Michelleta was the only one old enough to have a driver's license. So she was comfortably behind the wheel. As any driver should be regardless of how many clowns are packed inside the rest of the vehicle. Little Rudger and his buddy Tessyhair shared the passenger seat. Basket Brothers, Joe and Andy, sat in the back with Krystal sandwiched in the middle between them. Last but not least was Amie, who was sprawled across the laps of Andy, Joe, and Krystal. Thus was the arrangement for the two hour drive.
In the front seat, Tessyhair held a battery powered boombox with a CD player so that the group could listen to their favorite albums. Michelleta's car was old and only had a radio. But no way was a group of young punks going to listen to mainstream garbage on the way to a New Year's punk show taking place that night at San Diego Arena. The line-up was incredible; Face To Face, The Vandals, Guttermouth, Dance Hall Crashers, Assorted Jellybeans, The Queers, The Groovie Ghoulies, and more!
No, the group would not listen to Top 40 bullshit on the way to such an event. They listened to albums like Life Won't Wait by Rancid, Let's Go by Rancid, and ...And Out Come The Wolves by ...Rancid. Ok, so the selection of bands chosen for the ride wasn't as diverse as the event they were headed to. But you know what they say about fashion sense for men; "It's better to look good than it is to look different." Maybe this theory applies to music as well. Maybe it doesn't. Random advice is usually only worth a grain of salt anyway.
The group huddled around the car in the parking lot. Before entering a punk show one must get into the right frame of mind. This could only mean one thing. Head change. Back in Little Rudger's day weed was illegal. Which meant it was easier for a teenager to get than alcohol. So Michelleta rolled a joint as best as someone with minimal experience could do. Then the group "passed the dutchie to the left-hand side" until it got to Little Rudger. As Little Rudger puffed the joint the group gasped! The kind of gasp a woman lets out when her idiot boyfriend finally discovers what bean flicking really means.
Everyone in the group partook in the occasional stoned groove but they were all just occasional smokers. Little Rudger on the other hand was a true "midnight toker." When he puffed the joint half of it disappeared. "What?" he questioned casually as he passed the doobie to the person on his left.
The event took place inside of a minor league hockey arena, with a stage on each end of the floor where the goals would have been if there were ice. The open floor space in the middle was general admission. When one band finished playing on one side of the arena, another band would start up on the other side and everyone would run across like a thick herd of "human" on Black Friday. Except that nobody got trampled because they were punks, dammit, not savages.
Bands sold their merchandise at booths set up in the concessions area. Andy and Joe had a brief conversation with Mark Adkins from Guttermouth, who told them about a party after the show. Little Rudger bought a t-shirt from The Vandals booth. It was just an ordinary navy blue t-shirt, but it had the words "Hitler Bad" on the front. The back said, "Vandals Good."
Little Rudger was still new to the scene and didn't realize it was taboo to wear a shirt of the same band you are going to see at a punk show. Wear something different to distinguish yourself from everyone else who you already know is going to see the same band or bands as you are. Save the merch table shirts for after the show when you might want a dry shirt that isn't soaked in sweat before walking out of the venue into the cool night air. But who the fuck cares about unwritten rules like that anyway? So Little Rudger immediately pulled the t-shirt over his head.
Tessyhair wanted to smoke a cigarette. So he and Little Rudger wandered off near the stair-well which was where they were told to go for such things. Or maybe it's just a spot that Tessyhair chose on a whim, who knows? As he smoked his cigarette, Little Rudger hung out nearby. He didn't smoke cigarettes. The smell makes him nauseous. So he kept his friend company from a distance.
Now let me take a moment to interrupt this story to talk to you about male pattern baldness.
Some guys go bald. That's the story.
We're not trying to rag on anyone with a bald head, or anyone who chooses to shave their head because it's a good look for them. Because there is a big difference between a regular guy who is bald, and a skinhead. But many people may mistake a regular guy who is bald for a skinhead.
"Skinheads" can be hard to identify. Back in Little Rudger's day, they often self-identified by wearing white "wife-beater" tank tops. Often paired with steel toed Doc Martin boots and red shoe laces. They were an unfortunate part of the scene at the time. And they were more or less numerous depending on the type of band you were going to see.
Two skinheads that were standing around nearby in the stairwell caught a glimpse of Little Rudger's shirt. They looked back and forth at each other and then at the shirt for a moment, debating among themselves. Then they approached Little Rudger. "Hey man, what's with the shirt?" one of them asked.
"What do you mean?" Little Rudger replied.
"Your shirt says "Hitler Bad?" he asked.
"Uh, yeah... it's a Vandals shirt." Little Rudger said.
The two skinheads looked at each other. They were probably about ten years older and a foot taller than the young punk in front of them, and they didn't like his attitude. "So do you think he's bad, or bad-ass?" the other skinhead asked, with an aggressive tone.
"Whatever, man. It's a fucking Vandals shirt." Little Rudger replied. He was starting to get irritated at these two bullies picking on someone much smaller and younger than them. Little Rudger didn't care for that type of disrespect, so he gave it right back to the older bullies.
