My First Metal Gig – Vanguard live at Dock Street Bar And Grill, Staten Island, NY February 4th 2005

As I might’ve alluded to in a previous article or two, I joined my first Metal band as a guitarist in 2004.  Previously I’d been a drummer.  But it wasn’t until close to year’s end that we rounded up our line up with a rhythm section, having auditioned these two buffoons in Phrygian Studios in Staten Island.  As far as I know it’s still around…although that might change depending on when this pandemic ends.  THAT was an audition!  A completely inexperienced drummer with no technique, a bassist that knew literally nothing about the bass and WREAKED OF SHIT ALL THE FUCKING TIME, and Chad, my co-guitarist who seemingly forgot how to play anything that day or just didn’t have a care in the world.  More on the that later!

Fast forward to early 2005.  Joe Ryder, our original bassist, while a really nice, quiet guy, was replaced with John Vaynburg, a far more talented bassist – one of only two bassists I ever played with that could nail “The Trooper”, my all time favorite Maiden tune, to the T!  Unfortunately he turned out to be a bit of a princess.  But hey at least he didn’t WREAK OF SHIT ALL THE FUCKING TIME!  Chris, our drummer, slowly began to hold quite an influence on Chad and Idrees’s decision making, thanks to his far more arrogant personality.  And I’d every once and a while be lectured – even by the very drummer who I taught to FINALLY develop independent control of his hands and feet! – in regards to my guitar playing being nowhere near as fluid or as glorious as Chad’s.  Oh sure, Chad certainly did have technique.  But I had tons more feel and attitude.  More on that later.

Around this time, we had a few originals, written mainly by Chad.  I’d brought some stuff to the table but I’d leave the band almost right after they’d started using my shit.  But it was evident that Chad’s music was more in favor because it was more in the Power Metal vein that Chad and Chris were very much into.  Power Metal: GAY.  Idrees’s gay ass cheesy lyrics didn’t help either!  It was hilarious that this is what seemed to be agreed upon when you consider that we were five guys between the ages of 17 and 20 (I was the oldest and the only one in college) that all had individual subgenre favorites.

Idrees, who my own father referred to as “that black kid who thinks he’s white”, was stuck somewhere between 1983 and 1990, and Slayer was his religion, like to the point that it was pathetic.  His “singing”, if you can call it that, was more akin to if Luther Vandross joined Judas Preist.  I still roast him to this day over it.  Chad, while a major Iron Maiden fanatic, also was enamored in all things Steve Vai.  Chris essentially followed Chad’s path, only he became a Power Metal fanatic (although he’d see the light months later).  John’s tastes were closer to mine.  He was very much a Death Metal fan, like I.  He also was a Black Metal fan.  Then there was me, and if you’ve been reading this blog for the last five years then you already know I only listen to the good shit.  And it reflected in my playing, especially my lead playing, sloppy as it might’ve been at the time.  I wanted to be the bastard child of Mustaine in his prime and Zakk Wylde.  While Chad played prissy lead fills, I was the guy that just ripped on his Body Art Series B.C. Rich Bich.

The Ballad Of Dock St Bar And Grill

As the title of this rant should suggest, this gig was on Staten Island.  I might as well admit that I’m actually from Staten Island.  Trust me, I’m not proud of it.  Where to begin?  Well, for the sake of this article anyway, the music scene, at least at this time, could only be described in one word: LAME.  Due to the Island’s isolation from the other four boroughs in New York City, along with some fucking morons blindly wearing that isolation with pride, there was nothing really exciting to talk about.  There’s a reason why Chris would eventually look outside the island for people to play with.

The local Metal scene had very few decent bands.  Dethroned and Enthralled come to mind.  Whiny Pop Punk was very popular.  Rap was and will forever be a big deal on Staten Island, primarily because Wu Tang are from there.  And by the way, if you’re reading this, are a grown adult around my age living in Staten Island, and still refer to it as “Shaolin”, you should probably be shot in the throat.  Five times.  But the tried and true money maker, as I’d later discover?  Cover bands.  So in a nutshell, Staten Island was, and probably still is boring.

By the way, just so we’re clear: Fuck the Wu Tang Clan and anybody that looks like them.

