Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Dinner With Anthrax

“I JUST MET FUCKING ANTHRAX AND JOEY BELLADONNA READS MY BLOG!”
If you follow me over on Facebook, then you saw that post last Thursday night. I put it up right after one of the best and most surreal moments of my entire life.
As I mentioned last Thursday, me and the missus went to see Anthrax, Testament, and Death Angel that night. That’s awesome and all, but the real big deal for us was getting to meet Anthrax beforehand at a special meet & greet. It’s not every day you get to meet your all-time favorite metal band.

Before I get any further I want to give some credit to the company that ran the meet & greet – Concepts In Concert/AA Entertainment. For $90 you got an Anthrax Army lanyard, laminate, exclusive t-shirt, and vinyl banner; plus a personal meet & greet with the band that would last ten to twenty minutes. The length basically depended on how long you wanted to stand there blathering like an idiot at the thrash legends. I thought this sounded more than generous. Beforehand I assumed the band would be at a table and their handlers would just sort of run all the V.I.P. folks through to get our various items signed and then maybe a photo op at the end. It was worth it to me.
When I initially bought the V.I.P. passes I had some trouble with the Concepts In Concerts website. For my initial purchase I tried to buy two V.I.P. packages – one for me and one for Mrs. Troublemaker. I filled out all the pertinent information, submitted my credit card info, and hit the “Finish” button (or whatever their button said). After a second I got a message saying that my order failed. The nature of the message suggested there was a problem with the way I submitted the order, so I thought maybe you couldn’t do two packages at once. That seemed reasonable. So I did the whole thing again for my own order and got the same message. At this point I felt something was wrong. I opened up my e-mail to send a message to the company and then went to their “Contact Us” page to get the address. I saw that rather than an e-mail address they had one of those forms, and right around the same time I saw that I had four e-mails from Concepts In Concerts.
Uh-oh.
I had two receipts for credit card charges and two transaction receipts with the details of the purchase. Both of my transactions had, in fact, gone through. So I filled out CIC’s contact form and told them what had happened. I figured I’d give them a couple of days to respond before doing anything else.
The Saturday before the show came around and I still hadn’t heard anything from CIC and the charge had shown up on my credit card statement. I thought I should probably do something about it, so when I got home from work I called my credit card company and filed a dispute on the second charge for one package. I’ve been screwed over way too many times in my life and I’m really at the point where my margin for giving the benefit of the doubt is almost nil. After I finished that call, I sent an actual e-mail to CIC letting them know what had happened.
They responded in less than twelve hours this time.
Over the next couple of days we got everything all sorted out and whoever my contact was at CIC was super nice. We exchanged several e-mails between that Sunday and the show and they were all very personable and friendly, not the normal corporate speak you expect from everybody nowadays. The sale page for the V.I.P. package had stated that the night before the show we would receive an e-mail stating the time of the meet & greet and what sort of items we could and could not bring. Being who I am, all I really cared about getting signed was my Scott Ian action figure. And as you might imagine, there was no mention of Scott Ian action figures on the list. So I sent an e-mail asking about that and got a very positive reply back. They were totally into me bringing the figure.
So anyway, once the minor issue got ironed out I had a very positive and friendly experience with Concepts In Concerts and definitely give them the Phantom Seal of Approval.
The pre-show e-mail said that the meet & greet would start at 6:30 and to be there just a bit before then. That was great because it had been stated that the event could happen any time between 3:00 and 5:30 and I had no reason to be downtown for that long. Also, I couldn’t get out of work until 1:00, so it would have sucked to try and get home and then get down there by 3:00.
As an aside, I had screwed my car up royally the night before the show. I work twelve hour shifts. That’s bad enough, but what that really means is when I work days I get up at 3:30 AM, arrive at work at 5:00 AM, work until 5:30 PM, then get home around 7:00 PM. I am very tired by the time I get out of work and pretty much exhausted by the time I get home. The danger comes in the intervening hour and a half when I have to sit in traffic. And Wednesday night for the first time ever I actually nodded off.
