Friday, September 22, 2017

Corrosion of Conformity and Hurricane Irma

3:06 a.m. September 16, 2017

We came for Pepper, Reed, Woody, and Mike. Sure, there were other bands on the bill, but we just came to see COC. No, I’m not talking Clash of Clans, which is just so wrong for popping up when someone types in COC at Google – I’m talking the real namesake of COC, which has been and will always be: Corrosion of Conformity.

That’s the real reason why we went to the show. My best friend and her husband had told me about the show, asking if I was going to go, but at the time, I didn’t know I was going to be in town longer than expected. I was supposed to fly out yesterday to go back down to Florida to go back to work after the hurricane, but when there’s no power and work’s not opening til Monday, change the flight to Sunday and have the opportunity to go to see one of your favorites: COC, a.k.a. Corrosion of Conformity. 

The whole adventure really started a week ago, when heading up through North Carolina – and COC’s got Carolina boys. However, when I think of COC, I usually associate it with Pepper, who I know not only from touring on Ozzfest with him in 2002 when he was playing for Down, and I was doing my motorcycle modeling gig, but also from living in New Orleans after tour. Pepper owned a bar within walking distance of my first apartment in New Orleans, and we would randomly bump I to each other from time to time in New Orleans, so even though COC is associated with the Carolina boys, my brain still thinks NOLA, as that’s where I interfaced with Pepper the most, randomly.

Pepper is like a Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, and I have often said this – so often that he is mentioned in some of my earliest books as such, as they were written in New Orleans. He appears with this big smile when you least expect it, and he is always very nice, offering up a big hug, asking how things are and genuinely caring to know. Next thing you know, he’s gone, and you begin to think you hallucinated him. 

People assure you he was just there but nobody knows where, as he is just gone into thin air seemingly. Just when you’re sure you’ve gone mad, he’s back with a big smile and a head nod in your direction. Then he’s just gone, evaporated like a mist into air. 

It’s because of Pepper that I got to know the Carolina connection of COC. From bringing a vegetarian selection to Mike, to having Woody school me on why appreciating bands outside on metal makes for a well-rounded musician- literally going as far as to sitting me down to listen to Dwight Yokum, just so I could hear a different side to country music. First time I met Reed, he had a big smile and chatted as if he had known me for a thousand years, and that’s part of the reason why I gave him my latest book. 

Well, that, combined with the fact that we just happened upon him on the sidewalk, and I didn’t want the book to get lost in the mix of all the people. Put this on the tour bus. Pass it around for whoever feels like reading it: “In the Bathroom.”

So, back to the Carolinas, specifically North Carolina, as that was the first place we could actually stop after evacuating from the hurricane. It took 3 hours to go 13 miles at 3 a.m., and Pepper knows what it’s like to have to evacuate – so many people in the New Orleans music scene were effected by Hurricane Katrina, from houses under water with dead bodies floating in the yard after canoeing over a 10-foot glass shard and barbed wire fence, to being trapped in jail and seeing inmates unable to hold on drown while rats swim by in water you can’t drink, dying of thirst and forgotten about. We were not escaping Katrina this time though; it was Irma, and I didn’t want to take chances with anything ranking as a Category 5 after seeing what happened with Katrina. 

We left Southwest Florida around 10:30 p.m., hoping that most people had gone to bed. Getting to Tampa was not as bad as we had heard, but after Tampa, it was wall to wall, especially around where the turnpike cuts into I-75. There were miles of cars lined up at any gas station with gas, bathrooms at gas stations were broke or nasty if you could wait around for a couple hours to get in, and don’t even think of stopping at the rest areas, because cars are triple and quadruple parked along the highway with people hiking to get near a bathroom, just to stretch their legs, and people so tired they just simply could not drive any further without falling asleep at the wheel.

Get off the main roads. Avoid Atlanta. That traffic’s bad without a hurricane.

That means, head east, diagonally north, up to the Smokey Mountains. Cross into Cherokee County in North Carolina. Take the mountains into Tennessee.