Dock St had been around for decades.  I’d actually played there numerous times during my senior year of high school in 2001 and 2002 with my previous band.  Aside from Cock St, there hadn’t been many venues for bands to play in that I knew of, especially in the case of bands where only one of us was BARELY under 21.  Fuck, Dock St alone had gone through countless management changes both before I ever even played there and especially long after I’d stopped going there.  I hated it.  It was small, I didn’t like that the booker, who I’d known for a few years, was a grown man befriending the kids, and it was just boring to me.  If you’re a grown man hanging out with teenagers, you’re creepy.

Gig Night

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Inside the shithole that was Dock St.  In the middle, starting from the left: Chris Dickinson (yeah, that Chris Dickinson), Chad Cresante, John Vaynburg.  Bottom: Idrees Williams

Unlike most of the bandmates I’ve played with over the years, I never got nervous or anxious before a gig.  This was no different.  But I was very tired, and very annoyed when Chris called me while I was home napping before the show, wanting to know where I was.  When I told him I was home resting before the gig because you know, I had work early in the morning and then class afterwards, he had the nerve to tell me to get down there as soon as possible as if it was his band.  Of course I ignored him and did my own thing.  I heard the anxiety in his voice.  This was his first band and hey, I was 16 when I did my first shows.  But a word of advice to you anxious musicians out there: there’s NO NEED TO PANIC BEFORE A FUCKING GIG.  JUST GET THE SAND OUT OF YOUR PUSSIES AND YOU’LL BE JUST FINE.

My mom, of all people, came to the gig.  I warned her not to, for she was going to see a side of me she’d wish she never saw.  The band were going to see a side of me they didn’t think they’d see either.  More on that later.  I do remember seeing some teenager with a water bottle.  He asked me if a wanted a swig before going onstage, revealing that the water was actually whiskey.  How could I say no?  I walked up on stage decked out in all black.  I had on a Death t-shirt that I actually still have, black jeans, black boots, a biker watch and a chain around my neck, ready to show these idiots who the real star was…after someone told me he wanted to have sex with my guitar.

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We opened up with a song called “Death Knell” (and here we go with the gay ass song titles!), after Idrees refused to introduce the band  because we needed “to sound like we’ve been around for five years”.  He actually said that.  To this day he claims he meant that as a joke; but he seemed way too serious for that to be a joke.  As soon as the tempo picked up I spread my legs as far apart as they would go and began banging my head as aggressively as I could without my glasses falling off.  I spat into the audience, my eyes popped out of my head as I was ripping through solos.

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Then I opened up my mouth.  There were a lot more people at the show then I imagined there would be.  Very few of them were there for me but the crowd were so into it that a former friend of mine decided to guard my mom, who according to him claimed she was going to beat up the first person who bumped into her.  Well, she didn’t stay around much longer.  After the second or third song, I took the mic from Idrees, looked toward Chad’s emo looking friends and yelled out “…and remember kids, emo is for pussies!”.

We went on to play a few more cheesy titled original tracks along with covers of “Aces High” (where I played the part of Adrian Smith) and “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying” (where I played the part of Dave, of course!).  Chad was probably the one guy who had no life to him during this show…or any of the shows we played together.  Looking at some of the pictures that were taken he appeared to just have some arrogant smirk on his face, as if he was already bored because even his own music wasn’t challenging enough for him.  It was the same smirk he had the afternoon we auditioned Chris and Joe Ryder just three months earlier.  Kids, when you don’t know how to just have fun at your FIRST GIG, you’ll never have fun.

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Doing my best Adrian Smith impression, playing his solo in “Aces High”.
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Final song of the night, “Fear Is Eternal”.  See what I mean about these gay song titles??

As I walked off the stage, the first thing I noticed was my mom was gone and I right away assumed it was because I singled out the emo kids the way I did.  I did stay for the last band, Whole In One.  They were a Pop Punk band, however I was friends with Ralph, their drummer.  I’m almost positive I left after them and joined the band for food afterwards at Mike’s Place in New Dorp Lane.

I arrived home late that night to a call on my cell phone as I was walking upstairs.  It was these two possibly drunk whores prank calling me.  Upon asking them how they got my number and who they were they were rambling a lot, prompting me to hang up.  They called back, asking me why I hung up, prompting me to threaten their lives.  They then left a hilarious voicemail claiming I never had sex, which was pretty funny since I lost my virginity at 18; and that I apparently suck because I like Iron Maiden.  That was a actually an amusing little chuckle to end my night.