I’ve been scared of doing this for years now, but it had not happened until the other night. I was awakened by a horrible noise that was my right front tire running into the curb at around forty-five miles an hour and blowing out while simultaneously causing five-hundred-thirty-one dollars worth of damage to various other parts of the front passenger side portion of my car. Not awesome.
But being the sunny guy I am I realize I am actually very, very lucky for all of the following reasons:
  1. I was less than a quarter of a mile away from the auto shop we go to (which I had recently decided we were going to stop going to, but that’s another story that doesn’t matter right now for obvious reasons)
  2. There is more un-curbed road than curbed road on that particular stretch. If I had nodded off a little further up the road I would have veered off and crashed into cars, trailers, or one of a number of houses. Further up than that and I would have driven off a steep incline and onto railroad tracks about fifty feet below.
  3. If I had gone right instead of left I would have driven directly into the oncoming traffic.
Lots of those options would have ended with me dead and my car in considerably worse shape than five hundred bucks could fix, so I feel pretty lucky overall.
This left me driving Mrs. Troublemaker’s car to work on Thursday, which really has no bearing on anything. I just wanted to share the details of the harrowing experience I mentioned last Thursday. Didn’t want to leave my Phantomaniacs hanging.
So Thursday night my mother-in-law – who is the very best mother-in-law one could ask for – came and picked up Lil’ Troublemaker so that we could go to the show.
We left early enough to get downtown and eat because I didn’t want to chance being late. I absolutely loathe downtown Atlanta and the many obstacles it presents to timeliness. Traffic, lack of parking, nonsensical street layouts, and more all present serious problems to people who are actually trying to get somewhere at a certain time. So we got to the Tabernacle are around five o’clock just to be safe. I had pre-paid for parking so that we wouldn’t have to worry about finding somewhere nearby to park. This turned out to be monumentally stupid, but I’ll get to that later. After we parked we headed over to Ted’s Montana Grill for some bison.
I’ve eaten at Ted’s before and I think bison is just about the best meat I’ve ever had. Mrs. Troublemaker had never had it, so I thought it would be cool to go there before the show and have a couple of beers. I didn’t realize the place was literally right across the street from the Tabernacle, so that was a pleasant surprise. We walked in and there were a couple of metalheads already sitting at the bar. The hostess took us to a table and asked us if we were there for the Anthrax show; a fair question given the huge Anthrax patch on my backpack. We said we were and she told us how bummed she was that she was having to work and that she didn’t even know about the show until that day.
This struck me as weird. This girl was in her twenties. Probably her early twenties. And she was legitimately bummed that she was missing the show. It wasn’t just wait staff chatter. I’m always surprised when I run into anybody who claims to be an Anthrax fan, let alone a young person.
I hate that I am eligible to refer to somebody in their twenties as a “young person”. Never mind that people born in 1981 are thirty-one years old this year. Good lord.
So anyway, this girl was bummed about missing Anthrax. Our waitresses came out next and they weren’t very good. Better than Chili’s, IHOP, or The Tilted Kilt; but not great. They started by laughing and saying , “Oh, no!” when Mrs. Troublemaker asked if they needed to see ID when she ordered a beer. Oh, you stupid, stupid waitresses. There went about five percent of your tip. Everything seemed to take forever and we were the only people in our section. But the food was fucking awesome.
After our second beers I told the main waitress to go ahead and bring us each another and the check as well because when we were done eating we were going to need to get on out of there fast. Six o’clock was approaching and I at least wanted to be headed across the street by then. To her credit she did just as I asked. Granted, it took a while, but we got out of there in plenty of time. And regardless of the service I highly recommend you give Ted’s a try if you haven’t.