They're having a classic car show there.  Started noticing classic cars when driving into NC, coming over the Smokey Mountains, confirmed when crossed into Gatlinburg, and it continued to Sevierville: side walks lined w chairs of people sitting in front of classic cars, watching other cherry classics tooling down the main drag, cruising and meeting all sorts of other people from FL, as well as people from other beach areas around the coast, from the Georgia islands to the Carolinas- Myrtle Beach, Amelia Island, all the waterfront communities from the Panhandle of Florida, to every southern waterfront community, including Naples, Daytona Beach, and people living in areas that had been struck by major storms before that knew enough to get out of there as early as possible.

Though I had wanted to check out Dolly Parton’s new dinner show, after being trapped in a car that long, the last thing you want is to sit for even longer. Opt for Harpoon Harry’s instead, a place my students had told me about the last time I went to Pigeon Forge, as the owners go between their restaurants there and in Southwest Florida. Not only is the hand carved local wood shaped into a slew of sea creatures, a mermaid, and totem pole-like archways of gnarly art created painstakingly with love, but the food is amazing, from sushi to steaks and everything in between, including perfectly prepared squid salad, ahi tuna, gator bites, oysters, oh, and amazing smoked trout dip with pita chips: yum!

We made our way over towards Margaritaville on the Island to do some shopping, eyeing up the classic cars cruising past the massive Ferris wheel that is changing colors in synch with lighted waterspouts. There’s all kinds of stuff to do there, like climb up to face your fear of heights while climbing higher and higher obstacles that make people look like M&M’s on the ground, just specks of colors that blur from being so high up in the sky. I had done that touristy stuff the last time I stayed at Margaritaville, so I knew what trinkets I wanted at my favorite shops, like Earth Bound Trading Company; that way, I could run to the shops and head back to La Quinta, one of the only hotel chains that does not charge a pet fee, as I was evacuating with my cats (it makes me mad when people leave pets behind in hurricanes).

In the morning, we get lost at Knife World: a place I thought I could just duck into but wound up being too large to take in all at once, with levels of all kinds of weapons and memorial from wars, hunting stuff, jewelry, gemstones, cookware, all kinds of stuff you wouldn’t even expect. I truly imagined that I could just waltz in to find a pocketknife to cut some rope, and the next thing I know, I’m looking at stun guns, learning that a hook on a knife is more likely for gutting a deer than cutting rope, and getting totally distracted by the swords from my years spent learning about Japanese swordsmanship. It’s the history stuff and war memorabilia, like letters sent during wartimes, that make you stop to wonder what it had to have been like with no Facetime, no Skype, no internet, no cell phones, walkie talkies at best – if that – letters written out of fear, love, boredom, scared, who knows, and that’s the intrigue that lingers.

September 22, 2017

Unfortunately, there was not much time to linger in the morning, as it was said that Cincinnati had bad construction traffic, so we opted for the beltloop around to the west, as the east was supposed to be tore up pretty bad from accidents, traffic jams and construction, too; into Indiana we drove peacefully.  Then, cross right back into Ohio.  Head on up to Michigan, pointing out casinos on the way home.

As much as I would love to say that evacuating was a fun vacation, it was more like a time to earn your keep around the house:  paint the back porch, the front porch, the garage doors, the shed trim, the other house’s front and back porch – then run out of time and paint.  Have to pick up again next time.  I’m flying out tomorrow, so ample opportunity then when I go up to get my cats and drive back here.

That’s the joys of real estate that people don’t always talk about, the upkeep.  Maintenance helps the value, so if you’re trying to buy and sell, a fresh coat of paint can hide a number of sins.  In Michigan, being that it’s the fall already, it’s more like if you want anything painted, do it before the snow flies.

I was literally painting a porch the afternoon of the COC show with Danzig.  My friend works at the post office, and as I was going to ride up with her and her husband, I had to wait for her to get done working anyway.  Keep busy, git-r-done, and muscle out as much paint up until the very last minute before ya go.

Squeeze into the Camaro, zoom up to Detroit, get lost with closed roads and detours, but find your way.  We arrive late.  Acid Witch already played, and I really had wanted to see them, but it was just too late.

There was a band on stage when we walked in, so I headed up to the front of the venue, photo pass in hand.  They had insisted that there were no photos that night, and I explained that I was a photographer.  They didn’t believe me, even with a photo pass, so I had to get another guy from the front to explain that I indeed was a photographer on assignment, even though they were told there was no photos, I was there to shoot Corrosion of Conformity, and by the time we had figured everything out, COC wound up being the only band I would be able to photograph – even though I was supposed to photograph the openers – but bureaucratic red tape halted the coverage of a show once again.

