Photographs removed by photographers request.
In the drizzling rain, the line grew to what seemed like massive proportions outside the Emerson Theatre. I, along with my brother Jeff and his wife Tina arrived early with hopes of being among the first to get in indoors.
I must confess my initial excitement at seeing one of my favorite heavy metal bands – Iced Earth, began to slightly wane as the rain started falling harder and talk circulated about the show being cancelled due to some electrical problems in the theatre. But I kept my place in line with good faith that the electrical problems would soon be fixed. I tried to ignore the nasty cold I had assuring myself that an Iced Earth show is worth standing out in the rain for; and if I came down with pneumonia as a result – so be it! The doors were supposed to open at 7:00 pm but did not open until around 9:00 pm. And then the fans poured in eagerly.
Jeff and Tina informed me that they were staying towards the back. I was slightly disappointed by this, as I would have preferred their company throughout the show. However, I did not let it deter me from moving on alone.
Being only a hair over five feet tall I have to work extra hard at securing a spot where I am able to see well. How fortunate I was as I sailed like a ship on smooth water right up before the stage. I specifically headed for the left side of the stage because Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer always seems to be on that end. There was a guy in front of me, but he was blessedly short and my view was unhindered. I thought I had it made!
Soon Jag Panzer took to the stage. They experienced some sound problems throughout their first song. However, instead of getting frustrated, they carried on as dedicated troopers. Before I knew it, a mere four or five songs later, they were off the stage and the crew began setting up for In Flames. I was disappointed because I was finding Jag Panzer to be a very enjoyable live band.
Because of the aforementioned electrical problems the show starting times were delayed and therefore the sets were cut short which had something to do with a city ordinance or some such rot.
As I stood in my sacred spot I was suddenly startled out of my daze by this six foot bean pole who quite rudely shoved his way in front of me in order to get a glimpse of the In Flames set list for some reason. At first I maintained my cool; the guy was wearing an In Flames t-shirt and I assumed they were the band he was mostly there to see. I decided that as long as I got my spot back for Iced Earth then all would be well.
Yet, soon it was to be discovered that this stooge was not content with merely butting in front of me, he had to keep stepping back on my toes as well. Wherever I moved – there he too would go, as if completely blocking my view and stomping upon my poor feet were of life or death importance to him.
Finally my tolerance was drained and I slapped his arm in order to get his attention. When he turned to me I did not mince words: “You know, you’re a lot taller than me and would have no trouble seeing over me. I WAS here first and you are very freaking rude.” (Ooh – I’m bad!!J).
My bravado was rewarded with a blank, if not downright dumb look before once again “gracing” me with his backside, which I so desperately longed to kick!
In Flames exploded onto the stage shortly thereafter as if they had been shot from cannons or perhaps more accurately, on a “Bullet Ride” The energy rush flooded over the crowd like a frenzied contagion and an immediate mosh pit ensued. In Flames vocalist, Anders Friden, encouraged it further by doing a little stage diving/crowd surfing of his own.
As others began to follow suit, and I felt all these bodies pushing into me, my first impulse was to turn and run for the hills. In case I did not stress this point clearly enough – I am roughly the size of Yoda, and therefore do not bode well amidst a mosh pit. Then something came over me (perhaps it was the will of The Force)!? I decided to stand my ground. I came to see my beloved Iced Earth damnit! And I wasn’t going to let a few inconsiderate folks ruin it for me!
It was not long before my tall lanky friend in the In Flames shirt began to once more push my buttons most offensively. He nearly knocked me over several times, stomped on my feet (and I have small feet so there is no excuse!) and worst of all, he got his sweat on me! Yuk!!
I have nothing against people getting into shows and having fun, but there needs to be limits. If your “fun” is hindering someone else’s enjoyment of the event, then you’ve obviously crossed the line. People need to respect one another’s body and the small bit of space that is afforded in such cramped venues. It is virtually impossible to avoid bumping into people in such crowds but to do so deliberately is a different story. I’m just saying a person should be able to watch a show without worries of being trampled or having someone jump upon their heads. And we shouldn’t be forced towards the back where we can’t see either. (All right my tirade is over).
Back to my actual mosh pit battle… It would have seemed that the odds were against me but no towel did I throw into the ring. The speakers proved to be valuable allies, as I put out my arms and braced my hands against them.
I became a bit of a warrior, not by choice, as physical conflict is not my basic nature. But as the Incredible Hulk proved many years ago, if pushed too far, there is a retaliating beast within even the passive and meek. Therefore the words of wisdom: “Don’t make me angry, you won’t like me when I’m angry.” Ha ha… No, I did not turn big and green unfortunately, but from that point on, every time my tall, dumb and oh so rude adversary came too close to me; he was greeted with my sharp elbow to the gut. However, honesty compels me to grudgingly admit that I believe he was too stupid to even realize it.