The Day After

While eating oatmeal before I left for work early the next morning, mom slowly walked into the kitchen to finally give me a piece of her “mind”, as it were.  She was so pitiful, reflecting back in such dramatic fashion, on her view of me after seeing and hearing me in front of a live mic.  She confirmed, like the drama queen she always was and still is, that she did in fact walk right out the moment she heard me call out those kids.  “You were better in Fallout”, she angrily told me before walking back into her bedroom.  Fallout was my high school band, in which I played drums.  Therefore I’ve no doubt that her last remark to me was her way of telling me things were better when I couldn’t get to a mic so easily.  She’d never see me play live again.

Later that night, I picked up Idrees to go hang out at Chris’s house.  Chris’s attention, for the most part was aimed directly at me.  Why?  Remember when I said I was going to show a side of me the band never saw before?  Well, he sure as fuck didn’t know what to make of my performance even 24 hours later.  When I asked him what the big deal was he commented that he’d seen me with my feet planted together at virtually every band rehearsal leading up to the gig, seemingly having no life in me.  I tricked them all to the point where Chris got a tad giddy as he told Idrees and I “you both are like my fuckin’ Thrash Metal icons man!”.  Mission complete.

Inside the house was the guy that recorded our show to watch.  And apparently he was emo, because he immediately pleaded with me to not do what I did on the mic ever again because I sounded like an asshole.  I think he later on went home and cried as he fingered his pussy while blasting his favorite Bright Eyes album.  Mission accomplished!

Iron Maiden Live at Madison Square Garden July 30th, 2003

This was my second concert ever, just a few months after seeing Superjoint Ritual at L’Amour in Brooklyn just two months earlier, but this was my first ever arena concert – and goddamn what a way to start!  A few months earlier my cousin Mike asked me if I wanted to see Motorhead, Dio and Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden in July.  Now…I understood Maiden and even Dio playing at the Garden.  But Motorhead?  Yeah they have such a loyal following but they never held the stature of Maiden in ticket or even album sales.  Either way I knew it would be amazing to hear a band THAT LOUD in the Garden.  So do I want to go?  Um…yeah!

I don’t really remember off the top of my head what my day was like leading into heading out to my cousin’s apartment but I do remember just thinking to myself “holy shit I’m seeing Iron Fucking Maiden tonight!”  I’d been a growing fan since my senior year of high school, probably being the only one in my high school that even liked Maiden, or any real metal for that matter.  I had heard “The Number Of The Beast” and “Run To The Hills” but once I heard “The Trooper” on WSOU one afternoon I was sold!  Then Mike called me to let me know that he’d need an extra $50 when I got to his place because he was able to upgrade our seats and we’d now be right at the second row.  How the hell did do that?  Well…he wouldn’t tell me.  Whatever.  So I got to his place in the Superjoint Ritual t-shirt I bought at their L’Amour show, green cargo shorts and my boots, gave him the $50 and to the bus we went.

We got there and the place was the best mix of scalpers and some of the sickest battle jackets I’ve ever seen.  When we walked inside my old friend Joe was doing security, and he definitely came in handy later.  Motorhead were already playing when Mike and I got to our seats.  Come to think of it I now get mixed emotions when thinking of any Motorhead show I’ve seen, mostly because of Lemmy’s health these days.  Between him and Keith Richards why the hell is it that Keith was the one that did heroin and he appears to be doing better than Lemmy?  Loud?  Yeah…ok.  Imagine their volume…especially Lemmy’s bass…but now it’s in an arena where you’re now blasting the ears of over 20,000 people.  That whole set was an explosion.  And from where wee were seated we were right at Lemmy’s side to the stage – the way it should always be!  And Mikey Dee’s bassdrums went right through me and my cousin like a second heartbeat.  Mike was not really a Motorhead fan but at that moment he definitely got a rush from the sensation of Mikey’s bassdrums.  Their set list was filled with songs ranging from their entire catalog, from their biggest songs to their least known.  It was my first time hearing their Ramones tribute song, simply called “Ramones”, “Sacrifice”, “Over The Top”, which Lemmy appropriately dedicated to himself, and then I finally heard them play “Overkill”.  I’d heard Metallica’s cover of it five years earlier as did everybody else in the world but to hear THEM do it was the single greatest point in the setlist.  After they got off stage I almost didn’t care about Maiden!

