Bad Adventures chapter two - Hammerjacks, Baltimore, 11/5/96.

Well, we said to ourselves, the Hallowe'en death watch is over, so this has to go better, right?
Oh, brother.... Great show, but after a night no one could have predicted.

(A quick moment of silence for tonight's legendary venue, Hammerjacks, a rock'n'roll tradition on this coast for lo these many years. It's got less than a month to live; it's to be torn down to *spit* provide more parking for the Baltimore Orioles' shiny new baseball park, Camden Yards. No chance of reprieve; a stage trodden by damn-near-everystar becomes a parking lot. Sux.)

We'd planned to set out for Baltimore as soon as EVB and I got home from work. But we lost most of an hour in traffic, and when we finally arrived, coyote had a phone message for Liz.
It was dfx (drunkfux/video god) from the Spookykids List. He was due at the show, but he and his partner were stranded at their hotel in Delaware - someone had stolen their car. (!!) We hastily revised our plans. We'd drive to Baltimore; EVB would drop coyote and me off at Hammerjacks, then go to our siblings' rescue, and come back to the club as soon as possible. Off we went--

--and couldn't find the club. I swear, it hides itself. No matter how many times you've been there, you can't find it again next time. (Maybe it knows the wreckers have its number.) --Liz, getting frantic (she'd promised dfx she could get there inside of two hours), finally gave us $20 for a cab, left us at the mercy of nighttime Baltimore-- "Here's a big hotel," advised she hastily, "you can always find one there"-- and sped off on her noble errand. Picture if you will: coyote and me, in all our shaved, dyed, boots-and-black gig finery, seeking a cab in front of the oh-so-posh Hyatt Regency... =)

Suffice to say, we made it to Hammerjacks about 15 minutes before door. Whew. But still got onto the barricade, thanks to intervention from early arrivals (um, it's not really jumping the line if you're invited, right?..). --My first good look at support band NY Loose. Man, are they fun. Upbeat punk energy, Ramones-style bounce and all-out N'Yawk attitude. Liked 'em right away. They've gotta do something about that extra-long version of "Spit" (their song from the Crow II: City of Angels soundtrack), which drags the set to a dead-end close, but besides that they're a kick.

Watch the efficient crew as David Bowie's Diamond Dogs plays; it's always helpful to get used to the between-sets music. Just as in Philly, by the time Bowie gets through "Big Brother"/"Skeletal Family" the stage is ready to go. ...

Lights out. The crowd surges forward as one and flattens us to the barricade. Madonna, Zim and Twig hurry through the clouds of red fog, get set, and the percussive bass opening to "Angel with the Scabbed Wings" starts up. That waiting moment...then there he is. Walking slowly, measuredly forward, drawn to his full height, arms open wide and head high as he acknowledges the roar of the masses. How different from the crabbed, twisted shape that used to creep onstage like something outcast..."the monster you fear" is a star making a star's entrance, at long last more Marilyn than Manson. And that in spite of being wrapped in nylons, a back brace and what looks like a hernia truss, all in fetching shades of off-beige.

He surveys the crowd with one slow full turn of the head, snatches up the mike and we're off. Quick squabble with Twiggy over something we can't see - he backs Twig up toward the drum kit and there's a gesturing exchange, but nothing comes of it. It's clear that a lot of the evil pressure is off. The crowd's rough, but normally so, and the set's tight and well-integrated. He doesn't make the snide remark about "catering to our MTV audience" that's been accompanying "Sweet Dreams." I love watching him play "Minute of Decay," he's so careful and concentrated, watching his fingers intently...oh yeah, such a guitar hero now.. .=) --No "Cryptorchid" or "ACS" tonight but "1996" opens with a great wisecrack: "I hear this shithole is about to be torn down... why should we wait?" (There's loud enthusiasm, but no one actually starts the demolition ahead of schedule...)

After the storming first encore, "Cake & Sodomy" and "Misery Machine," the lights go out and a roadie dashes out to replace the mike stand with another one. Soaking and bruised as I am, I still snap to full attention - this must be the second encore of which we've heard--

Manson walks out and begins to sing "Man That You Fear." He's lit only by a red strobe that starts fast then slows, pulsing maybe every four seconds, just enough to show that the mike stand is dressed in tall stalks of flowers and he himself in tatters stained dark - you can't quite see -

Then there's full light and you realize he's drenched in blood, the ripped fabric that falls from his arms is dripping, the flowers are white lilies splattered red. A stunning sight. Sacrifice? Killing spree? Victim, villain or black Paschal lamb? An apocalyptic vision, the beauty of a destroying angel. He reaches out past the mike stand, clasps his hands - "The world in my hands, there's no one left to hear you scream" - slowly pulls the long bloodstained fingers apart and opens his arms - "--no one left for you."

And it's over.

We find EVB and her charges on the way out - they did arrive safely though missed the set. Hang out in the parking lot selling fanzines and haunting the vicinity of the bus, glimpsing Twiggy and Manson but getting no closer than that. That's OK. I'm still stunned.

Man, what a night.

..to main gig review page.
..to the next night.