Then, of course, you have Glenn Danzig, who is really to blame for the tight photo regulations.  Afterall, he has had this thing with cameras as if he is a vampire and doesn’t want people to know that he does not show up in mirrors or photographs.  Seriously, the guy just doesn’t like cameras taking his picture.

Even when I’ve had a photo pass to photograph him in the past, he has always been like pictures only during said time or else.  I’ve seen him get violent with people over cameras, as well as his security.  I’ve seen enough people get tackled and roughed up to know better, but even with warning, habit strikes.

For me, it was a tour with one of the original Misfits.  He didn’t make his appearance until the middle of the set, and photographers were supposed to only take pictures during the first couple songs.  Still, when the dude came out, 25-year reunion deal, I had to at least try to take a picture of them together.

Almost as soon as my arm twitched to even think about grabbing my camera, venue security was there, taking the expensive rechargeable battery out of my camera and putting it into his pocket, never to be seen again.  Did I get kicked out?  I don’t remember that it went that far, as I seen head of tour security I knew from working on Ozzfest, and he gave me a t-shirt as a way to kind of calm my ruffled feathers.

Stupid battery cost more than the t-shirt.  I was not amused.  I had to special order another and wait.

That was years ago, literally more than a decade ago.  Let’s just say I knew from then not to mess around when it comes to Danzig.  However, even as I had been warned, I warned my friend’s husband not to take out his cell phone, but even with the warning, sometimes, it’s just second nature to do it.

Mind you, this is the same guy that I had taken backstage when Pepper and the guys from COC were playing with Motorhead and Brand New Sin at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland.  We all wound up over at Peabody’s, chilling with the guys from E’Nuff Z’Nuff, White Lion, and other random 80’s-90’s bands.  Since that was the last time he and I had seen COC together, we had to compare the two shows.

Thing is, I learned early on that Pepper is an amazing musician.  He convinced me of that when we were on tour, listening to him give musical advice to aspiring musicians, but especially when Down was recording the acoustic version of Stone the Crow in the same hotel in Detroit where I was supposed to interview the Crocodile Hunter, but he freaked out and left the tour to be with his family, only to wind up dying not so distantly in the future by being stung by a stingray.  While some musicians might get nervous, Pepper is playing without looking, holding a conversation, and watching television all at once.

In the jam scene, people sometimes call it noodling a guitar, just seeing where a riff goes when you’re playing around with it, letting it take on a life all of its own.  While most might not think of COC as a jam band, they do have that southern groove inside of them, and if you don’t believe me, think back to the tour when Stanton Moore from Galactic was filling in for Reed on the drums, and while I like Galactic, especially with that new female singer they have been working with, no offense Stanton, but Reed fits.

Reed was like the missing link when Stanton was playing.  Don’t get me wrong; he did a good job.  He just brought a slightly different sound, and some people just don’t do too well with change sometimes.

When Reed came back, it was just like that little missing piece was found again, made it whole again.  Sure, some might not think that Pepper and Stanton teaming up would be likely, but they have that whole NOLA connection, where it doesn’t matter what genre you play if you know how to play it well.  When Woody sat me down to listen to some Dwight Yokum, a friend of mine, a bass player, was also made to sit down and watch Mike Gordon’s video, as a way to expand his horizon beyond just metal.

Funny thing is, if you go to a hippie concert – you know, the places where they spout the most about peace, love, and tolerance for others – if you go there and start spouting off about Slayer and Danzig, you’ll hear that love message turn off real quick.  You’ll get the bad vibes rant from the hippies.  Blah blah, negativity, let me tell you how to love, not hate, maybe something about sinner going to hell…

Go to a metal show, talk about the Grateful Dead, and a lot of metalheads would probably just be like, “hey, they’re cool; I like them, too.”  Rather ironic: there’s more tolerance with metalheads than hippies.

There’s not so much tolerance for photographers at a Danzig concert.  Just as I had to learn my lesson the hard way, so did my friend’s husband.  We had been dancing around to Corrosion of Conformity, not paying attention, but when I looked behind us, her husband was gone, and she had noticed him leave.