Everybody at the Tabernacle was super nice. The guy checking IDs, the door guy, the bartenders. I was impressed the whole night. Well, except for after the show was over. The people who clear the place out were dicks, but they kind of have to be. And it wasn’t their fault that Mrs. Troublemaker had wandered off with some guys from another band while I was up front getting mashed into old man paste by people half my age. But we’ll get to that.
As we approached the Tabernacle I pulled out our V.I.P. laminates. We had to have them on to get backstage for the meet & greet, but I have to tell you I felt like a grade-A dorkus wearing that thing. Thusly equipped, we asked the aforementioned ID guy where we needed to be and he directed us to a small group of people near the box office. There were a couple of traditional metalheads with their denim vests covered in a thousand different patches, several people older than myself and Mrs. Troublemaker, and a few people that just looked altogether too straight to even be at a metal show, let alone at a meet & greet for the greatest thrash metal band of all time. But we all have to grow up sometime, and not everybody is a tattoo person.
Soon after we joined that disparate little group a fella came out of the side door and told us he was going to be taking care of us. His name was Ray and he didn’t fool around at all with the fact that Charlie Benante and Frank Bello weren’t there. Charlie’s mother was in bad shape, Frank is Charlie’s nephew. They couldn’t be there. Ray said that if we wanted a refund for the V.I.P. package they would make that happen, which struck me as a particularly generous gesture. The sale page had clearly stated that not all members of the band may be available and that there would be no refunds. I thought it was pretty awesome that they were looking out for the fans this way. But I wasn’t about to miss out on meeting even three-fifths of Anthrax. Nobody else was, either. As far as I know nobody asked for their money back that night.
Ray did a roll call and then said it was time to head inside. He rounded us up and we headed for the magical area that is the tour bus parking lot. From there, we headed up a ramp and directly backstage.
I worked at the Masquerade for a few years and that place does not have very much backstage. Even Spinal Tap would easily navigate their way to the stage from the dressing rooms. The Tabernacle, on the other hand, has lots of backstage. We walked through offices, hallways, painted alcoves, kitchens and I think maybe even some sort of zoo area before arriving outside of the meet & greet room. I suspect it was a zoo area because that is certainly what it smelled like. Seriously, you guys – backstage at the Tabernacle smells like a gorilla taint. It was fucking awful. And it wasn’t the bands’ faults – they had clearly marked shower areas:
And yes – I was a little geeked out that I was standing outside Anthrax’s showers. Not in a pervy way, but in a “Holy shit, this is actually happening now” way.
Ray lined us up on the wall outside the meeting room and explained that the band would be there shortly and then we’d go in one at a time and meet them. This surprised me more than the refund thing. I really thought we’d be going in as a group, but it turned out we’d all be getting individual time with the band. I was starting to worry that I’d dork out like I did with Bruce Campbell.
We talked among ourselves while we waited for Anthrax to show up because of course it’s much easier to have conversation when you know everybody in the room has spent ninety bucks on the same thing. There was a dentist, a couple of gay dudes, some metalheads, and the regular old folks I mentioned earlier. The dentist had brought little gift bags full of dental hygiene products for the band. I thought that was pretty cool and I’m sure anthrax didn’t mind getting a bunch of free stuff like that while they were on the road. But the guys behind the dentist just couldn’t get over it. They thought it was rude for some reason.
Once Anthrax was in the room and they started moving people in things went pretty quickly. I mean, what are you going to talk to Anthrax about? I know Scott Ian’s a big nerd, but we’re not going to sit down and talk about Stephen King for a couple of hours.
Before too long it was our turn. Ray walked us into a large recreational room with some couches, a pool table, plants, and I think maybe a bar. Ray turned us over to some other dude whose name I didn’t catch because fucking Anthrax was standing there. We turned a corner and right there at this folding table were Rob Caggiano and Scott Fucking Ian.
In my head, I went – and I quote – “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
I believe I said, “Holy shit, you guys.”
