Kenny was a lucky man. Some would say he made a lot of his own luck. Today's lucky moment was when he decided to call into KLOS Radio during a contest for tickets to a local rock show, and he won. When he called up his old friend from Redondo Christian High Daryl about it, he could hear the skeptism in his voice.
"Yes, I won them, I just need a lift to pick them up", Kenny said.
"You gotta be kidding me, I don't have a car" Daryl responded.
"Doesn't that Johnny guy that hangs around your band have one?" Kenny said.
"Yeah, I'll give him a call",Daryl said.
And thus John Radcliff had his first meeting with the irrespressible Kendal Greenfield.
"How soon can your friend pick us up?" Kenny asked.
"I don't know, let me give him a call ok?", Daryl responded, flustered. Kenny had a way of demanding what he wanted, even if it was a massive imposition on someone else. "He may not even want to come".
"Oh, c'mon, who wouldn't want free concert tickets from KLOS?", Kenny snorted.
"Let me call you back".
Daryl soon got on the phone with Johnny, who was off work that day - so he said "Sure, I'll do it" He was still a bit new to being a rock fan, and this would be his first actual live rock concert. And for free? Why not? So he picked up Daryl, who led him to Kenny's house and they were on their way.
Johnny soon discovered that someone doesn't just meet Kenny as get blown over by him. He was sort like a little 5' 4" human whirlwind of activity, and talk. Lot's and lots of talk. But that was ok, Johnny knew how to talk too. A lot. If Pigpen from Charlie Brown
with the swirling tornado around himself ever met the Tazmanian Devil,
they might hold a candle to the constant state of chaos that surrounded
Kenny, like an invisible cloak.
"Just head down to Rodeo Road, past Martin Luther King Dr. - the station is right down the street".
"Hey I know that neighborhood, my mom used to shop at FEDCO, it's right on the corner. She''d drive halfway across town to find a better deal. We went there all the time - you say that's where KLOS is?"
"Yeah, right over here..." And lo, and behold, the most well known Rock station in the City, if not the country was sitting right there on Rodeo Road. Two blocks from FEDCO and Johnny had never noticed. It was like there was this other world just outside the edge of his vision and he'd never turned his head to look. They pulled around back and Kenny hopped out, walking up to the back door to ring the bell.
"So, how well do you know this Kenny guy?" Johnny asked.
"Kendal? I've known him since Jr. high, he's something else. And he plays guitar too", Daryl said.
"He does? Is he any good?"
"He think so." Daryl laughed.
"You've mentioned him before, why do you call him 'Shrubbery'?" Johnny asked.
"Because his last name is Greenfield, and when things go wrong - that's where you can usually find him, vanished. Disappeared. Somewhere in the shrubbery" Daryl responded.
"Oh." Johnny said knowingly, without knowing what the heck he was talking about.
When Kenny returned with an envelope of actual tickets in his hand, Daryl was genuinely surprised. I just didn't seem Kenny-like that - well, what he saying was truly real for once.
"Where to now?", Johnny asked.
"Hollywood, the Palladium" Kenny responded.
"Whose playing?" Daryl wondered, still oddly suspicious.
"Oh, don't worry about that - it's a big show with free tickets from KLOS. It's gotta be killer", Kenny countered.
Daryl was getting a sadly familiar bad feeling about this. But he started to cheer up as for once traffic up the 101 Freeway to Hollywood wasn't like being in the middle of a slow motion parking lot They exited on Hollywood Blvd. and were soon pulling up to the Palladium where they could finally see the marquee.
"Slayer. Venom. with special guest Exodus", it said.
Johnny really didn't recognize those names. It wasn't like he'd been able to see their videos on Friday Night Videos or Goodnight L.A., not in 1983. He had no idea what to expect, but since the tickets were from KLOS which was more or less a classic rock station that was mostly known for playing Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd he didn't think it was going to be too crazy.
"What do these bands sound like, dude?" he asked inquisitively.
"Oh, they're like Speed Metal - regular Metal just played really really fast", answered Kenny.
"You mean like Yngwie?"
"Uh, not exactly".
Daryl had that feeling again.
