How Far Would You Go?

I’ve done a lot for metal over the years. In an attempt to sport the longhair uniform, despite genetics handing my follicles a bum deal, I walked around looking like a frizzed out crackhead throughout most of the 80s. Rooms in my house are filled with records, CDs, magazines and not much else to varying degrees of familial disgust. I have managed to avoid getting a real job lo these many years as I’m too busy writing about metal to worry about full-time, gainful employment. I’ve also travelled a fuck of a lot to see bands play live. Not counting the multitude of festivals I’ve driven and flown to over the years, I’ve embarked upon a number of 8-12+ hour journeys in order to stand in a packed venue with strangers and fat dudes sweating all over me (and everyone else) listening to the sounds of the gods. I thought I was the only one. Apparently, and thankfully, I’m not as I discovered when I put it out to my fellow Decibel-ites: what’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled to attend a show?

The scene: Down, 07/14/02, Old Bridge, NJ, Birch Hill Nite Club.
Having missed Ozzfest due to some miscommunication with the people that were supposed to get me in, I decided to at least catch the Down off-date in Old Bridge, New Jersey. Not as far as some people have driven; technically, it’s only 90 minutes or so away from my parents’ house in Yardley, Pennsylvania, but it did lead to some misadventure. See, the Birch Hill Nite Club was, according to MapQuest, right off the I-95. I downloaded directions, but as someone who was unfamiliar with that particular section of the Garden State, at some point I got lost. So, being naïve, I figured I could just follow the 95 there, right? Except I didn’t realize that New Jersey was, in fact, the only state that didn’t connect to the 95 which, inevitably, led to me getting even more lost. But, as I was driving around some godforsaken suburb, I pulled up next to a car with a bunch of Slayer, Pantera, Slipknot, etc. stickers on the back. Putting two-and-two together, I figured that these guys might very well be heading to the same show. I shouted out the window to them, and lo and behold, they were! I asked if I could follow them, and they said that would be cool. And then they proceeded to take off at upwards of 90 miles per hour. So there I was, whipping through unknown territory in a Sebring convertible clearly not built for those speeds, trying to keep up with these suicidal rednecks. Miraculously, I didn’t get arrested or die, and we actually arrived at the club in one piece. At least it was a great show (except for the crowd surfer falling on my head). Thank God for the invention of smart phones.
– Jeff Treppel

Juan Perez and I flew from Los Angeles to Boston just to catch one of the Only Living Witness reunion shows at the Middle East downstairs in Cambridge in 2008. We were singing along to every song like a pair of 13 year-old girls. It was the summertime, and as usual, there was no AC in the Middle East dungeon. Our clothes were literally soaked through by the end of the show, but fuck, we saw Only Living Witness in all their glory, with our friend Bob “Ro-bare” Maloney filling in on bass for Chris Crowley. It was a monumental night, and one that seems even more significant in the wake of OLW drummer Eric Stevenson’s recent & tragic passing.
– J. Bennett

I traveled from the UK to Sweden in 2007 for Candlemass’ 25th anniversary show. Clearly, this is nothing exceptional – less than 900 miles – but it’s the furthest I’ve gone to see a band on my own dime. (The furthest I’ve gone on someone else’s was to New York to watch the Trans-Siberian Orchestra; it cost me nothing but I still felt ripped-off.) In any event, the Candlemass trip turned out to be epic for more than the obvious reasons. First port of call after leaving England was Amsterdam Schiphol airport where there appeared to be hundreds of irate Americans freaking out and waving their passports because they were unable to get through security fast enough to make their connections. I dutifully fall in behind them thinking that whatever happens, an hour (my transfer window) will be more than enough time to get us all processed. Wrong. 90 minutes later, I’m through security alright, but my flight to Stockholm has long since departed. The next one is in two hours, so I grab an overpriced beer and wait. When I eventually arrive in Stockholm, my previously-arranged onward transport has also long since disappeared and by the time I get myself downtown it’s already after 7pm. I later calculated that if there’d been a straight highway between England and Sweden – and sticking to national speed limits – it would have been quicker to drive to the fucking show. Anyway, the gig kicked off at 8pm which did actually allow me just enough time to check into my hotel and find the venue. Now, the main reason I went to all this trouble was to see the band perform for the first – and we were led to believe last – time with original frontman Johan Längqvist who, naturally, has since appeared on stage with Candlemass several times. Ultimately, though, it was well worth it. I’m up to over 300 words now so don’t really have space to tell you why. Watch the Candlemass 20 Year Anniversary DVD. It explains everything. Johan!!!
– Greg Moffitt