Let me take a second here to talk about Rob Caggiano since I was a total dick in my last Anthrax post and didn’t even mention the poor guy. Caggiano has played lead guitar live with Anthrax a lot in the past decade. He is also the lead guitarist on We’ve Come For You All and Worship Music, as well as The Greater of Two Evils. The guy absolutely thrashes and has a big stage presence. Also, I am six months older than he is and this makes me feel slightly under accomplished. But he kicks all kinds of ass and makes me totally okay with the fact that Dan Spitz would rather make watches than play metal.
So Rob Caggiano was super nice and immediately offered a hand and greeted us. Scott Ian was pleasant. The guy was not what you’d call chatty, but I honestly don’t expect too much from famous-type people when I meet them. I’m good with a handshake and getting my stuff signed. I don’t expect to be your pal or to trade Twitter handles or anything. So we chatted for a minute with Scott Ian and Rob and I got my figure signed and then their handler – the guy Ray had passed us off to – said, “Where’s Joey?” and walked out a side door. He came back out a second later with Joey Belladonna.
Guys – Joey Belladonna is a rock god. I’ve looked up to him since I was a kid. He’s one of my heroes. I said as much in my last post. So he walks out in his Anthrax work shirt and his rocker hair and looks at me and goes
“Oh, hey man – you’re the blog guy, right?”
In my head, I went – and I quote – “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! WHAT!?!”
I believe I said, “Bluh-huh.”
“Well, hey – thanks for the kind words, man. That really meant a lot. It was good to read.”
And in my head I continued going “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” for pretty much the rest of the night and as a matter of fact there is still a little portion in the back of my brain that is still doing it.
I found out later that Anthrax’s handler had been talking to Mrs. Troublemaker while I was babbling incoherently at the band. Apparently either all of them or just Joey had read my post and had been looking for me – a “Big, tattooed, bearded guy; maybe in a mask”. Somehow or another either Ray or the handler had recognized me and had told them I was coming in and then had gotten Joey. And Phantomaniacs, if you don’t think that the concept of Anthrax knowing who I was when I met them is almost a bit too much for my brain to handle than holy shit it really is.
You’ve got to understand – in my mind, there are still maybe ten people that read this blog and eight of them are personal friends. I look at the stats for Needless Things and I know that this isn’t the case by a long shot, but it just doesn’t compute with me that there are people all over the world that have read this thing. Which is probably for the best because I don’t ever want any kind of readership to effect the way I do what I do, with one caveat – if the opportunity ever arises to write somewhere else from time to time I would either clean up or censor out my language, depending on the circumstance. I know my cursing is unnecessary, but I do like to put things out there exactly as they appear in my head.
So Joey offered his hand and I shook it and I did my best to not geek out too much. But I did tell three-fifths of my favorite metal band that I was geeking out.
And yeah, it would have been more accurate to post, “I JUST MET FUCKING ANTHRAX AND JOEY BELLADONNA HAS READ MY BLOG!” but whatever, man. I was stoked and who knows – maybe he is a regular reader. He didn’t say he wasn’t, right?
Joey and Rob were both very nice the whole time and Scott Ian was polite and smiley. We got pictures:
Of course I had to have one with the mask, but we also got one with me and the missus just normal. I mean, it’s fucking Anthrax. I had to have a real me picture, too.
And then one of them (I don’t remember who) said, “Dude, you’re gonna wear the mask for the show, right? You’ve got to wear the mask.”
“Of course I’m wearing the mask.”
After I packed all my stuff up and thanked everybody profusely I turned one last time and addressed the guys:
“This was so awesome you guys. Seriously. This and owning Doctor Who toys are like, the childhood dreams. Thanks.”
And that got a legit laugh out of all of them. Good way to close.
As far as I was concerned we were done, but Ray had said he’d take us wherever we wanted to go after we were done with the band. I don’t know what that entailed, but we had to go back to the car to drop off our bags of signed Anthrax loot. Ray said he’d find us inside later on. I honestly wasn’t too worried about it, but as the night wore on and Mrs. Troublemaker got more inebriated she became more and more certain that we were missing out on free beer by not finding Ray.