It's not that Little Rudger was a tough guy, he definitely wasn't. Not then. At that age, he was wiry and awkward. But at least he had his hair in a tri-hawk, and that made him feel like a badass. He also knew that his buddy Tessyhair was nearby and had his back.
"Good ol' Tessyhair," Little Rudger thought proudly to himself, as he glanced over his shoulder towards where Tessyhair was smoking his cigarette. At least, where Tessyhair had been smoking his cigarette. Little Rudger had looked over just in time to see Tessyhair's cigarette butt bounce on the floor. Little embers from the still lit cherry sparked out onto the concrete of the stairwell floor. He also caught a glimpse of the back of Tessyhair's head as it turned the corner out of the hallway and out of sight.
"Good ol' Tessyhair..." Little Rudger sighed, expectantly.
The two skinheads pounded their fists into their hands and inched forward, like a stereotypical scene from an 80s movie. Little Rudger gulped, pulling the collar of his t-shirt away from his neck momentarily. It suddenly felt a bit tight and claustrophobic in the stairwell.
Little Rudger looked over in the other direction. There was a curtain leading to a backstage area, and it was partially open. Open enough that Little Rudger could see the yellow shirt of a venue security staff just inside the curtain. Surely he would notice that a beat down that was about to take place and interfere. But the guy in the yellow shirt was preoccupied with other things, didn't notice, and walked away. Little Rudger closed his eyes and awaited what was inevitably about to come.
Suddenly, the earth shook! The stairwell wall to the left burst open as Andy came smashing through the wall like The Kool-Aid man. "Oh yeah!" he exclaimed! Immediately after that, the wall to the right burst open in similar fashion as Joe came charging through with a lowered shoulder. "I'm the Joe-ggurnaut, bitch!" he shouted. Tessyhair was just behind him, standing with his arms folded. He made reassuring eye contact with Little Rudger and nodded. "Good ol' Tessyhair!" Little Rudger said.
The four eyes in the two skinhead's heads (say that three times fast) grew to the size of golf balls as Joe and Andy wound up their fists like Popeye after eating a can of spinach. The brothers each simultaneously punched the skinheads so hard that they rocketed upwards through each floor of the arena, through the roof, and directly to the moon!
Back inside the stage area, Little Rudger and his friends spent most of the night running back and forth with the herd of "human." Catching bands like Assorted Jellybeans and The Queers. While watching Dance Hall Crashers, Little Rudger decided he wanted to crowd surf. He had done it twice before, and now considered himself an "expert" on the subject. "I know how to get up there," he told his friends arrogantly, as he tapped two random strangers in front of him on their respective shoulders. The strangers turned back and Little Rudger pointed up with a silly smile on his face.
The two strangers smiled back in comprehension and opened their palms to allow Little Rudger to step into their hands. The strangers hoist Little Rudger up, and the young punk crawled up on the shoulders and heads of everyone in front of him. Some were annoyed, but most knew the drill and helped to keep Little Rudger afloat atop the herd of "human." Little Rudger was overjoyed. He was flying!
Some flights are long, graceful, and magnificent. Others, not so much. Little Rudger experienced the latter, as he was quickly pushed over towards a crowd of girls who were not prepared to keep him afloat. They scattered in fear of the flying punk, creating a gaping hole in the herd. Little Rudger came down hard on his hip. He was in pain, but before he knew it he was back on his feet again. The crowd who had abandoned him and let him fall was at least nice enough to pick him back up again. Little Rudger was bruised, but he dust himself off and headed for the mosh pit where he felt safer. Oddly.
Crowd surfers can sometimes cause worse injuries than mosh pits because you have human beings landing on the backs and necks of other human beings who are usually not paying attention because they are watching the performance on stage. Unless stage diving, crowd surfers often come from the back of the crowd and get "surfed" towards the front. So you can have people landing on the head of someone who is unsuspecting. It fucking hurts. At least in the mosh pit, everyone usually goes in as a willing participant who has an idea of what to expect.
This is why it is always a good idea to keep your head on a swivel when in the thick of a packed crowd at a concert, particularly closer to the front of the stage. Little Rudger learned over the years that people are grateful if you tap them on the back quickly and shout "heads up!" to warn them of approaching crowd surfers in the heat of the moment. This also benefits yourself because when more people are aware of an approaching obstacle, they can help you handle it as it makes it way through. So you aren't the only one trying to hold someone up as the people in front of you adjust to the situation. He also makes a point to try and grab the ankles or feet of crowd surfers as they pass overhead so that they don't inadvertently kick someone in the head or face. Look out for your brothers, sisters, and community.
Did I mention this was a New Year's Eve concert? Well it was. So the big question is which band rang in the New Year? That honor would go to Face To Face. The band paused their set for a minute or two before midnight to prepare for the countdown.
Happy New Year!!! The crowd cheered as balloons and confetti drift down from above. Then the band erupt into their hit song "Disconnected."
Misadventures of Little Rudger is a work of literary fiction.