Meanwhile Johnny had another concern. How were these Metal guys going to react to Daryl, since he was - y'know - a black guy? Are they going to have a problem with him? Give him a hard time? Johnny knew that Metal came from Rock and that Rock came from Blues and Blues was essentially created and invented by black artists, so it should be only natural that black people should be involved in Rock and Metal. But they weren't. I mean, he'd pretty much never saw them. Someday he was gonna ask Daryl why that was.
"You gonna be cool with all this, man?" he said to Darryl point out at the absolute sea of white people lining up with tickets.
"I'm used to it. No biggie", Daryl said.
If anything, they needn't have worried. They were standing around looking a little lost when this girl came up to them and asked "You need some help?". She was maybe late 20's or early 30's dressed in a leather skirt, heels, t-shirt ripped exposing plenty of flesh, but not everything, big bushy blonde hair and a leather biker jacket. She was literally right out of a rock video, but this wasn't on TV, this wasn't in some magazine, this was real - she was right there in front of them. Johnny thought this was probably the most gorgeous girl he'd ever seen in his life.
"Oh. My. FUCK!:" he thought.
Johnny was also little surprised by how nice she was, he wasn't used to people in L.A..being helpful. That just didn't happen. People in this town were all about themselves, their own issues, their own bullshit. They usually didn't give a crap if they saw someone else in trouble or need. People come to L.A. from all over the country, all over the world to "make it", possibly make it "Big". They haven't got time for niceties like manners or common courtesy, everyone here is a Shark swimming in hostile waters. Any opportunity you give someone else is an opportunity you don't have for yourself anymore. Not that Johnny really believed in that kind of Man Eat Dog behavior, it just seemed like the way things were for most people. But not everyone. Not Johnny and not this girl.
"Yeah," Kenny finally responded after he put his tongue back in his head, "where do you go if you got tickets?"
"You just follow everyone over that way sweetie, the line forms from here".
"Thanks" they sort of murmured in unison as she slipped away just as quickly as she'd appeared. Poof. Gone.
Wow, this is gonna be awesome, Johnny thought.
Finally they found their way to the ticket taker, Kenny opened the envelope and pulled them out.
"What's is it now Kenny?" Daryl's bad feeling was passing 9.5 on the Marshall Scale.
"There's only two tickets dude, what are we gonna do?"
"You didn't know how many tickets you were picking up?" Daryl was starting to get angry. "What's the matter with you, can't you count?"
"It's not my fault man, we wouldn't even be here if not for me".
"You got that right" Daryl snorted, miffed beyond belief.
Finally Johnny interjected "Hey man, don't worry it's cool. I got some cash - I saw a Music Plus across the street, they've got Ticketmaster. I'll just go pick up a third ticket for myself, ok?"
Daryl felt awful, he'd been the one to drag Johnny into this. They'd used his car, now he had to buy his own ticket too? That was just messed up.
"Alright then, it's settled - we'll meet you inside." Kenny handed over the two tickets and rushed inside pulling Daryl by the collar behind him.
"We'll stay near the back so you can find us" Daryl shouted back as Kenny pulled him away.
Johnny sighed, then headed off to Music Plus. He really didn't mind since he'd just gotten paid and actually did have a bit of cash. He'd been saving up to get his own place but wasn't quite ready to make the jump yet. Soon though. The tickets were still available, so he picked them up and headed back.
He found Kenny and Daryl where he'd expected them to be, backed up against the far corner of the theater. It was everything else he didn't expect.
It was LOUD. I mean Fucking L.O.U.D. Eardrums reverberating in your head loud. Heart beating from the kick-drum slamming into your chest like a jack-hammer loud. Sustain mortar artillery attack loud.
"God, DAMN!", said Johnny his fingers jammed in his ears - noticing that both Daryl and Kenny had assumed the same posture.
"I'm gonna grab some napkins from the bar so we can dampen this down to regular human survivable levels", he headed off and Johnny finally alone with Kenny.
"Uh, what kind of rock is this again" Johnny asked. He'd never heard anything like it. The band was playing so fast it was like fully automatic machine fire. Just a constant blur of notes. Like one long Bzzzzzzzzzzz.
"It's Speed Metal, sometimes they call it 'Thrash", Kenny said.
"No, THRASH!" Kenny laughed.