“What if everybody else is sitting around drinking, like, a bunch of free beer or something?”
I’m pretty sure there was no free beer.
I called Monkey and Evil to tell them about my near-orgasmic experience and made my post on Facebook while we went back to the car. We sat there and downed a few beers that we had brought along and then headed back to the Tabernacle for some fucking metal.
I mentioned above that the lineup was Death Angel, then Testament, then Anthrax.
I hate to admit this, but I was not familiar with Death Angel before this show. While I love certain metal, I am by no means a big metal nerd. Like, Brian Posehn would totally laugh me out of the room. I knew Testament but had never gotten into them the way I was with Anthrax, Sepultura, Pantera, and some others. So I went into the show not really caring about Death Angel, curious to see Testament live, and totally stoked about seeing a full, headlining set from Anthrax.
Death Angel was playing when we got back inside the Tabernacle and me and the missus were fans instantly. Those dudes are fucking awesome. I can’t tell you a single song they played, but all the ones we heard were rad. The little singer dude had dreds longer than he was tall and he’d swing his head around and create this magnificent metal hair tornado. He looked like one of the X-Men or something. I truly believe if any fan in the front had been caught by that swirling mass of follicle mayhem they would have been torn to shreds.
I believe Mrs. Troublemaker was more than a little turned on by the Filipino Fury.
But Death Angel totally kicked it to the point where I had to download their latest album, Relentless Retribution, and it is awesome. You should go download it right now. I’ll wait.
No, seriously – go.
Okay. Testament was up next, but we ran into Bear and the Queen of Crunk before all that happened. And then almost simultaneously ran into Matt F. and his lady. We had a good, old-fashioned catch-up-a-thon on the steps of the former Cotton Club while Testament wailed away upstairs. I was cool with that. Sometimes I get caught up with what’s going on rather than hanging out with my friends and I pretty much end up hating myself forever after that happens. But we did eventually get to the point where we were pretty curious to see Testament, so we headed upstairs and saw this:
I am absolutely not going to bag on metal legends like Testament.
However.
I discovered that night that I am not a fan of Testament. But I am a huge fan of Testament’s lead singer. That energetic, round, long-haired man spent every single second that he was not singing playing his light-up microphone stand in the most amazing and consistent display of fake guitaring I have ever seen in my life. I was mesmerized. I couldn’t take my eyes off of this enthusiastic metal meister and his onstage shenanigans.
Speaking of things I can’t take my eyes off of, we ran into this little rocker chick out in the front of the Tabernacle and Mrs. Troublemaker got her to rub her boob on me for a picture. She even had the courtesy to screw up the first picture so we had to do it all over again. Oh no. 
Sadly, it turned out the little rocker chick was twenty-one years old, meaning I could technically be her father and officially making me a dirty old man.
I had been debating for a while whether or not I would go up front for Anthrax. I had Lasik surgery a couple of weeks ago, and even though my eyes are pretty solid now, I didn’t want to chance getting hit in the eye by some metalhead’s boot. So I knew I wasn’t going to get in the pit, and I probably shouldn’t go up front.
But Anthrax was expecting to see that mask. I couldn’t let Anthrax down. They were counting on me.
So after Testament finished and enough time had passed for Anthrax to get reasonably set up, I went straight to the front like a big fucking idiot. I was right behind these two short people who were up against the barricade. I was going to be in the shit, man.

As soon as the lights went down, I pulled out the mask and strapped it on. Before I could even get it laced up, Anthrax was on stage playing “Earth Is On Hell” and the shit was on like Donkey Kong.
