Tsongas Arena, Lowell, MA., Sunday, 11/22/98.

WARNING: only minimal Manson content this time.

We get there about three in the afternoon and trot up to the spot Mike/Claudia has held for us. Local Spooks are a little unhappy at our invasion of the coveted spot, but we set about making friends, sharing show details and our archive of tour and Manson stories, and soon we're all family.
Great bunch of kids, energetic and likable, nearly all extremely wired for the show. Damn shame the arena management is so determined to treat them like cattle at the slaughterhouse...OK, right. For the record, and let the whole Internet bear witness: in 3.5 years and more than 50 Manson shows all over the country, I have never seen such ignorant, negligent, witless and dangerous mismanagement as this crowd of several thousand Spookykids was subjected to, at Tsongas Arena, on this date. Whoever runs this place ought to be ashamed of themselves. Details follow.

It's bright and chilly; we huddle and chat as the line grows. By now there should've been some staff in evidence, at least to read us the usual spiel about what stuff we can't take into the venue, but there aren't any to be seen. Uniformed cops walk around the line talking to each other, but not to us, and an ambulance pulls in and vanishes behind the building. Are they expecting a riot?

The Slashers walk into an unexpected situation, as numbers of kids recognize them from Manson's book. To their surprise they're crowded around and asked for autographs, which they sign nicely if a little nervously (signing each other's names =). It's a weird feeling: you realize that at this level, just one step removed from where we are, kids are passionately memorizing everything related to Manson. I'm reminded of fans we've met who could quote every second of the DTTW video. As if on cue, Zepp arrives and walks over to us; he's waiting for someone and wants to kill some time chatting. The kids spot his crew pass and eagerly pepper him with questions - they recognize him from the video, though (as he notes) he looks a bit different these days - and in no time he's the center of attention, signing autographs and reminiscing about his years with the band. He looks to be loving it and the Lowell Spooks are eating it up. Sweet. (Zepp's summation of his Manson career: "It's the best thing and the most frustrating thing I've ever done.")

Still no instructions or sign of any venue staff. The line's massed into a loose crowd at least 10-12 people wide, and there's been no attempt to organize us into single file or otherwise establish order. We're standing at the crest of a sloping cement walkway that leads down to the entry gate, and the line-starters were told that at 6:30 we'll be allowed to walk down there, but 6:30 comes and goes without permission to move. More cops. We're starting to feel nervous. Jen13 and I walk down the hill to confront the two (!) staff who finally DO appear, pointing out that this is really unsafe and someone ought to be minding the store up here, but all we get is "oh yeah, you'll get some help."
I have the uneasy feeling they've never actually done this before...

Abruptly, at 7:00 pm,the line runs. I don't hear or see a signal from anyone - we're just all of a sudden racing pellmell down the concrete hill, hundreds of people. I lose my place by stumbling off the curb, and chase the crowd down the driveway. There's a quick, rudimentary metal and purse check at the door, and then we're in, and I'm shaking with rage. Irresponsible fuckwits! Did anyone think for one minute about how to handle that? If not for that invisible squadron of scabwinged angels that must have arrived at the last moment, these people could *so*damn*easily* be looking at dozens of trampled kids, hurt kids and worse. Idiots! I mean, Isis wept!

...aahhhhh well. Claim usual dead-center spot and take some deep breaths. Try to ignore that the door guards were as inept as the outside guards and let people in with big sharp claw rings on...we're inside. It'll be OK now.

Well, it pretty much is. But the crush is tight and we can tell the local kids didn't know what to expect; should have guessed when they got all wide-eyed at our pit safety tips. Between 12 Rounds and Manson it gets really thick - about to where breathing begins to be difficult - and they start to panic and ask to be hauled out. Guess what? -the bouncers don't know how. I'm right on Coyote's elbow and clearly hear them tell her to push back (sure, a mere thousand people or so) and make room for a girl behind her to walk to the rail. Walk? Are these guys nuts? Coyote quite reasonably replies that there's no way she can do such a thing, and what does she get? "You aren't even trying!" I don't know whether to laugh or cry: is this gorilla seriously griping because five-foot-two Coyote won't do his job for him? Mother of Mercy, who gave these clowns their license to operate? --thank all gods, we're saved from incompetence by the arrival of Aaron, the most welcome sight on earth. It only takes him about ten seconds to instruct the bouncers in the basic technique of getting people up, over and out (and accept our fervent thanks) but the fact remains that they were sent in here not knowing it. Scary.

Can't leave out a great pre-show moment by Zepp, who made an onstage appearance in character as his former self - hair tied back and some wig hair stuck to his chin miming his old goatee - making devil-signs to the crowd. Huge cheers from his admirers.=)

Oh, you want to hear about the show? =) There was one, yeah...but it showed every sign of running on the fragments of energy left over from last night's masterpiece. Manson kept dropping lines and mixing up verses, and the whole thing felt ragged and uneven. Tonight's lead-in to "User Friendly" was even nastier than last night's: "How many of you here tonight are stupid enough to be in love?" Man, it is hard not to speculate...

There's one thing I do have to talk about, and that's "Speed Of Pain". I've mentioned before that other people seem to find this song very moving, but it goes right past me. Whew, not this time. So pointedly that it could've been deliberate, Manson walked out to the mike, locked eyes with me - we were only, what, four feet apart - reached out his hand, and sang the whole song right there. Right into me. -- I mean, he put it on me like a spell. It was as if he said "if you're going to stand there every night, you're going to have to appreciate this - here it is."

And I got...how can I say what I got?...I got that this is about what we're all hooked on, what hurts us and what we need, that standing on the rail under his eyes is the crack in my heart --my junk, my comawhite-- and having people on the rail gazing up at him is the crack in his. Among other things. That we're more than just complicit in each other's addiction, we're part of it, we are it. We'll keep coming back to this spot because we need to.-- I'm not saying that he exactly told me this in any way, but at the same time I can only say we communicated: it came to me in a sudden overwhelming understanding, and I really felt how strong and deep this bond has become, and I burst into tears. We call ourselves Manson junkies, we joke between shows about how badly we need our next fix, and we are so right. This is about a whole lot more than just drugs...

So as he walked away from the mike he could probably hear me sobbing on the goddamned rail, and I hope he gave himself a little applause, because, man, he took me apart but good.

(--conversation I didn't hear at the time but was told later, between Coyote - next to me -
and Jen13, next to her:
Jen, alarmed: "Is she OK?"
Coyote: "Yeah, she's OK - he just got her."
--Damn yeah.)

...go on to the last night.
...go back to gig review page.
...go back to Manson main page.