"They got that right." Johnny observed. They were trying to play so fast Johnny could actually hear the beat fluctuate. It was literally slowing down and speeding up subtly every few second, like the drummer was getting tired and slowing down, then speeding back up again.
The crowd was different from what he was expecting too. He couldn't see the helpful leather angel that gave them directions, but he could see an entire see of what looked like 13 and 14 year old kids. All in leather, the girls barely in anything. And lots of mohawks. Like a sea of mohawks, all vibrating violently, not exactly in time to the music. They really couldn't do the classic "head bang" to this stuff, it was too fast. All you see were almost like a brief blur of violent head shaking for a few seconds before the person became obviously dizzy and had to stop. Then there were the smells. Sure, lots of sweat, but also the most pungent, powerful, marijuana stench Johnny had ever witnessed. It was like a big grey cloud over the entire room.
Jeezus, Johnny thought.
Daryl finally returned and showed Johnny how to tear off a piece of napkin and shove it into his ear so that it would tamp down the rougher edges of high frequency static coming from modified Marshall stacks cranked to the max.
"Oh, man, this is still awful" Daryl verbalized what Johnny had been thinking for the last ten minutes.
"Hey, are they still doing the same song?" Johnny asked.
"No, I think it changed. Maybe", Kenny said.
"Well, maybe the next song will be better?" Johnny said optimistically. But it wasn't. Each song was pretty much like the last, incredibly fast and without much in the way of melody. And the crowd was loving it. Every bit of it.
"Obviously an acquired taste" Johnny said to Daryl.
"Yup!, Maybe the next band will be better?"
"Why are we here again?" Johnny asked.
Daryl pointed to Kenny, "Wasn't my idea."
And then something amazing happened. The band did a breakdown, where all the instruments stopped except the drummer. It was like the clouds had parted during daybreak and the rays of the sun shone down majestically between. It was mini-solo, that was amazing to behold. The guy was like an octopus, a blur of hands and feet slamming the drums, creating rythms and polyrythms between those rythms for a few brief seconds. If you have to play drums in a band this fast, you have to know how to play some drums, even if he was having a hard time keeping a steady pace, and now they could all hear it.
"Damn - that was BAD ASS" Kenny said.
"Ok, now I know why we're here. That was something. If they'd just do that a little more..." Johnny said, finally smiling at last.
"I think it'll sound better if we get closer, less of the sound bouncing off the back wall", Kenny said.
Daryl was getting that feeling again.
They started to follow him as he gradually made his way through the crowd, approaching the mass of people near the center of the room bit by bit shoving past them, rubbing against them in a way that only happens in live concerts without seating. As they reached the half-way point, the crowd suddenly parted - opening a large circular hole.
"Uh oh" Daryl thought, "What's this?"
Johnny briefly wondered if his fears about the crowd reacting to Daryl's presence were being realized, but it was something else. Something Johnny had never seen or even heard about.
They were about to start doing something that was called Slam Dancing. Everntually it would be called a Mosh Pit. Almost as soon as the hole opened up, dozens of men and boys rushed back into it rushing and bumping into each other in a swirling circle of arms and elbows and sharp pointed knees all jabbing and ramming each other like a demented rugby match. On mezcaline.
And Daryl was caught right in the middle of it, being swung around in the circle - trapped and pummelled with each rotation. Ken and Johnny reached out trying to grab him as he swung bay...
"Daryllllll..." but they missed.
He came by again. "DARYLLL...." missed again.
It wasn't until the fourth rotation that they finally caught his hand and were able to drag him out of the pit.
"Oh man.." Daryl panted. "Thanks".
"No problem" Johnny said. "Let's get back to the wall".
So they all headed back to where they were before, a little beaten up, a lot wiser. Listening from the back wall though each and every band, including the headliner Slayer with Kerry King on guitar and Tom Araya on vocals. The band was from another part of the LA metroplex, a city called Huntington Beach in nearby Orange County. It might as well have been another universe from what Johnny was used to, or even knew about.
The entire experience was an eye opener. There were so many different types of rock, so many different kinds of fans and fan groups. Every day was a new challenge, a new adventure.
After the show they headed back to the car, Johnny looked around hopefully for the helpful leather angel, but she was no where in sight.
Damn, Johnny thought.
"So, I hear you want to start a band" Kenny asked Johnny.