Monday, 28 July 2014 14:08

Red Rocker in 1983

Written by 

"We've got up front fanatics
Tearing down the barricade..."
Sammy Hagar, “Heavy Metal”

Sometimes the best moments catch you by surprise. Big guys were hired to keep us from where we shouldn't be at a rock concert. It was a cat and mouse game and the only thing that stopped us was their size.

Let me explain. My seat was behind the stage in the upper tier of Checkerdome. Nightranger was the opening band I'm pretty sure they played "Don't Tell Me You Love Me." At least that was what I think it was. The muffled amplified drone bounced from the opposite end of the Checkerdome. The sound was probably better in the parking lot. After their set, I asked my friend if he wanted to try to get better seats. "What do we gotta lose?" I asked. He declined, so I left him and the haze he was adding to the Upper Circle and bolted to the lower sections.

Down the escalator into the concession area, fans massed around vendors. As they waited for t-shirts, beer and snacks, I snaked my way through the hundreds of kids milling around the outer shell of The Checkerdome. Seeing the entrance closest to the stage, I stopped and leaned against the wall and waited for the ushers to get overwhelmed close to show time. After about 15 minutes, the moment was right and I breezed past the ushers at the entrance and went straight to the top of the stairs of the section next to the main floor. Scouring the rows below, my hopes dimmed. "Damn! No empty seats," I thought. At the base of the stairs, a security guard wearing a red shirt stretched to its limits leaned against the outside of boards of the rink. No doubt he was there to keep anyone from jumping over the divide to the main floor. Onstage, the roadies had disappeared. They had finished setting up the stage and I had a feeling the show would start within minutes. A few seconds later, the guard headed my way. "Uh oh, he's clearing the aisle," I figured. I took a deep breath. "Alright, get back to your seats," he bellowed as he lumbered up the stairs. Rather than turn around and walk back to the haze in the upper level, I squeezed past him as though my seat was near the wall. With no empty seat available in the lower section and the guard with his back to me, there was only one choice. I leaped over the wall, landed on the floor, took a few steps before the lights went out. Sprinting down to the center aisle in darkness, I came upon dozens abandoning their seats for a rush to the stage wall. By the time I got to the front, the first two rows of seats were flattened and mangled on the floor. The crowd was pushing back from the barricade, trying to hold on as the mass of people from the back continued to shove their way forward.

Hagar hit the stage and the place went insane. As the crowd continued to push to and fro, I stepped on a single chair. Under my feet was a folded up chair with a bent leg. The metal chair was at the end of the 3rd row. The second the crowd gave me some room, I grabbed the seat, propped it up at the end of the row and stood on it. Fortunately, the guy standing at the end of the row didn't mind that put my foot on his seat to keep myself balanced. With the first two rows flattened to the floor, I found myself standing on a seat in what was now the front row, as pandemonium played on in front of the barrier. The Red Rocker was making his way all over a stage set fashioned into a gear head's garage complete with the shell of a Trans Am.

After about twenty-minutes, I got a signal from an attractive woman who wanted to share my seat. She was a bit older and I obliged by scooting to the left a little more. The intensity of the concert was heightened by MTV cameras set up for the network, but part of my focus was keeping her from getting knocked off the seat. It was a strange turn of events. Leaving behind the worst seat in the house to one of the best took less than 30 minutes.

With the show over and the kids on the floor starting to head to the exits, she asked me for a ride. It appeared she got separated from her friends. Out in the parking lot, I introduced her to the friend I rode with at his car and we agreed to take her home. Back across the Mississippi, we were directed to an old house in Wood River. "I'm a deevorceee," she informed us. She invited us in, and as we drank beer someone knocked at the front door. When she let them in, the sounds of teenagers gave us the realization that she was having some neighborhood kids over for a party. When she came back to check on us, she said something along the lines of "Sure hope the cops don't come out tonight. They usually hassle us a few times a week." The allure of that cougar vanished on the spot. Deciding this was just too weird to deal with, we chugged the rest of our beer and made a hasty retreat.