ambled to the breakfast table and ate in silence. He went from there to the backyard where the heavy splitting maul sat next to a large piece of firewood. He looked at it for a long moment apprehensively
Steve had never known pain like he felt from the first swing of the maul. It felt as if lightning had gone through his veins. He thought his arms must have surely pulled out of their sockets. The second swing was even worse. He stopped for a breath and looked over at the large pile of wood. It seemed like a mountain of wood to him. He didn’t know how he was ever going to get through it all. Three weeks, hell. It would take three years!
One piece of wood at a time, he kept at it, taking breaks now and then to run a wheelbarrow-fu
The next day, it rained and Steve took the day off from splitting, thankful for the break. It rained the following day as well, a massive thunderstorm, and drizzled the day after that. It seemed he would never make any progress on the wood. Meanwhile, it was sitting in the yard, getting soaked and heavy.
When the weather finally cleared, Steve felt better but the wood was so soaked that it was very hard to split and his progress was only about half of what it had been before the storm. It took another two or three days before he was making decent headway on it again.
One day Matt came to visit a while and started helping Steve. That lasted about an hour. When Steve’s dad saw the two working on it together, he quickly reminded them that it was Steve’s chore, not his friend’s. Matt hung out a while and talked while Steve worked, but quickly became bored and left him to it.
On the twenty-sixth, He still had about a cord and a half to split. It was going to be a long day. Steve decided he would just split all of the remaining pile and worry about carrying it when he was done. He was making good progress until about noon, then it began to rain. Within an hour, the rain had turned to a downpour and by the time he was through the pile, he was soaked. With all of the wood split, he took a break for dinner. He then donned a raincoat and spent the early evening hauling and stacking what was left of the wood. Muddy and tired, he showered up and went to bed early. He’d finished the chore, and with a day to spare. He was free again at last.
The next day, Steve got a ride into town and spent most of the day at the park. He scored some reefer for the trip and played frisbee with some of the heads. He walked around town, drinking cokes with rum in them, and hung out at the local beach a while. Towards evening, he, Sean and Matt managed to get together and practice for an hour or so. Sean took to the new material well, but Matt was still having trouble with it. They wound up getting high and doing some improvisationa
They all agreed to meet at Matt’s at daybreak and Sean gave Steve a lift home, Julia in tow. They arrived at Steve’s to find that his mother was in the midst of making homemade pizza. She invited his friends to stay and even allowed them to play records on the console stereo in the living room. The four of them sat around eating pizza and telling dirty jokes until well after midnight.
Steve didn’t sleep much that night. He was stoked about the concert. He sat up with his mom, debating religion and politics long after Sean and Julia left. He wound up crashing on the couch for a couple of hours, and woke before dawn, just in time to leave.
In the morning, he swung by Matt’s and everyone piled in the car. Matt and Sherry squeezed in front with Steve. Sean and Julia took the back seat. The trunk was loaded up with overnight bags.
They made the trip to Steve’s sister’s in little over four hours, stopping at McDonald’s in Gaylord for breakfast and hitting a couple of rest stops as necessary along the way. The car had no cassette deck, so they suffered with the radio for the duration. Matt passed around a pint of schnapps and they smoked a couple of joints, just enough to get everyone a little buzzed.
They arrived in Bay City by noon, and Steve’s sister served them all burgers for lunch before breaking out her own stash to match them a joint. She had a camp trailer in the yard, and told them that was where most of them would sleep when they got back from the show. Steve was good to his word and called home soon after they had arrived.
The drive to Saginaw would take about half an hour, so they hung out and partied until around five. Steve made his mandatory call before they left and they piled back into the Impala and headed out for the show.
Thanks to his sister’s directions, they had no trouble finding the Civic Center. They parked in the multi-story ramp well before the doors opened. Some of them bought cheap T-shirts from scabs in the parking area and they changed into them before heading toward the doors, despite advice from the ‘vendor’ not to.
“Slam!” a voice yelled from nearby as they were approaching the long line of people queuing for the doors to open. It was Roxy. She was with a couple that Steve didn’t recognize. With a quick word to them, she ran down the sidewalk and joined Steve, greeting him with a kiss.
They just had time for introductions before the doors opened and people began to push and shove each other in an effort to be the first into the auditorium. A fight broke out up ahead in the line somewhere and security re-closed the doors until people settled down.
When the commotion had ceased, the line began to move again, slowly. It took about ten minutes for all of them to pass the turnstiles. Once inside, they huddled in a small group off to one side of the flow of incoming metal-heads.
“I’m getting a beer.” Matt announced. “Anyone else?”
