"Come onnnnnn you guys," Julie whined from the edge of the bed where she perched, her long legs crossed at the ankles.
I pulled out a 70's metallic micro mini dress from the thrift store bag and tossed it at her, "Here, this will be perfect on you."
Julie slid it over her head and we whistled; with her tall thin body and straight blonde hair she looked like a disco model just stepped out of 1971 Vogue. She barely glanced at herself in the mirror; she never cared much what she looked like and despite her beauty, had questionable sanitation habits, sometimes going days without a shower. "Whatever, let's get going."
Mary Kay comes out in a cat suit, skin tight black suit and mile high sandals, "Check this out - ten bucks in the vintage section." We all laugh, but she looks amazing. She's short with long black hair - night and day from Julie but both stunning.
Julie looks at her own simple ballet flats, "How the hell do you walk in those things?" we grimace just thinking about putting on those platform heels.
We grab our things and head towards the car as Julie's boyfriend (i can't remember his name other than he was annoying and didn't deserve her) pulled up. He let out a low whistle, "Nice girls.... " and jumped out to nuzzle Julie while we roll our eyes and wait in the car.
We are on our way to another concert. The time, 1991. Grunge was just hitting its stride - it's rawer energy and sound moving from the jumping platform of the savior of The cure and The Smiths and 80's alt had saved us from early 80's big hair rock bands.
In Cleveland, mostly in the "Flats," as the area was called back then, with bars lining the river on each side with water taxis ferrying party-goers to and fro (and no, the river was not on fire then either), there were 3 or 4 venues that every band played at and we knew them all. Knew their weak spots, their secret points of entry, and which gate keepers worked where. Combining that with Mary Kay's uncanny ability to read people appropriately use her guiles to get us in practially anywhere, we had seen almost every soon-to-be-famous band that went on to be anything (and plenty that didn't) who sooner or later passed through Cleveland playing ever larger venues as their popularities soared.
We went more for the fun, the atmosphere, and the boys. We liked our little grunge baby boys and their music and flannel shirts and sad faces. Sometimes we had to climb over walls, so we always planned at least one person wearing pants. Once we even crawled behind the stove in a restaurant but it was worth it! We got to hang out with our friends from another band who were friends with Helmut, which was touring with Fugazi.
Over the course of a couple of years we probably saw 2-3 shows per week: Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden, Nine Inch Nails, Jane's Addiction, Seven Mary Three, Morhphine, Dinsosaur Jr, Concrete Blonde, Crash Test Dummies, Brian Eno, Frank Black, Justin Sullivan, New Model Army, Skinny Puppy, Bauhaus, Echo & The Bunneymen, Nirvana, Sousixe and the Banshees, Blur, Beck, Smashing Pumpkins, Mud Honey, Sonic Youth, Danzig, Stone Roses, the Pixies, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Screaming Trees, Babes in Toyland, Stone Temple Pilots, Temple of the Dog, Live, Tripping Daisy - all for free, and usually we were able to get backstage and hang out with the bands for a while. We didn't really think much of it, none of them were huge hits yet although many were on their way. We would buy cheap white t-shirts and get our art friends to draw all over them with black markers with pictures and lyrics from our favorites songs and then wear them under our clothes and have the bands sign them with phrases and quotes.
Note to self: the one band we never saw live and all wish we had was Alice in Chains...
But the next best thing came to town - Pearl Jam. We'd already seen them many months before, playing some dive stage bar. They were exploding, as was Nirvana, pushing this music to the mainstream. It was cool seeing the club totally packed and these bands making it big, but also annoying we whined for our nostalgia days of hanging with the bands and no groupies.
Mary Kay worked her magic and we got in (the show had sold out). We worked our way to the front of the crowd and were holding our t-shirts up and yelling and singing all the lyrics to all their songs, and twice the guitarist (John Hudson) tried to pull us up on stage but the crowd was heaving so heavily and pushing and moshing that you could let your body go limp and not fall - the place was packed.