And you know what? A few verse into the song, Joey looked right at me and gave me a thumbs up and made some kind of crazy mask gesture with his hands. He did this no less than three more times during Anthrax’s set and I have to tell you, Phantomaniacs, I fucking swooned like a teenage girl at a Beatles concert every time. Granted, the last couple of swoons were due more to exhaustion and dehydration, but man. It was totally worth getting my ass beat for an hour and a half.
Which I did. I’m not sure who was playing bass for this show, but it was this little guy and he was totally kickass. The whole set was absolutely fucking amazing, and being right up front in the thick of it the whole thing felt like a dream. I have never enjoyed a show so much in my life or gotten so caught up in one. I sang along with every single song whether I knew the words or not (remember – I am not a guy who memorizes lyrics very well). As best I can remember, the set list was something like this:
Earth Is On Hell
Fight ‘Em
Among the Living
Antisocial
Caught In A Mosh
Medusa
Indians
In The End
Got the Time
(Encore)
Metal Thrashing Mad
Deathrider
I Am the Law
And not necessarily in that order. I know there was more, but I was pretty much caught in a mosh the whole time and couldn’t get to my pen and paper to take notes.
There aren’t a whole lot of bands on this planet that I would have put up with staying up front like that for, particularly not with my mostly-but-not-totally-healed eyes. It was gross and sweaty and painful and I think I inadvertently had the sex with the butts of the two short people in front of me all night long. At the very least they know where all of my piercings are located. There was this one little dude in a leather Members Only jacket who wanted to wanted to mash but didn’t want to lose his spot at the front of the stage. He also got really irritated when I’d bump into him, and every once in a while he’d thrust his ass out really hard to try and get me to back up, like I had a choice in the matter. So after he did this a couple of times, the next time he did it I took my knee and stuck it behind his knee and made him fall over. Idiot.
Speaking of idiots, I got elbowed in my left nipple about eight thousand times. This caused the ball in my hoop to fall out and amazingly I felt it hit my boot when it did. So what did I do? I stood there looking at the ground like a moron, as though I was going to find this metal bead that wasn’t even an eighth of an inch in diameter.
So I was sandwiched directly between the first row of spectators on the barricade and the mosh pit for the whole show – center stage. You know what that means? Every fucking crowd surfer in the place went over my giant, masked head on their way to the loving embrace of the security guards behind the barricade. But I was able to keep an eye out thanks to years of concerts and didn’t get banged up too badly.
Speaking of getting banged, one of the crowd surfers happened to be our rocker chick friend from earlier:
And I had to struggle to not put my hands in any places where my hands shouldn’t be going.
Anthrax closed with a rousing performance of “I Am The Law” and I pretty much lost my voice.
After the show I headed directly back to where I had left Mrs. Troublemaker.
She was nowhere to be found, and for a moment I was concerned she might have made her drunken way to Death Angel’s tour bus, but then I figured I owed her for the boob action earlier. It turned out she had run into Terry Boy and Jamie from Atlanta’s very own Mystery Men?
Actually, Mrs. Troublemaker had many adventures while I was up front rocking it out with the World’s Best Metal Band, but it looks like we’re just about out of time, here.
I’ll just close by saying the rock show whooped a llama’s ass. Rock over London, rock over Atlanta.
Delta. We love to fly and it shows.
-Phantom

7 comments:

  1. That's awesome man! I'm not a huge Anthrax fan(I do love me some metal though), but I know some of their stuff. It was just a great read, and it's great to hear that not all famous people are assholes. Glad to hear you met your heroes. I'm just bummed that I never got to meet Dimebag(R.I.P.).

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    1. I've run into very few assholes among the famous-type people I've met. But I think a list might be forthcoming...

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  2. Sorry those Mystery Men absconded with Mrs. TroubleMaker. That drummer is a weirdo.

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  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. I was there too and met anthrax as well. I am a dentist and gave all of them dental goodie bags with toothbrushes, etc. you can see one of them on the table in front of you and anthrax. I am going again this Wed Oct 8th to see them and Slayer.

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