“That’s odd.  Usually, he’ll at least nudge me to let me know he is leaving.  Maybe I didn’t notice,” she tried to reason, thinking he must have just ran off to the restroom, which was in the basement there.

We continued to dance and sing along from our little pocket to the left side of the riser, claiming our territory by flinging our bodies to the point where we keep accidentally bumping into people.  They learn to back up and give you room.  It’ll be all right, as they know to watch out for your flailing arms.

Still, no Billy, and my brother has a joke that he would tell about poor Billy being like a stoneface, not moving, not laughing, not blinking, just blending into the background, but he next thing you know, Billy would come alive.  The joke started when my brother saw Billy play for the first time on stage, as he had never seen our friend’s husband move the way he did when he was on stage with a guitar in hand.  Being a writer, the joke extended to other areas, and with any good story, things get a bit exaggerated.

So, turn your back, because Billy ripped a big one, and you’re trying not to inhale, so you turn your back, and try to gasp your breath, but as soon as you’re not paying attention, Billy come alive!  He’s off, dancing on top of the bar, stripping off his clothes to a sparkly white g-string diaper, with his bald head, trying to act like Cupid with a bow and arrow, sniping people, putting the bartender’s head to his crotch and shouting, “you will submit!”  Security guards have to leave the stage just to deal with this overgrown baby starting a revolution in the blinged out revealing diaper, which makes Glenn Danzig mad, so he wants to jump off stage, and thus starts the venue-wide mosh pit old school bar fight…

No, that’s not what happened.  He just got kicked out.  My friend’s butt started ringing.

She gets out her phone.  “Oh, dude, Billy got kicked out!”  If they go, I go; we rode together.

Try to plead with venue security.  They say it’s Glenn’s policy.  I point out it was when COC was on stage, and that I actually did, indeed, have a photo pass for COC, but it doesn’t matter, because we didn’t figure out the Billy was gone until COC was done playing, so COC was done at that point; my job’s done.

Screw it; peace out.  Explain to Danzig why they don’t get any coverage.  It was supposed to be the original members, and I told my friends, if it had been Tommy playing, I would have stayed, but…

Did Tommy play?  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.

We walked over to the MGM Casino, where we parked, as it’s free there, as opposed to paying a lot downtown by the Filmore.  We talked about wanting to check out the room where Chris Cornell died, do our own little ghost hunting tour, but they don’t let you wander the hotel unless you have a room key.  We tried to say my grandma was upstairs, but they said tell grandma to come down and get you then.

Screw it.  Head over to the train station instead.  Take pictures with the lights shining in the windows, and try to guess what the heck they are trying to spell out on the abandoned building that was just crumbling to ruins only a few years ago, another abandominium where people could hole up for whatever, from throwing toilets out of the top floor windows, to running into scary guys in the dark.

Get up, do more painting, fly down to Florida, try to assess the damage after the hurricane.  Flying into Fort Myers, rent a Mustang and drive around for a few.  Head towards the beach, but the odd thing is that there’s more water in the fields and flooding over roads out by the airport than there is closer to the Gulf of Mexico; Fort Myers Beach buildings looked more tore up from Charley than from Irma.

Still, Bonita Beach Road is flooded over by the dog track, and the flea market by there is swimming.  There’s literally kayaks tied up to telephone poles in some places.  Cars drive through three feet of water and splash up 12 feet, knowing they must not stop after they’ve committed to drive through the water.

There’s downed powerlines, signs are skeletons or flattened to the ground, bent over at the base.  Trees are tipped over, roots popping out of the ground, or they have a blanket of grass covering the roots like a modest woman pulling a skirt over her exposed legs as she is sprawled out upon the ground.  For once though, there’s no wait trying to get to the north bridge, no line up to go over the bridge: ghost island.

The damage gets a little less the more north you go, but the radio’s screaming don’t drink the water, don’t wash your clothes, don’t run the dishwasher, boil water advisory, spend the money buying water.  You see the transition of people from martial law to keep looters away when the power’s out to those returning to civilization as the power turns back on in their homes.  Get home, and there’s no power.

