I miss having a friend with access to a corporate luxury box at the local arena. It’s the perfect way to see artists you don’t care about enough to pay for your own tickets. [DP disagrees. -ed.]
I know this sounds gross, but stick with me.
Back in the late 90s I had a good friend who was the pop and candy buyer for a large regional grocery store chain. Coca Cola had a box at the newly opened Van Andel Arena and my friend could get us in to pretty much any concert that came around.
We were in our twenties and like all members of Generation X we were very concerned about selling out. Especially now that we had decent jobs that paid pretty well. So when we got into the box my friend was adamant about refusing to allow the sales reps to talk business. That way we could maintain our punk rock integrity despite the fact that we were sitting in a luxury suite in a venue named after the co-founder of America’s greatest pyramid scheme. The only interaction I remember having with the Coke dudes was them offering us drinks and pizza.
We were subverting the capitalist system from within. We were sticking it to the Man! (We were young and silly.)
But we saw some good shows from that box (Tom Petty, Cher) and some mediocre ones (Aerosmith). The only time I really wanted to go to something but couldn’t was Britney Spears; the pervy old salesmen and executives didn’t have any spare tickets for that one.
But the best was when my friend would request seats to shows the sales reps absolutely would have never attended for any other reason than to nurture their relationship with a big client. And that’s how I got to see Marilyn Manson.
I wasn’t a big fan of Marilyn Manson but I appreciated “The Beautiful People” and I loved the way he freaked out the old people. Especially in my conservative hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Christians in Grand Rapids protested the concert. They stood outside with signs. My own dear mother was one of them.
I hadn’t told her I was going. I didn’t want to have to deal with her concern for my immortal soul, so we had to sneak by the protesters to make our way into the venue.
The first thing I saw was a teenager being rolled through the lobby on a gurney. Poor kid missed the whole show. Gotta learn your limits. Ease into it. You don’t wanna end up on a stretcher before the opening band even takes the stage.
The only thing I recall about opener Nashville Pussy is that they were profane and I think they had confederate flags and strippers on the stage. I might be wrong but I don’t think so.
Marilyn Manson’s set began with him crucified on a cross made of television sets which ultimately burst into flame. Not the most subtle imagery in the world, but it was a perfectly sacrilegious and provocative way to start the show.
The other memorable moment was the attempt at crowd participation.
“Gimme a D!” D!
“Gimme a R!” R!
“Gimme a U!” U!
“Gimme a S!” S!
“What’s that spell?” Uh…drus?
It’s true. He misspelled drugs. Nevertheless, “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)” was a highlight of the set.
I’m not sure how the salesmen felt about the show because I never turned around to look at them. Looking back, they were probably about the age I am now. Normal grownup men whose job required them to wear suits and entertain young jerks who were rude and unappreciative.
When I was preparing to write this I found my ticket stub and had no recollection of seeing Hole on this tour. That’s because they pulled out of the tour after our tickets were printed.
I was relieved that my memory isn’t totally shot. Or is it?
It turns out I had completely forgotten that the Columbine shooting had happened the day before this concert. On April 20, 1999, a couple of high school seniors walked into their school and murdered 12 students and one teacher. They injured a bunch of other people and then they killed themselves.
These were the days when massacres inside schools were still shocking events. People in 1999 were horrified and outraged by the idea of a bunch of children being shot in cold blood. In the twenty years since Columbine, school shootings have become commonplace but back then it was very upsetting to watch news footage of terrified kids crawling out of windows and running for their lives.
This clearly cast an even darker shadow over the whole atmosphere. Manson’s music was explicitly blamed for inspiring and motivating the killers. (It turned out they weren’t even fans; they preferred KMFDM and Rammstein.)
A Michigan state senator attended the Grand Rapids show as research for a bill he sponsored to require parental-warning notices on concert tickets. Afterward, Sen. Dale Shugars (R-Kalamazoo) said, “We’re having an alarming rate of killings in schools, and youth violence and an increase in drugs. I would say that though they’re not all to be blamed on a shock entertainer like Marilyn Manson, I think he promotes it and can be part of the blame. This whole thing is part of a drug-cultural type of thing, with a subculture of violence and killing and hatred, and anti-family values, anti-traditional values, anti-authority.”
Shugar’s bill (SB0239) passed the Michigan Senate (25-11) on May 25, 1999, but was never picked up by the House and therefore never became law.
A week after the Grand Rapids show, Marilyn Manson canceled the remaining dates of the tour, saying, “It’s not a great atmosphere to be out playing rock ‘n’ roll shows, for us or the fans. […] The media has unfairly scapegoated the music industry and so-called Goth kids and has speculated — with no basis in truth — that artists like myself are in some way to blame. This tragedy was a product of ignorance, hatred and an access to guns. I hope the media’s irresponsible finger-pointing doesn’t create more discrimination against kids who look different.”
A couple months later Manson wrote an op-ed for Rolling Stone. “Man’s greatest fear is chaos. It was unthinkable that these kids did not have a simple black-and-white reason for their actions. And so a scapegoat was needed.” Its title is “Columbine: Whose Fault Is It?” Short answer: all of us.
In 2002 Michael Moore interviewed Manson for Bowling for Columbine and asked him what he’d say to the kids at Columbine if they were there right now. “I wouldn’t say a single word to them,” he replied. “I would listen to what they have to say. And that’s what no one did.”
Marilyn Manson with Nashville Pussy
Van Andel Arena
Grand Rapids, Michigan
April 21, 1999
“Inauguration of the Mechanical Christ”
“The Reflecting God”
“Great Big White World”
“Get Your Gunn”
“Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (with “Hell Outro”)
“The Speed of Pain”
“Rock Is Dead”
“The Dope Show”
“I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)”
“Irresponsible Hate Anthem”
“The Beautiful People”
This was filmed the day before the Grand Rapids show.
Photos via mansonwiki.