“Nah,” Steve declined. “Too expensive. And we’re gonna have a walk around the place. We’ll meet you on the main floor in about ten or fifteen.”
“Cool.” Matt replied.
Steve and Roxy passed through the large entryway that led into the main part of the Civic Center arm in arm. They made a right and began skirting their way around the top of the seating area.
“Isn’t that awesome?” Roxy pointed to the mammoth stage set at the end of the auditorium. Most of it was still covered in black tarps, but the lighting rigs were set up and there were huge stacks of amplifiers on each side of the stage. It was very impressive.
“Kiss puts on a hell of a show.” Steve replied. “I seen them back in seventy-nine, on the Alive Two tour.”
“No way!” Roxy gasped. “You’re making me jealous.”
“I was thirteen.” Steve remembered. “Went with my sister. Hey, you want a drink or a shirt or anything?”
“No, I’m set.” She said with a smile, tightening her embrace on his waist. “I can’t bring home any souvenirs. I’m supposed to be camping.”
“Is that what you were doing for Ozzy too?” He asked with a smirk.
“You know it.” She winked.
“Damn, I caught hell for going to that show.” He confessed. “I almost didn’t make it here over that.”
“I’m ‘going camping’ next month too.” She said with a sly look on her face. “Scorpions are playing Pine Knob, August sixteenth.”
“Never been there.” he informed.
“You will come, won’t you?” There was urgency in her voice as she stopped and took him tightly by the hands. “I want to see you there.”
“Yea, sure.” Steve told her. He didn’t see any reason why it would be a problem now that he wasn’t grounded. “Wouldn’t miss it.”
“Great.” She said and hugged him.
“Roxy?” Steve asked after they had walked a ways in silence. “Are you my girlfriend?”
“I don’t know.” She responded. “Am I?”
“Well, I want you to be.” He said sincerely. “It’s just that I never see you, except for at concerts.”
“Well, I’m not supposed to have a boyfriend.” She told him. “That’s why I can’t have you call me.”
“Why not?” He asked, confused.
“Because,” she stated matter of factly. “My dad’s an asshole. He won’t let me do anything. He’s all religious and shit, and he’s ex military.”
“Fun.” Steve said sarcastically.
“But you’re my man, Slam.” She said sweetly. “If you’ll have me. I know this is a lot of shit to put up with.”
“No problem here.” He told her. “We’ll work it out.”
She stopped walking again and this time gave him a big kiss.
“Thank you.” She told him with a smile.
They walked on, not talking but taking in the scene around them for a few minutes. They were more than halfway around the auditorium when Roxy broke the silence.
“So,” She asked. “How goes it with the band? Have you guys done any more gigs?”
“No.” He told her. “We still need a bass player and we’re working on some new material.”
“You’re better than they are, you know.” She said, unexpectedly.
“What?” he asked surprised. “Better than who?”
“Your friends.” She said, then qualified herself. “Nothing against them. They’re great guys I’m sure, but they’re nowhere near as good as you.”
“I do.” She told him. “Slam, have you ever thought of moving to L.A. where the metal scene is happening? You could hook up with some great musicians there.”
“Nah,” he said. “We’re buds. We stick together no matter what. We’ll work it out and get this off the ground soon.”
“I hope so.” She said. “I wanna see you on the big stage, Slam. You deserve it.”
Steve blushed. He didn’t know what to say. He had been frustrated lately with how the band was going, but was he really that much better than Matt and Sean? Not that it mattered. He had no intentions of running off to L.A. or even joining a different band. They were friends and they were in it together like always. It might take Matt a while to get up to speed with the new stuff, but they would figure it out. They would find a bassist and get some gigs. There was nowhere to go but up.
“There they are.” Roxy said pointing. “Down there.”
Steve looked down on the main floor. His friends stood about ten feet from the stage in a little group. The floor was starting to get crowded and already the smell of pot was heavy in the Civic Center.
“C’mon.” Steve said, pulling Roxy by the hand. “Before we can’t get to them.”
They headed down the nearest staircase, and were soon reunited with the rest of the group. They stepped back a few feet from where the security guards were and passed around a couple of doobies, offering some to a couple of people they didn’t know who happened to be standing there. By the time they were done, the floor was so packed that they could not move back towards the stage again.
They didn’t have long to wait for the openers. In minutes, the lights were dimmed and Vandenburg took the stage. Steve wasn’t familiar with their material but he was well impressed with the guitar playing. Matt had picked up their album and knew some of the songs, but Steve hadn’t had the opportunity to hear it, having been too busy with the woodpile at home. None of that mattered though, because the band seriously rocked the place. All around were metalheads, pumping their fists in the air and flying the heavy metal salute.