Power must have just gone out though, because the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream bars in the freezer are still about two-thirds frozen, good enough to try.  Eat it, don’t die, run to the store a few blocks away, buy some ice, and put it into a roaster pan, putting the items to keep cold inside of the ice pile.  Hear the hum of generators down your block, and see the lights from Sarasota country another block away.

Friends call the cell.  Come chow.  Come hang in the A/C, and you are eager to say hello.

Go home to a dark house.  Still no power and no A/C.  Water is boiling coming out of the faucet.

Somebody must make something that can cool the water off, but it won’t help with no power.  Can’t order it online or do anything involving the internet.  No movies, no music, unless you drive the car.

You shouldn’t waste the gas, but you do, because it’s too hot to sit and sweat in the house.  Drive to Englewood just to get gas to fill up the car, then take the car back in the morning, try to start back to normal life, go to work, and try not to stress about not having power at home when you had it at work.  Give finals to the students, try to soothe their ruffled feathers, hearing their horror stories of how their books got flooded away, chewed up by animals, how their homework was done and lost in the flood…

See the blink blink of blank eyes with doe looks.  Of course, all their homework was done, and they were not just waiting until the last minute during the week of finals to remember they had final projects due.  Everyone was traumatized, so how could you expect them to think of homework during a hurricane?

Facebook alert:  Tommy Victor’s Birthday, better say hi.  He writes back saying that he saw Pepper had the latest copy of your book, and where’s his?  You offer to send it on over, and then you really start wondering if you had missed him playing with Danzig; it was supposed to be all original members, but what else would he be doing hanging out with Pepper, Reed, and the COC guys within a day of you?

To this day, Tommy Victor is the only rock star to read your I-Ching reading.  He did that back in 2002, literally days before you got the offer to tour on Ozzfest, and before Ozzfest was ever a dream in your mind, Tommy had asked what you wanted to do, and you responded by telling him you wanted to go on tour, just to see what it was like, because you’ve heard so many musicians tell you about it in interviews.  He kind of looked at you like you were crazy, but he got it; he understood, and you were given a chance.

Did Tommy do it?  Was it Rob Zombie?  It was really a group effort of sorts, maybe Drowning Pool?

Scheduled to cover the Detroit show for Drowning Pool, Rob Zombie pulled you up on stage, and after getting off stage, you were offered a job on tour as a Harley Girl, which you thought was a joke, but it was a legit job, just not doing exactly what you thought you would be doing.  It wasn’t selling Harley t-shirts or keychains, not even motorcycles; it was doing modeling on a motorcycle.  Now, you hadn’t thought of yourself as model beautiful, and you had a friend a drop you off at the show before knowing fully what you were going to be doing, so it was basically no turning back, try this crazy tour for summer.

Get done with tour, and there’s Tommy.  How was it?  Crazy.

Tommy kept your number for more than a decade, programmed into his phone.  Call him up earlier this year for an interview, and your name pops up.  He answers by saying your first name before you say hi.

More than 15 years later, and all you can do is shake your head and smile, maybe blush a little.  How often do two people on the road so much keep the same numbers for so long?  Less likely nowadays.

Truth be told, I had his number saved on my phone for years, but then I had a phone that went for a swim in a toilet after having it in a silk-lined pants’ pocket.  That was the end of that, so I had just assumed that he must have suffered some sort of tragedy over the years.  More people than not lose or break phones, and before the cloud, that meant all their contacts and pictures died with that phone.

More people forget my name than remember it, but Tommy Victor was the one to tell me back in the day, “you’ve paid your dues.  People know who you are, so you don’t have to do dumb shit.”  That was in reference to me flaunting my body back when I had one when I was younger, saying I didn’t have to flirt with people like Glenn Danzig, because enough other people knew who I was, even when I was sitting on the bus with Glenn Danizg; that’s when I just turned to the girl from Poland next to me, said, “jak sie masz,” and practiced my very few Polish phrases on her, enough to have her feeling welcome.

Is that a politically correct way of saying I didn’t need to show artwork to Glenn?  Not just any artwork, but my personal artwork, which was enough to make Phil Anselmo’s jaw drop, and for him to stare.  He tried to roll his eyes, wanted to not be impressed, but truth be told, I was a tad unique back in the day.