After the show, we managed to finagle our ways upstairs. Eddie Vedder had already left but the rest of the band and all the roadies were there. We were hanging out and talking. One of the roadies came up to me with some brilliant pick up line like "So, great show, huh?" I don't know what I was thinking, but for some reason he just irritated me and I said, honestly without thinking, "It was all right (it was really great!). I like Faith No More better though."
Oh my lord- the guy starts screaming "What the F***! What the F*** you come in here and talk about that motherf-ing a-hole, get the f*** out you bit**!" Mary Kay and Julie are mortified and the guy is still going on and on about it, so we just left, annoyed but finding it kind of funny. We only found out later that apparently Eddie Vedder and Mike Patton slightly disliked each other.
So guess who comes to town shortly thereafter? The aforementioned motherf-ers Faith No More led by Mike Patton himself. We had seen Mr. Bungle play but it wasn't the same. Everyone made fun of me in college because I really loved my grunge music, we all did, but I worshipped FNM. I thought Mike Patton was the most brilliant lyrcist ever (even though he's disavowed this) and their music - I knew it all backwards and forwards.
We begin the evening's routine at Mary Kay's place as usual, and hit the road, hopes high. Our band friends are also going and Helmut is opening, so we can get backstage legitimately this time - no sneaking in! To see Faith No More! This is going to be a night. We grab our t-shirts and hit the road.
The concert is great. Mike Patton dances around Billy Gould, their bassist, while Billy characterstically doesn't move the entire show other than jamming on his bass. After the show, the theatre dumps out and we go looking for the backroom area. Our friends are nowhere to be found, so we stand in the hall. We can see in backstage - and there he is! Mike Patton with two leggy groupies hanging on each arm. The guard though won't let us in despite all our charms... our first real rejection! and of all the times....
Dejected, we head back towards campus. No one is ready to go to sleep so we hit up the local dive bar (the Euclid Tavern, wonder if it's still there?). The friends who deserted us are there and we start yelling at them, everyone telling them that they caused me to lose my big chance and how could they etc etc. They protest that they'd gotten tired and had ducked out early, forgetting to put our names on the list.
I'm standing holding up the wall and Julie comes up.
"I think you need to go get me another beer," she yells above the noise.
I look down at her hand; she's holding a pratically full beer. She is a lightweight and barely drank at all anyway. "Huh? You don't need a beer..."
She nudges me and yells louder, "I really think you need to go get a drink at the bar." I follow where her head is gesturing towards. I don't know what the hell she's talking about so I shrug and walk towards the bar.
And there he is. Sitting on the low bar stool, head leaned in towards a girl talking, is Mike Patton. Apparently they'd gotten tired of the backstage and decided to go slumming it Cleveland style with their Helmut buddies and the rest.
I look over my shoulder. Mary Kay and Julie are grinning and raising their eyebrows to urge me on. I turn back and for the first and only time in my life I'm totally awe-struck. Dumfounded. I literally cannot think of a thing to say. I'm standing there, trying to be unobtrusive, when he finally notices and sort of smiles. I start to stammer with probably the dorkiest big grin on my face, and this diahrrea of words just gushes out. I tell him all about going tothe Pearl Jam concert and getting kicked out of backstage because I said that I liked Faith No More better.
I must have said the right thing because he starts laughing hysterically and buys me a drink with a big "cheers!" and keeps asking me if I'd really said that. I say yes and it makes him laugh again. All I could think was "I'm making Mike Patton laugh so hard he almost fell off his barstool!" I shyly stick out my t-shirt and black marker and asked him if he could sign it. I hadn't noticed when left but the shirt had some pearl jam lyrics on it. He took the marker and signed all over the front lyrics
"I Licked Eddie Vedder's Butt" - M. Patton.
Someone stole the shirt from me later during my college years but it was for a long time one of my most prized possessions....