By Vincent Michael Festa

It was the first time in years that I took the LIRR by myself.  I bought two tickets to see Ministry but couldn’t find anyone to go. I got off at Penn Station and took the S train and the 14th and the Union Square Line. Arriving at Union Square, I asked a group of three men for directions. I told them I’m on my way to Irving Plaza to see a show.

Some longhair resembling GG Allin in aviator sunglasses, a Motörhead tee, and a matching blue denim vest and pants mentioned that he had nothing to do tonight. Voilà, I give him my other ticket to see Ministry. We took off and came across a pro- immigration rally and protest, where Longhair started venting about immigration and a whole slew of other political issues such as how the Federal Reserve should be destroyed and that the Amero and the RFID would come out next week (hey, wait a minute, didn’t John Martell write about that in the article “Undemocratic Corporate Globalization” in issue 12?).

Longhair and I went too far and had to backtrack but we finally arrived at Irving Plaza to wait on line for the show. As usual, when waiting in line to get into the venue, you start conversations with like-minded people and fans. You ask them where they come from, how long they’ve been a fan of the artists they are waiting to see, what they think of their new music versus their first releases, how many tours they’ve seen and so forth.

I met John, an older guy who was bald with just a grey ponytail, who had traveled from Connecticut to see Ministry. I was also talking to another guy who just came from the Coachella music festival in California and was en route to New Jersey, but stopped by in New York to see the aforementioned band.

So many names in the conversation that came up had to do with Ministry. Skinny Puppy, Pigface, Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM…you name it. Facts, rumors, and questions about the artists were brought up.  We were all fascinated with the prospect of the music we like. We went five, ten, even 20 years to bring up the shows that we went to and the landmark hits that we listened to just to connect with each other and be giddy about those good old days that are now behind us. Then I realized I was on the wrong line. I didn’t have VIP tickets.

So I went to the line at the other side of the venue and met another Ministry fan with a possible Euro accent who said that the band went shite after 1992’s Psalm 69 album. As I asked why he was here, he responded “Um…maybe because I’m weak?”

After an hour waiting on line we finally got in. I turned around to hear some big guy joking that he’d hoped to leave the show without any missing teeth or a broken nose. He also joked about how Ministry might come back in ten years for their “grey hair and colostomy bag tour.”  I turned around and asked him if he would rather have the real thing, or some fake wannabe ninth-rate cover band that wished they were 1/16th of what Ministry was.

But how do you really meet people at rock concerts? Simple. Flying fists. Big black boots to the head. Elbows to the face, head, ears, neck and ribs.  Lots of arms, back, and shoulders rubbing up against you. Crowd-surfing and crowd-rushing. Lots of sweat, aggression, ferocity, hate, anger and viciousness. And also lots of beer breath, armpits, and pot smoke, too.

The good part was that almost everyone got along before and during the show. No fist fights, no scene politics, no “I’ll meet you after the show in the back parking lot, motherfucker!”  When someone got knocked down, they got picked up. When they got accidentally hurt, out comes the average Joe who would pick them up. In my case, the guy would see that I got hurt, apologize to me and then proceed to put his arm around me with beer in hand, before telling me his life story.

Did I say almost everyone? While desperately holding my own during that night’s Meshuggah performance, I noticed a couple mouthing off to some fans around them and at each other. The girl was screaming at anyone she thought was messing with her. I, however, witnessed her boyfriend constantly taking it out on her, cursing her out and even pulling her hair. I jumped in and told him to back off.

 I asked her if she was okay and she apologized over and over again. Then her boyfriend, in a drunken rage, was cursing me out and threatening to kick my ass and that’s all he did for the rest of the night. Meaningless words and empty promises. I noticed he was wearing a Einsturzende Neubauten shirt and that was a shame because drunken belligerent neanderthal dipshits don’t ever deserve to wear an Einsturzende Neubauten t-shirt. That, my friends, is an insult to me, the band, smart people in general and the nation of Germany.

For the last two songs of the night, we were just talking and being friendly. I felt sorry for her because of the way her boyfriend was treating her.  I offered to take her home with me but she only lived down the street from the venue. Turns out she’s been with him for seven years now and is living with him. Oh well, that’s too bad. Better luck next time.

And that was it. Now it was time to head home with a earache and a drenched Ministry shirt (which by the way, according to the Shaker Courtyard Kids on Facebook, it was International Band T-Shirt Day. Two for one!). In front of me was the tiniest little thing, maybe 4’10”, long black hair, dressed in black metal. So I just asked her where the closest subway station was as a consolation prize. Then I met John again and traded breaths as to how the entire show blew the both of us away. We shook hands and said our goodbyes, as another great show was written in the history books that are our lives. At the 14th again, to my surprise, I met the big guy with his just-as-big twin brother.  We gave each other our takes of the show before taking the subway to Penn Station.

Off the subway onto 36th Street.  I got lost and headed away from Penn Station to Times Square, allowing me to walk alone in bright, fantastic, New York City glory. I didn’t get robbed, mugged, threatened, or called out. That is a good thing as far as I know.

I just made it to Penn Station with only ten minutes to go and a two-dollar Pepsi in hand. I board the train with just a minute away from 1:02AM to jet. I was spent, breathing and beating on the inside while feeling damp and exhausted. The earache was only getting worse and so was the pulsating pain on the right channel. It’s A-OK, there’s nothing that an amoxicillin can’t do three times a day. I’m so out of my mind but the night is not over yet!

As I’m recuperating, there were two girls sitting on the other side of me: a metal chick dressed in black and her brunette friend with ponytails, a cartoon tee, and ripped jeans on the knees. One asks me for a pen. Well, gee, I usually don’t bring pens to rock concerts unless I really, really, really need to take notes about the show so I could write about it in the Press. She then asked me what concert I came from with this high-school teenage “Oh, my God! What show?!” concern because they also came from one. They just came from the Knitting Factory to see The AKA’s, The Phenomenauts, and Maldroid and had had a fun time. I told them about the horror show that was mine and once again we played music history tennis.

These girls were still in high school and I’m a decade ahead of them. I had to school them about record shopping, the extreme noise scene and even my own history of what I used to listen to in high school. And it felt real good. One, it was about the music. Two, it had been a long time that I actually had an intelligent back-and-forth conversation

about music with anyone. And three, the brunette was a huge Rob Zombie fan. 50 points!

I even gave them both the frequency to our radio station (WUSB 90.1 FM) to fulfill all of their indie-rock and punk needs.

Final stop: Huntington. It was finally time to step off the train (watch the gap) and leave the station as I try to wrap my head around the entire night. I can’t remember the last time I met so many new people in one day and had a string of successful conversations with like-minded music fans in a place that was new to me.