You couldn’t ever tell by looking at me, especially now, being a professor and all, but there’s days when my past catches up to me, like when students beg to hear the story of how I wound up in a Lil Wayne video.  Of all the stories I have, that’s the one they want to hear the most, and the students look up the video, watch it, point me out, giggle, not wanting to believe that it’s me, pausing it, comparing facial features, as I didn’t have my glasses on when I was in that video, and that was back many moons ago.  That, of course, ties back into the NOLA scene, as Down’s Ozzfest tech Chester was also in that video.

We totally wound up in it for different reasons.  He must’ve known some people.  I just happened to have a guy get me drunk and tell me that I’m going to work with him but won’t tell me where he works.

Dude wound up being the camera guy, who happened to have gone to school with Pepper.  We wound up running into him at one of the New Orleans bars, and he asks me what I’m doing hanging out with a guy he went to school with.  Ah, Pepper, he’s a character - my Cheshire Cat character to be precise.

When Tommy said Pepper had one of my books, I had to explain that Pepper has a lot of my books actually.  I don’t know if he physically kept every single one of them, but he had quite a many of my books given to him at various points, as I just kept running into him different places and would give one.  It wasn’t like Pepper and I ever hooked up intimately, as I first met him, leaning in with a group of people, looking at pictures I had taken of Down while on stage, and as just another member in the crowd, I hear a voice ask if I had any pictures of that Pepper cat, as somebody said he’s real good…

I flip through the pictures, knowing that I have some, and when I find it, I finally look up, only to see Pepper’s face inches from my own and my camera, a big smile on his face.  There were just so many people trying to look at the pictures, I hadn’t noticed him walking up.  He had changed clothes, so it wasn’t like he was wearing the exact same thing, or that I would’ve known after taking pics all day.

I knew where to find him on my camera though, and when I did, I felt like such a dork, looking up, seeing him smiling, amused, just trying to blend in with the rest of the crowd, knowing he had been spotted.  The stupid thing is that I don’t know exactly how long he had been there, right next to me, while I had been zoned into the photos on my camera, not paying attention, just hearing requests randomly.  There’d be comments on photos by random people, because digital photography was not as common as it was now, and for people to see pictures instantly when digital first became a thing was like leading a moth to the flame, as people couldn’t really fathom the instant gratification of seeing a picture same day when they were used to having to wait like a week to get film developed, then remember to get it.

When digital first came out, my newspaper editors tried to say it was just a fad.  Earlier this year, (was it my editor or publisher?) an older dude tried saying that the internet was just a fad, not really grasping the idea that the internet can be used to make money when the newspaper subscriptions were down.  In theory, the pictures from 35mm is better, because it is not pixelated, so the darks are darker, not dotty when blown up; thus, when I first was learning journalism, I was trained shooting a 35mm camera, but my dad got me a digital camera, and I had to convince editors to let me try using it for the paper.

Am I sounding old yet?  I feel old explaining this stuff to my students who don’t know what life before cell phones were like.  We didn’t always have GPS and Facetime, and I don’t know what we did then.

The Stone Ages were a dark time.  Amazon was just a jungle, like rainforest area people wanted to save.  Couldn’t just get two-day shipping on things randomly like that unless you paid dearly for the fees…

2:22 a.m. September 22, 2017

7:47 p.m. September 22, 2017

Everyone’s getting old.  Take a nap.  If you’re old enough to live, you only grow old.

Tommy Victor and Pepper Keenan I met within weeks of each other – though I think I technically saw Pepper and COC in concert before I saw Prong or Danzig with Tommy.  Regardless of which one I saw first, all of us are growing old.  With musicians like Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington dying - not to mention Lemmy from Motorhead, Prince, and all the tons of others - people are dying each day, regardless of being a musician or not; that’s the joke about life, each day is one step closer to death.

The ones that are still on the right side of the grass, the pool of people from your era gets smaller each day as people continue to die.  Grandpa always said growing old is not for sissies, and for all those hardcore freaks covered in ink and crazy piercings: no tattoo or piercing is as bad as some surgeries that people get, be it open heart surgery, or even an episiotomy after having a baby – that’s real hardcore. 