Vandenburg finished their set to a hearty round of cheers, and the lights came back up in the auditorium. Another joint was in order as the sound of April Wine blasted over the hall’s PA. Stagehands removed tarps and tested equipment in preparation for Kiss to take the stage. Between the music and the dull hum of the crowd, it was too loud in the place for any conversation. Steve and Roxy spent most of the time necking or dancing arm in arm.
Within half an hour, the lights went out again and a low rumble began to build from beneath the stage. It grew steadily in volume and was soon matched by the roar of the crowd in the packed hall. Then it abruptly stopped and a deep, guttural voice bellowed over the loud cheers.
“You’ve wanted the best and you got the best, the hottest band in the world...KISS!”
Kiss exploded onto the stage with a roaring rendition of Creatures of the Night, which segued immediately into Deuce. Pyrotechnics blasted all over the stage. Total mayhem erupted on the main floor, the crowd come to life in a wild frenzy of screaming and fist pumping. Fans in the back began to push to get closer to the stage, crowding those up front so that there was nowhere to move, either back or forward. At times, people were lifted off their feet from the waves that undulated through the sea of crazed metal fanatics. Some surfed on the crowd, and everywhere girls mounted their boyfriend’s shoulders, some flashing their tits at the musicians onstage.
Roxy clung to Steve in a frantic effort not to be separated. Already, the other four had been pushed out of sight. He would have to meet them at the car when the show was over. Kiss thundered through Lick it up and Young and Wasted as Steve and Roxy rocked out among the mass of frenzied kiss fans.
The band had just started into All Hell’s Breakin’ Lose when a big oaf of a kid slammed into the pair of them, knocking Roxy to the floor.
“Watch what the fuck you’re doing!” Steve screamed at him over the crowd, pushing the big lummox to emphasize the point. He gave Roxy a hand back up. “You all right?”
She nodded, giving the guy a cold look.
“Sorry,” The guy yelled sarcastically at Steve. “Didn’t mean to hurt your slut!” He reached out and grabbed a handful of Roxy’s ass as he said it.
Steve had all he could take and hauled off and belted him in the face. This had little effect but to spin the guy’s head sideways. He turned back to Steve, his eyes bulging in anger. Steve knew he was in deep shit.
He managed to duck the first swing and then leapt on the guy’s midsection, taking them both to the floor. The oaf quickly threw him off and jumped back to his feet in mad pursuit of Steve.
“Slam!” Roxy cried, helplessly as she was pushed away from him by a throng of people wanting to check out the fight.
Steve wasn’t so lucky on the next swing. He took it in the side of the face, under one eye. Immediately he saw three of everything. He could taste blood in his mouth and the scene spun in vertigo. He made a couple of useless swings at the big oaf, but soon took a massive punch to the midsection that knocked the wind out of him and sent him to his knees. A moment later, the yellow T-shirts of the security people were everywhere and one hauled the overgrown lummox away.
“Oh Slam! Are you all right?” he heard Roxy’s voice in his ear as someone helped him to his feet.
“Better get this one to first aid,” another voice yelled over the noise of the concert.
Through a storm of confetti, Steve was led through the crowd and off to an area under the stands that was set up for emergencies. They laid him on a stretcher and a middle-aged woman cleaned the wound under his eye and put a patch of gauze over it.
“Keep that on a while.” She admonished. “Or you’ll give yourself a bad headache. There’s gonna be some swelling over the next couple of days. I advise you to see your regular doctor if it gets too bad.”
“Thank you.” he said as he stood down from the stretcher. He was released then and he and Roxy made their way out of the Civic Center and into the night. She helped him find his car by the parking ramp numbers he had remembered and they sat on the trunk, talking and waiting for the others to show up.
“Sorry this had to happen, Roxy.” He said earnestly. “Sorry you missed the encores and stuff. It’s the best part of the show.”
“No problem.” She told him. “And by the way, my real name is Angela. Angela Stevens.”
“Steve Talbert.” He told her.
“Nice to meet you, Steve Talbert.” She said with a smile. “I’ve never had anyone fight over me before. You sure were brave to take on that big goon back there.”
“He was a dick.”
“Your friends can drive I hope.” She said, peeking under the gauze on his eye. “That don’t look too good.”
“They’ll have to.”
As if on cue, Steve’s friends appeared, surprised to find him there already.
“The hell happened to you?” Matt asked.
“Some asshole.” Steve reported. “Hey, can you drive?”
“Yea man. No problem.”
They piled in the car, giving Steve a minute to say goodbye to Roxy. After a long kiss and a promise to meet at the Scorpions show, she left him there, seeking out the people she had come with. Steve opted for the back seat and slept for most of the drive back.