Can someone please tell me why there are no signs to the multi-million $$$ Secaucus Junction Train Station "hub" off the NJ Turnpike? NO SIGNS. I'm talking to you, Jersey.
I found Erika and her crew out of sheer luck at a hidden train station off an unmarked exit off the Jersey Turnpike. Secaucus: the only proper place to begin such a bizarre adventure of arena rock madness. Here's some quick Turnpike word association: Swamp. Yellow. Glowy. Forever Daylight. Smelly. Black T Shirt. Hair Metal. Staten Island. But enough of that, we were on our way South to Exit 116- Holmdel, home of the fabulous Garden State Arts Center--- oh, what's that? PNC Bank has pissed all over the name? So it goes. For tonight was the night we would rock out to Cheap Trick, Poison, and Def Leppard.
Shit. We agreed to what and you have the emails to prove it? Very well then. A trek to Holmdel would at least be better than hauling out to Wantagh to see a triple-bill of cheese with no alcohol. In fact, that was my one stipulation- I would go to this show, if the venue served alcohol, because who in their right fucking mind would sit through this sober? Tickets were pretty pricey taboot, thusly we could only reasonably afford lawn admission.
Let's back the fuck up for a second. My very first concert when I was 13 years old was Def Leppard at the Brendan Byrne arena (now the Izod Center... Gross.). Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora got up and played Wanted Dead or Alive with them. It was in-the-round. It was fucking awesome. 2 years later I was already immersed in the jamband and indie scene, leaving arena rock in the dust. In maturity I've learned to embrace, rather than deny the cheese. I'm okay with it, but just like my 10 year HS reunion, for the most part it's a scene I'd rather avoid.
Holy fuck, the place was packed. Ask me if I was surpri--- YES, I WAS ACTUALLY SURPRISED THE PLACE WAS SO PACKED. I've seen this place less packed for Phish shows. How is that possible? Wow, there were a lot of black pickups. Anyways, we parked 10 feet from the parkway onramp, made vodka drinks, chilled for a few minutes, and then started the 5-10 minute walk through the woods* from the satellite lot to the ampitheater, cradling our red solo cups like they contained the only jesus-juice that could save us (because they did).
Aw, mannnnn. We only heard the last 3 Cheap Trick songs as we walked closer-- they sounded AWESOME and I was pretty disappointed we missed them. Cheap Trick are the muthafuckin' BOMB. In honor of having no pics to share, here is SURRENNNDAAAA! SURRENNDAAAA!
Rick Nielsen is sweating pure glycerin!
Don't ask where we hid our cameras. We went in. It was a weirder scene inside the gates. I chose to not wear my straw cowboy hat because I didn't want to look like a piece of leftover Hair Rock trash. Crazy accents, animal prints, and un-ironic denim jackets everywhere. But the venue is awesome and it's one of my favorite ampitheaters. People addicted to Jones Beach need to take a field trip to GSAC. Ha ha, SAC. It's closer to NYC than Jones Beach, takes half the time to get to, and they are not dry. Oh, not dry at all. Drunk, crazy, pickup-truck driving, black t shirt wearing people around every corner. Every once in a while I stray from my typical favored genre of indie rock into strange, dark, and clammy realms such as this. I know what to expect but that doesn't make it any less jarring.
"I- I- I don't know."
Poison got onstage as the sun started to set-- but what will happen to us after dark? If you guessed "pyrotechnics" you were right! They were pretty conservative and totally entertaining with the fire until they got to Unskinny Bop, that's when they sort of blew their pyrotechnics load so-to-speak. Other than the fire, the band were also pretty solid. It was a high energy set, CC was a flailing lunatic on guitar, Bobby Dall kinda ruled, and Rikki Rockett still weirds me out but his drumming was-- well, he's Rikki Rockett, does anyone care? It's hard enough to take Bret Michaels seriously with all the eye makeup and the bad wig, but then he plugged the VH1 website and that's when I tasted bile in my mouth. Their rocky fun songs were much better than their limp-dick rock ballads, but that's just personal opinion. They sounded exactly how they should have sounded. That's good, right? It's what they do.
It's fair to say by the Def Leppard got on, the crowd was "rocked" (see what I did there?**). Their stage setup was pretty fly. There were 3 levels, a runway into the audience, and it was all a giant flat screen playing images & gfx***. Theatrical, big, flashy- it was very "them". They sounded great, all still spot-on, harmonies, guitar solos, great performers. The crowd was totally loving it. Phil Collen still doesn't like wearing shirts and spent literally, the entire set shirtless and in man-heels. He definitely has the Chuck Norris machine and spray tan in the bus. It was contagious as by the end Vivian lost his shirt too. Rick Savage went the bare chest under Sgt. Pepper jacket route, Joe Elliot had the denim jacket / t shirt combo going, and Rick Allen was (no joke) in a wife-beater****. Oh, but I love him anyway! There was a Union Jack sewn over the left arm-hole. How very Martha Stewart of him.
All 3 of the bands played many their "hits". There's no need to list them, is there? It was enjoyable. So, don't be shy, go see this tour if you want to, whoever you are out there. But for fuck's sake, get in early enough to see Cheap Trick. It almost gives the rest of the night credibility. Really.
I listened to God Street Wine on my ride home so I wouldn't get the Bends.
7.99 HUZZAHS! Great stuff. Entertaining. It is what it is. Might see it again in 5-10 years. Or 12 for good behavior.
* another feature GSAC has that Jones Beach does not.
** if you did, you should be ashamed of (or impressed with?) yourself
*** I had to take a migraine pill.
**** wife-beater, tank top, whatever you want to call it- we all know what it is.