I used to think my artwork was hardcore, had some of the craziest stuff around back in the day.  Then, when I got older, I had surgeries, and I just don’t feel that sort of pain compares any of the worst sort of body art modification pain, because doctors go deeper, they fish around and leave massive scars behind.  Growing old is a painful process, and as others grow old and experience their own kind of pains and joys right beside you, it’s that coming together of understanding that we may differ, but as a community, standing side by side each other, we look around and notice fewer and fewer of our troops standing.

Watching people live, you notice changes over the years, such as when COC played with Motorhead, they amped up their style a bit, and when they played with Danzig, they opened with a creepy, melodic groove, similar to that which Danzig has been known to do, slowing and dropping the notes down a bit.  Seeing Pepper play a ukulele, watching Stanton play drums instead of Reed, all these little changes over the years, to their set, like even in Detroit, they did a jam in the midst of their last song “Clean My Wounds,” and it ventured into the realm of Michigan native Ted Nugent, having a “Stranglehold” vibe.  These little changes do not go unnoticed - and neither does Pepper venturing out in public, telling each person that he talks to that he’s from a different 80’s band, and pointing out his “roadie” Rex, when he was touring with Down – for these little differences are what’s remembered from show to show.

Tommy Victor, whether he’s fronting his band Prong, or filling in to play with bands like Danzig or Ministry, he’s another one that can adapt his playing style accordingly, changing it up from set to set on each tour.  His capabilities are underappreciated, as he can switch things up in a moment’s notice.  He’s one of those guys that are a lot deeper than people realize at first, and he has some crazy stories, too.

The first time I met Tommy, he was playing with Monte in Prong, and I didn’t believe that Monte had been playing with Madonna, because it seemed like such an odd pairing at first thought.  The original Prong guys had been opening up for Danzig, and as I followed Tommy around backstage for our interview, we wound up chatting on all kinds of random topics that most people don’t know about.  From conspiracy theories to darker topics, Tommy’s a guy you can talk deep theories with on the fly.

I think it was Howie who had been playing for Danzig at the time.  Each time I’ve seen Danzig, he’s had different people with him, and while I will give him credit for taking people out, pulling them out of whatever darkness that they had been hiding in, I still say his photo policy is lame.  Get over it already.

You’d think after years of being on stage that he would be used to cameras.  You only live once.  Enjoy photos of your youth while you can, or maybe that’s why he doesn’t want the cameras on him?

Regardless, not my liberty to say.  I can imagine it’s annoying getting flashes in the face all night; I get that.  I’m not unreasonable, but I am a photographer who has been burned by the policy a few times.

You’d think I’d catch on by now, eh?  The bottom line is that regardless of how the night turned out, it still beat hunkering down in a hurricane.  It was nice to escape to Michigan and get out of the house to enjoy a concert; had I been in Florida, I was supposed to have covered the Make America Rock Again festival, which had been cancelled in southwest Florida last year, and was cancelled this year, too.

Maybe next year they’ll not schedule it in hurricane season.  At least my house wasn’t blown 12 feet off its foundation like my friend in the Keys, and at least my car wasn’t washed away like hers was.  While there’s a lot of damage from the storm to clean up still, at least music is one of those things that can take our minds off our problems for tiny bits at a time, take us to a momentary escape from ourselves.

Hurricanes supercharge things.  Just like when I saw Ministry and My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult in New Orleans on the night they announced mandatory evacuations for Hurricane Ivan, it was one of the best shows ever, as it was supercharged by the thought of this could be the last concert we live through if the hurricane is a direct hit, so live it up while you can.  The vibe is unlike anything that is normally experienced at an average show; there’s energy, then there’s the fear of the last night on earth charge.

During natural disasters, you basically have to give up and accept that there’s nothing you can do.  If it’s nature’s will to tear through your home and throw everything you have up into the air, you’re not going to stop a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake.  If you had the equipment, you might be able to stop a fire, but sometimes life throws curveballs, and all we can try to do is dodge out of the way of being hit hard.

Even if we are unfortunate enough to get hit, music is one of those things that can help take our mind off the pain as we try to regroup our lives.  Sometimes, you just have to go out with friends and take your mind off of worrying about the worst-case scenario.  Enjoy the music and life while you have it.

9:04 p.m. September 22, 2017

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