Dio was next.  They were still on tour for their most recent CD, Killing The Dragon, the title track of which they even opened up with.  This was to be my first of three times seeing Ronnie James Dio in concert – all three times with my cousin Mike no less! – and my first impression of the guy made me laugh so hard.  I mean I never realized how short this guy was, first off.  He came out wearing this black silk outfit, I mean black pants flaring out at the bottom and this black short sleeve shirt, decorated with a glitter cross.  Now don’t get me wrong, he was amazing!  His voice was so powerful on this night, just a few years before being diagnosed with the stomach cancer that eventually took him from us.  I still miss him so much.  But I know I wasn’t the only one that night wondering if he took dance lessons from a stripper either!  In fact when I began my second year in college a little over a month later THAT was what my other friends who were there and I were talking about more so than even the music!  He shook his ass and swiveled his hips way too good here.

Craig Goldy was back on guitar, replacing Doug Aldrich who left after Killing The Dragon to join Whitesnake…yeah I was confused about that myself.  Why would anyone leave ANY band for Whitesnake??  I sure wouldn’t!  Craig was damn good on guitar as he played through this setlist, which Ronnie himself dubbed “Title Track Night”, even though they still brought out “Rainbow In The Dark”.  So while we were obviously going to hear “Holy Diver” and “The Last In Line” at some point they band also broke into “Heaven and Hell” to close his set.

Maiden…oh, Maiden.  When the time came for the band to come on the lights went out and you almost immediately heard those now-infamous lines from Vincent Price about the number of the beast.  We were about halfway through it when nearly everyone in the band minus Bruce Dickinson ran on stage ready to go.  I just knew he was behind that crazy ass elaborate stage they had going on, and I predicted he’d probably not show himself until the band kicked in.  After Vincent Price finished speaking Dave Murray started chugging away at the beginning of “The Number of The Beast”.  You heard Bruce hit that scream….still no sign of him..the next verse kicks in…there he is!!  In pure Michael Jackson style he was catapulted from beneath a platform on the stage and right away began jumping down the step with the energy of someone half his age.  The whole band are playing away like their lives depended on it and this motherfucker is doing Olympic style hurdles over the onstage monitors while singing and not even screwing up a single note.  He was in his mid-forties at this point – show me a younger front man from this time period that could do that shit too!

Oh right – the music!  It was a trip hearing THREE guitarists playing an assload of classics originally performed by just two.  Right after the first song finished Bruce just yells out in his high pitched wail “THE TROOPEEEEEERRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!” and all three guitarists broke in to the song that made me a Maiden fan for good.  Bruce goes away for a minute while the crowd of 20,000 hears Janick, Dave and Adrian pull off a sick three part harmony before he comes back out in an army outfit.  NICE!  I really wish I could find footage of this show but I can’t because they did a bunch of classics, “Die With Your Boots On”, “Revelations”, “The Clairvoyant” (not one of my favorites).  Then Bruce gave a speech about how the band didn’t give a shit about record sales our how we heard their music so long as we heard it, before playing “Wildest Dreams” off of their then-forth coming CD Dance Of Death, telling everyone to take it “…and download it to all your friends!”.  Oh Bruce, you funny guy, you.  The show ended with the encore, “Run To The Hills”, which I really wanted to do for other reasons when the show was done.  But I cane say that this was one of THE best concerts I’ve ever been to.

After the show was done Mike and I waited for my friend Joe to get out so we could go home on the ferry together.  I’d love to know how the fuck we wound up walking to the train with this weird looking gay couple, one of the two guys talking to me, randomly switching subjects from why James Hetfield had to go to rehab to how his boyfriend’s family was the cause of his ulcers.  Right… While on the train I saw some in shape looking guy with this nasty looking chubby chick with John Lennon’s signature tattooed on the back of her neck.   Once we got off the ferry Joe drove us both home, which was a hell of a lot better than possibly taking the bus that late at night.  That next morning I felt fuckin’ pumped!  I woke up a lot earlier than I should’ve and hit the gym before going to work.  Getting of the bus from work I recognized this chick with a John Lennon tattoo on her neck – it was the chubby chick from the train.  “You were at the show last night”, I said.  So we spoke for a minute until she said the words that made me think she lost her fuckin’ mind: “Motorhead SSSUCKED!”  WHAT?!?!  Bitch have lost your fuckin’ mind?!?!?!  Oh it gets better: “Lemmy looked like he was sucking a dick the way he had his microphone positioned too!”.  I have to admit, I did find that part a bit funny…but sucked??  I can happily say I haven’t seen her since!