July 1992. Working a $5 hour office job in Philly, no friends, broke, etc. A Metallica/Guns N Roses/Faith No More show is announced at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. I scrape together the last remaining money, buy a ticket, take two buses, get to stadium. FNM is pretty much booed off stage. Metallica was great. GNR…Axl leaves stage halfway through set because someone threw a bottle at him, I believe. Duff has to finish “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” then chastises the crowd and walks off. I leave, get back to the Port Authority waiting for a 7am bus back to Philly. I use a calling card at a pay phone to make one call. A week later, my mom calls, freaks out, and wonders why $10,000 in calls to Nigeria have been charged to my card. Seems that someone nicked my calling card number at the station and sold it off. Worth it, though.
– Kirk Miller

As far as how far I’d go, this seems unthinkable now. I guess back then it seems unthinkable too, but the most extremely extreme journey involved a solo mission on an overnight bus (held together by rust, much like one of those old corporation coaches with no toilet, air conditioning, reclining seats or similar comforts) from Glasgow, Scotland to Milton Keynes, England for an Ozzfest show. It was the first UK festival performance by the Ozzy-fronted Sabbath line-up, and padding out the detritus and dreck of that time – Human Waste Project, Coal Chamber and HedPE (Christ almighty)—was the usual consortium of Slayer, Entombed and whatnot. Pantera were there too.
From what I remember this was way back before the Internet had reached Scotland, so the vaguest instructions were to meet at George Square on a Friday night, always an urban Romero scenario with the locals more dangerous than usual. Sleep was a no-no thanks to a guy with cut-off leather gloves and aviators in the seat in front. He was busy offering the driver tequila and doing a reasonable and sustained Caledonian interpretation of those guys from the parking lot, as seen in music videos such as A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica Pt.2 and any of the Pantera home videos (let’s not omit the grandpappy of them all, Heavy Metal Parking Lot! –KSP). Maybe I should have befriended him—he looked like he was flying solo too—but his night was all over by about 4am when he was slumped over the aisle of the coach, passed out. He was like one of those bear rugs you’d see in weird country hotels. I got some sleep, woke up and we were driving through an underpass with cattle crossing overhead. It was kind of surreal until somebody put W.A.S.P. in the stereo. The festival was perfunctory. I got so dehydrated I didn’t piss once. And never spoke to anyone for the whole day-and-a-half. The guy with the aviators/leather gloves wasn’t on the return trip. All in all it wasn’t that bad: Sabbath were great. I guess you get what you deserve for going to an Ozzfest.

The most perilous, certainly fiscally, was covering Graspop in 2007. It was a brutal trip: train down from Glasgow, no tent (borrowing one en route from someone I’d never met before), picking up a car from Heathrow and heading out on the Thursday afternoon. There was a GPS in the car: everyone seemed to look on it as a totem, but it still didn’t prevent us from being on the wrong side of the road for a good four miles once we’d got to France. The esteemed Paul Schwarz [former Terrorizer scribe] was doing the lion’s share of the driving, but he should probably remain nameless or instead knighted for actually getting us to Belgium. I only had about 15 Euros (three portions of fries in real terms) to do the whole trip, but had a litre of whisky with me. But finding a bag of weed as soon as we got to the campsite softened the blow that the only food for the three days was a bag of brioche rolls and a four tins of tuna: the weed was good to barter for food and the Germans camping next to us left beer at the tent each morning. The drive back was horrendous. I was starving, but it got to everyone: our designated driver left the windshield wipers on the whole time despite the sun splitting the sky—”Just in case.” It seemed to relax him as there was definitely a lot of nodding off at the wheel. There was no fighting, no egregious moment of depravity despite the riches of whisky and weed and privation in every other department. But I did see a guy take a shit in the main arena while Slayer was playing. And it’s on youtube too.
– Jonathan Horsley

I was living in Atlanta back in the mid-to-late eighties and used to road trip to NYC for giggles. On one of the road trips, I stumbled into a Slayer gig at the Garden. It was absolutely mind-blowing to me that a band like Slayer could afford a seat at the Garden, let alone play. It was just after Reign in Blood and Slayer were lethal. Danzig opened up and it was before his first record came out, so no one knew what to expect. The Misfits blew dick live. Samhain was amazing. Needless to say, “Mother” kicked in and girls instinctively knew to rip their clothes off and search for a stripper pole. Slayer came on and dudes instinctively trashed the place, throwing seat cushions all over the place; thousands smashed, thousands of dollars in damage. Fucking awesome! The insurance agent took a beating. I laughed for most of the ride home until I crossed the South Carolina-Georgia border. I got pulled over and issued a ticket in Carnsville, GA for going approximately seven miles over the speed limit. Meaning, the guy had no radar and wanted to rack up some cash. I was younger and even dumber than I am now and contested. Smart enough to bring my mom, I show up and court is held in a “Boss Hog” kind of office, white suit to boot. I explained that Georgia law specified that local law enforcement could not issue tickets under 10 miles over the speed limit on the interstate. He smiled, with pork gristling in his teeth, and said, “That will be 100 dollars.” My mom started to whine. I wrote a check and begged her to be quite. SLAYER!!-Kevin Sharp