I run on a very sweet spot of punk time. For class, this means coming in about ten minutes late with the proverbial venti latte. For the booty club, this means appearing about two hours after free house fees, also with a caffeine bucket strapped to my hand. For shows, I prefer a loose hour after doors to counterbalance my post-traumatic stress of melting off my dollar store smoky eye to be in the front row for Fair to Midland when I was 15. Consequently, I couldn’t have been more eager to end my shit when I pulled up at 8:30 per the 7:30 call time for Ghostemane just to have the line full of kiddos snaked around the block. I didn’t know it yet, but I had just stumbled upon a grand conspiracy to commit a show as short and salty as possible.
With daylight long since shot to shit, I stood with my arms pretzeled in my checkered windbreaker. I eavesdropped on the young man on the phone behind me desperately trying to convince his buddy to leave his girl troubles behind and come out to the show. Having known nothing but stress in my relationships, I almost got drunk off the residual strife. I think part of my trouble was that I was markedly untroubled. My grades were good. My skin was clear. Dare I say it? I was u n b o t h e r e d. When I was younger, a national artist coming to my shitty East Coast town was all I had to look forward to. But, now that I was in Portland—ironically, the only city that a tour never misses—I had nothing to run from on a Friday night. Getting old ain’t for pussies.
Suddenly, the ambient mix of conversations was blown over by a Toyota Corolla speeding to the red light beside the snake. With a kid in each passenger seat, all four windows were rolled down to expose the array of hair going airborne to the towering beat of Ghostemane’s newest record, N / O / I / S / E. A few of the scales in front of me flared and rattled in excitement. My shiver stood still for a moment to let goosebumps grow. As the bass trailed off with the emerald eclipse, we began to slither forward.
I began to fish out my ID when a security guard who could pass for the fourth member of Chevelle stuck his head out from behind the building’s outdoor stairs. He yelled and pleaded at the crowd to throw out all drugs now with the threat of being banned. As his vocal chords grew more and more stressed, the more the word “drugs” became increasingly interchanged with “weed.” I was starting to put two and two together – Lil Peep was in the news for the release of his new posthumous album Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2, which, in the eyes of security at crossover shows everywhere, probably meant taking a whiff and checking it twice. Guilty by association and indicted on charges unknown. I remembered what I used to be so mad about.
Sometime after getting my face powder tested and full body wanded by a grown man, I put my laptop back in my backpack and my shoes back on and hobbled to the 21+ section sandwiched along the farthest bar. Nevertheless, I didn’t mind evading the happenings in the front. Using a crooked barrier as my cane, I tucked my hands tight inside my sleeves in an effort to decompress through compression. I wish I had brought my weighted blanket, but I’m sure it would have been far too heavy to meet security’s carry-on limits. I knew a drink would just land me a headache. So, there I stood, a bean that had gone from cool to jumpy.
I tried to get lost in the relative softness of opener Zubin’s performance, but the guard keeping the alcohol from the all-agers had grabbed a girl with blue hair and bare shoulders and threw her five steps for holding a drink out of bounds. After an exchange of biting words, he yanked the wrist of a nerdy-looking white boy who had clearly pre-gamed too hard, striking his verified age stamp from the record and shoving him to safety with a water bottle and a buddy. An inner conflict was frying in my frontal lobe; on one hand I wanted to wallow in my disturbance over The Man’s abuses of power, while on the other I had a desire to put him in a Veteran’s Day parade.
Despite mentally blacking out for an unknown amount of time, I came to just in time for the guitar and drum kit occupying the right half of the stage to become occupied themselves. DJ Parv0 had been putting in overtime keeping the mood up with obligatory renditions of The Race, Look At Me!, and Beamer Boy. Nevertheless, since Ghostemane released D(r)ead with Travis Barker back in July, I had been highly anticipating some live instrumentation. Ghost, of course, has become notorious for being one of the more metal-heavy crossover artists, which no doubt accounted for the disproportionate amount of sausage, as well as the torn-up illustrations of Fenriz periodically emerging from t-shirts in the pit.
The white-haired wonder appeared as magically as his name might suggest. The stage read more like a four-piece band as guitarist Mark Bronzino (Iron Reagan) stood tall over the front ledge in a Cro-mags longsleeve. An industrial scene satisfyingly reminiscent of a window display of a Spirit Halloween store (the only other thing I got to look forward to arriving in my hometown) hung over the impassioned quad. While I was still grasping my cane like a wet noodle, neither crowd, nor security, nor Ghost refused to back down. The myth/the man lamented the barricade keeping the front row a solid yard from leap’s reach, but it still didn’t hold him back from demanding a wall of death from the sold-out crowd. A red Air Force 1 went airborne like junior high kickball. A young man caught it like a trophy to wave above kids attempting to stand stable enough to Snapchat. The age buffer security guard hulked over, grabbed the sneaker, and held it tightly underneath his armpit.
Fortunately, Ghost wasn’t one to neglect his newest record just to appease his fair-weather 1000 Rounds fans. As one of his cleanest feats to date, N / O / I / S / E sheds some of his second wave black metal vibe for a more industrial move marked in the new school horror elements of D(r)ead’s visuals. Yet, cleaner production has not meant that he’s forgone any parental advisories. As the rumblings of Trench Coat began to bubble up, I knew what was to come. With a gratuitous “fuck you” to the Portland Police Department, my venue veteran’s easing back and forth turned into full blown pacing as Ghost gave his final, wait until they see what’s in my trench coat. While his face was deadpan upon delivery, the ominous smile poured subliminally through the cinderblock cave.
As the beat dropped in Mercury, I knew the end of times were nigh. I tried to look on the bright side, but I really didn’t have to try all that hard. I had had my eyelashes on for such a short amount of time I could save them for my date the next night. I would be able to grab a sandwich from Safeway before it closed. I could even catch the bus to avoid another Uber ride of having to explain what narrative nonfiction is. Somehow, having a bedtime never seemed cooler. Lights went on as I began to fantasize about my lights-off. Chevelle’s session guitarist popped up again like the hives he had to surely have been getting.
“Please,” he begged. “Wait outside for your car and get home safe. We can’t have you all waiting in here. Please.”
Shit, he didn’t have to tell me twice.
As the cool pole of the bus stop marker ran up against my spine, I took a look down to see 10:32 glowing warmly at me. Impressed by my new night out record, I scrolled carelessly through the secret stripper grapevine that I’m really not supposed to be talking about (it’s kind of like Fight Club). An acquaintance from my club back in New Orleans was selling two tickets to the NIN show, and for a cool $200…$30 cheaper than the purchase price. I hoped that maybe one day when I’m 40 and I’m making that $40K a year I can go see the seated Ghostemane all-star tour at the Moda center. I’d like to think he’ll still be performing when he doesn’t have to tone his hair for it to stay gray. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see whether the trench coat—or checkered windbreaker—is just a phase.
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