Nonetheless, he did eventually wander off towards the middle of the crowd. When I realized his absence I felt quite proud and triumphant about the whole thing. J
I would like to tell you more about In Flames performance but the sad truth is I spent the whole time trying to keep from getting crushed and was unable to properly appreciate anything going on upon the stage. I was however, graced with a strange look by In Flames guitarist Jesper Stromblad. I, in turn, gave him my most pleasant smile in which he then promptly looked away; I guess The Force was just too strong for him.J (Actually, he probably saw me hanging onto the speakers for dear life, and thought I was nuts… but I like the idea of The Force better.J)
The intermission before Iced Earth was nice, because everyone seemed to be settling down. I had reclaimed my spot and was feeling quite mighty.
My adrenaline increased when Iced Earth took to the stage in a bombastic and patriotic fury. Vocalist Matt Barlow stormed the stage waving the stars and stripes as the rest of the band burst into a powerful and emotional instrumental version of the National Anthem. Instead of opting for silent reverence the crowd roared its approval earnestly, proving themselves a worthy and partisan audience. It was the first time that night that everyone seemed considerate and unified, as the events of Sept. 11th 2001 still remain in the hearts and minds of many. This Age of Aquarius did not last long, however, as the crowd let loose to the brutal passion of “Violate,” which served as Iced Earths official opening song.
Occasionally I was forced to defend myself from evil moshers and stage divers, but it wasn’t quite as bad as it was during the In Flames set. At one point Matt Barlow addressed the crowd with a comment something like, “I see you’re all getting pretty crazy out there and I’m not going to say I discourage it.” Let me just say that I love Matt dearly, but I could have swatted him for saying that. I knew that would just be an open invitation to the crowd to get as unruly as possible.
Then Jon Schaffer, ever the valiant knight, spoke up and beseeched everyone to “be careful” because he didn’t want anyone to get hurt. That was when I officially decided that I would hug him if I was fortunate enough to meet him after the show. (Jon is my hero J).
Much to everyone’s dismay, Iced Earth was also instructed to cut their set short due to the earlier circumstances. Jon promised the crowd that the next time they played Indianapolis, they would add onto the set in order to compensate for the time lost on this night. Then after receiving word that they only had time for a couple more songs, Jon very defiantly announced that they were going to perform the entire “Something Wicked” trilogy and made it known that he didn’t care if anyone opposed the idea. Of course the fans (including myself) were happy about this. If anyone did oppose the idea, no one had the grit to try to do anything about it.
The trilogy, consisting of the awesome songs: “Prophecy,” “Birth of the Wicked,” and “The Coming Curse,” seemed all too short and I, like everyone else was not ready for it to come to an end.
After the show:
It was not long before Matt Barlow made his debut from the magical green tour bus to greet the fans. And they were ready to revere him with worshipful praise for the vocal god that he is.
I worked my way into the crowd and was able to give the t-shirt I had made for him. (A patriotic Iced Earth shirt. Their logo atop the American Flag with the lines, “Don’t Tread On Me – Live Free Or Die.” I also had a picture I took of Matt and Jon on the shirt from when I met them Oct. 28th 2001 in Cincinnati, OH.)
Soon Jon Schaffer stepped off the bus and I approached him, shamelessly wearing my heart upon my sleeve. I took a couple of pictures and asked him to sign my Iced Earth scrapbook (still in progress)… After signing my stuff, Jon looked at me and said “I remember you from somewhere…” Imagine how arrogantly pleased I was at this acknowledgement.J
I refreshed his memory about the Cincinnati show. Jon then brightened and said “Oh yeah,” Your dad’s the biker right?” “Yes,” I replied, my ego slightly deflated at the fact that it was my dad that sparked the memory, my dad and the fact that he’s the president of a motorcycle club in Indiana; my dad and not me damnit. J Okay, he remembered me, he just happened to remember my Dad more (sniff). J
As I hung out around giving him the opportunity to sign things and take photo’s for other fans, waiting for another chance to give him the shirt like the one I’d given to Matt, bass guitarist Jim MacDonough ventured out and distracted me for a few minutes. I had never met Jim before and I must say, he is an absolute doll.
Finally, Jon became engrossed in a conversation with some people he apparently knew. Jeff and Tina were starting to get antsy to leave because they still had to pick up their kids yet that night. So feeling the pressure, I walked over to Jon and managed to make my presence known without interrupting their conversation. After a few seconds he turned to me and said, “Oh, did you have something else you wanted me to sign?” (Translation: “Oh – are you still here?”)J
I said, “No, I just wanted to give you this real quick.” And I handed him the gift bag with the shirt inside. He seemed appreciative when he saw it, and I took a picture of him with it as well.
I was willing to leave and quit making a pest of myself, but then he and got a couple more pictures. After taking a photo with me, Jon felt the need to comment on my Yoda like stature. He informed me that I was short. “You’re short,” he said, direct and to the point. I wanted to compliment him on his keen observance but I could not find it within myself to be a smart ass towards someone I am so smitten with. (Damnit! J)
As I mentioned earlier in the review, I had it in my head that I would give Jon a hug if I met him though it is not my nature to be aggressively affectionate. So I kind of had to build up my nerve for this rather mild feat.
Finally, in a sudden burst of courage, I simply stated, “I’m sorry, but I must hug you.” He laughed and sincerely returned my embrace. Tina had the good presence of mind to snap a picture and I am still gloating over the whole damn thing.J
Iced Earth rules – ‘tis really quite simple. An honest band – a down to earth band – a hard working band.