Unbelievable Stories will not be chronological. I have too many, so if I flesh one out, it's up to you to put it into historical context.
Festival shows are their own thing. Read all of Tom's "So You Want To Be in Band" posts before you get here, if you're a musician. The following is my personal account of what went down that day:
D.I. got booked to play a festival in Long Beach at the Queen Mary. Logistics wise, it didn't work out, and the entire gig got moved to the Glen Helen Blockbuster Pavilion (yes, 1995, Blockbuster Video still existed, and had a huge hand in entertainment).
The day started out in chaos. Loading gear, herding cats to get everyone in the van. Casey, Steve Lyon, & I surfed the morning glass-off, so we were in a very mellow state of mind, which didn't mesh well with the urgency for the entire team to get their shit together. Someone wanted to stop for donuts (might have been Chris), and Fred reminded them we had a full rider waiting backstage, so everything we had asked for was waiting for us. We headed inland from Newport Beach on what was really not that long a van ride, but it's early morning, we're trying to get our shit together, and it really felt like we were leaving on tour; even though it was a one day gig. We arrived at the amphitheater, made our way through security to the back parking lot, and found a spot between the other vans and monster tour busses. Right off the bat, we bump into Joe Escalante from The Vandals. Now, Joe & I have never gotten along, but diplomacy in force, we engage in the time honored tradition of the merch trade. He wants a D.I. Shirt, we're willing to trade for a Vandals shirt, but then he shits on our selection. It's hot. We're in the desert. All we printed was white. He says, "Let me give you a little bit of punk rock advice - 'white is out'. Whatever. We trade, and proceed to load in. I get straight to doing my job, find the stage manager, find out there's no backline, and find my corner to set up the drums. I get everything ready to be rushed to the stage in pieces, and then it's time to mingle.
Now, backstage is a place of solace for musicians, especially before the show. The groupies might happen after the show, but the early part consists of just getting comfy, and saying "hi" to the other bands. Festivals, on the other hand, is like having multiple green rooms. Not being a dick goes a long way in this situation. Play by the rules. Don't touch the other bands rider (all the food & beverages, etc. they requested), unless they invite you to grab something. You go around & try to meet new, cool people, but eventually, everyone tends to clique off with their friends. The talent is trying to relax, while the people who have logistics issues have to get on the same page. The thing I remember most about this part of the day was Gwen from No Doubt being as cute as a girl can be. Always gracious backstage, and she was a huge fan of most of the bands playing. But, I was at work, so I wolfed down a sandwich, drank every beer offered to me, and excused myself to go set up the merch booth.
Our merch booth turned out to a prime location. We were ringside of the general audience, with a great view of the stage. We shared it with Youth Brigade, and the Sublime guys (I had no idea it would be the last time I'd see Brad alive). After setup, these two girls from Corona/Riverside that never missed a show come up to do our long running joke. "How about a free shirt?" they quipped, and my standard reply, "How about a hummer?" Now Shawn rolls his eyes at the misogyny, but the Sublime guys literally fall on the floor laughing. It becomes clear that we do this dance at every time we meet, the girls buy a sticker, and they're on their way. We sell shirts, and other regalia, and it seems like a pretty normal gig. This is where all the trouble starts. An indigenous long hair starts getting hassled by three Nazi skinheads. We start yelling to leave the guy alone (along with many concert goers). A handful of cops close in, and then start HELPING the skinheads. Casey & I start pogoing, chanting "Kill the cops! Kill the cops!" Shawn Stern gives me the most brutal verbal spanking of my life, "What the FUCK is wrong with you two?" and it stops me (and Casey) mid jump. Now, I've heard worse, but I've never in a more apropos or well placed way. Thank the gods it wasn't Kevin Seconds, or Chi Pig, because they would've had more to say. It's too late. The fuse is lit. Metal sprinkler heads get unscrewed and become grenades. The freshly plated trees, with stakes to hold them upright lose their stakes, which are now javalines. The cops and the skinheads quickly retreat, figuring they're outnumbered. The crowd returns to a simmer.
We try to get back to business, but no one is buying merch. With stage times approaching and lackluster sales, we decide to pack everything up, and head backstage. I go about my business, loading anything unsold back in the van. I grab another sandwich from the No Doubt guys, and at this point the beer is just flowing backstage, so I don't know who to thank except whoever handed me one. I take my place on stage, out of the way, but ready to do my job as guitar tech & drum tech, and hopefully not hired gun (I will elaborate on the hired gun thing in a future Unbelievable Story). The D.I. set surprisingly goes off without a hitch. I get the gear off stage, the drum kit broken down into cases, the guitars stowed away, and the ultimate game of Tetris of loading it into the van. At this point, it should be nothing but fun. My job has been fulfilled, and it's time to cut loose. That just wasn't in the stars.
So Guttermouth takes the stage. Right off the bat, Mark starts goading the crowd. Berating security. Daring everyone to get on stage. The crowd loses their collective shit. Barricades are thrown. Drainage grates are pulled up and thrown at security. The crowd takes Mark's invite to heart, and invades the stage. The cops, already on edge, decide to react, and shoot tear gas ON TO THE FUCKING STAGE. The entire stage fills with tear gas, as well as backstage. The green rooms empty out. All of us spill out into the back parking lot, coughing, choking, tears flowing, running to the safety of our vans/tour busses. The gate gets locked down and none of us can leave. The cops have taken the stage, and turn their hatred towards the crowd. The exit for G/A get overwhelmed. Kids are getting trampled just for trying to get out, while the cops are closing in from behind trying to push everyone towards the exit. Headliners canceled, and kids feeling ripped off, pissed off, scared, or a collection of all three.
This story didn't have a happy ending. Many people were hurt, including the girl I was dating who ended up with a broken ankle (and that was just from the backstage chaos). You can find the Youtube clips online. I'm pretty sure the entirety of Socal didn't issue another festival permit until Punk Rock Picnic a few years later. My only takeaway was that it was one time I fucked around, found out, and grew up fast. Not to say this put a stop to Casey & my antics, but it was the last time we stoked the flames.
Post script: I hope I made you feel like you were there, without having to actually live through that. I'm still working on my storytelling, and I tried my best to completely strip this of hyperbole. Let me know if I glossed over something, or didn't paint a complete picture. I didn't know how to end it, because we all just drove away with it in the rearview mirror saying, "Well, that was fucked up."