GBH And The Circle Jerks At The Fastlane (July 18, 2003)


Oops, sorry, I'm yelling in caps, I'm deaf from the show last night. You know that sound of white noise in between AM stations? That's what I've been hearing for the past 30 hours. Everyone sounds like they're talking underwater.

Colin and I chatted about the old days. He remembers Randy Now, the promoter for City Gardens. "He was the fat geezer with the ginger hair, right?," Colin said, looking through 17 years of memories of beer-drenched mosh pits and cramped rides in a used and abused van with one bad cylinder stuffed floor to ceiling with equipment and smelly clothes. He said we should meet for a drink when the band gets to the States.

I called their label, Go-Kart Records, and Artie was kind enough to give me the cell number of GBH's tour manager John Fletcher. John put Kellie and I on the guest list for their show at the Fastlane in Asbury Park. How cool is that?

We pulled up to the Fastlane at 7:30. I stepped out of the car and caught the true smell of summertime - the salty smell of the ocean. I closed my eyes and I imagined myself sipping a Tangeray and tonic on my private beach in front of my 2.5 million dollar mansion in Deal. I opened my eyes and I see the hollow lifeless skeleton of an unfinished high-rise on the corner of 4th and Ocean and the dead eyes of Tillie staring at me from the decrepit wall of The Palace. Part of me likes to see Asbury Park this way, like some fucked-up ghost town.

We got there early enough to check out the two opening bands, Missing 23rd and The Bronx (from California), who were both good old punk rock. It's so great to see the red-mohawked punks out in full force sporting Discharge, GBH, Exploited, Dead Boys and Pistols shirts with studded leather jackets and safety pins and punk buttons; drinking mass quantities of beer, smoking dirt weed in the bathrooms, and greeting each other with a firm grasp of the hair or a friendly tackle to the sweaty, beer-soaked floor. The conversations that these kids have makes me realize this is where I truly belong. "Did you shit yourself? It really smells like you shit yourself," says one guy to his wasted friend taking a piss in the urinal next to me and holding on to the handle to keep the spins to a minimum, shaking his head in a negative response. (I never did get close enough to smell if the kid really did crap his pants.)

I asked Sam, GBH's merch guy, if the tour manager was around and he said that he had to drive the band somewhere and that they would be back soon. I saw they were selling the t-shirts from their Midnight Madness tour, the one with Charlie Manson's eyes on the front. I became as giddy as a 14-year-old schoolgirl that just got her ass grabbed for the first time and she slaps the boy, but deep down inside she likes the attention.

I patiently waited, drinking my one-dollar Miller Genuine Draft in a red plastic cup while listening to The Bronx's set. About a half hour later, I checked with Sam again and he said they just walked into the club and pointed to their dressing room and told me to go right in. So that's what Kellie, Deb, and I did. I walked right into the room and went up to Colin and introduced myself.

Colin greeted me with a smile and a firm handshake, like a friend that hasn't seen me for a couple of months. We reminisced about the old City Gardens days and when he got his head cut open by the guitarist's headstock at Irving Plaza in '88. The mighty Circle Jerks were about to go on and Colin said he wanted to watch them, so he left the dressing room and we followed. It was great seeing Keith and band rip through their old and semi-new songs. Keith still talks a lot to the crowd and even let one young kid, who weighed 75 pounds soaking wet, onstage to take a springboard jump off of the front monitor into the pit.

I was hanging in the back talking to Colin about Discharge. He introduced me to one of his roadies and I told the guy that I first saw GBH in '86. "And they're still rubbish," he replied. Colin introduced me to another roadie and I was joking with him that he probably hasn't been paid since 1986. "How did you know? he said. "Say it a little louder so Colin hears you." The British are so funny. It's like being on the set of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

The moment that I was waiting for finally arrived. Original members Jock and Ross, and newish drummer Scott, were onstage tuning up. I walked up to Colin, who was sidestage waiting for the band to start, and shook his hand and said have a good show.

They opened with "Falling Down" from their latest release "Ha Ha," and I was hanging back taking pictures. They whipped up the crowd with "Diplomatic Immunity," "Junkies," and "Freak". By the time they started their fourth song, "Time Bomb," I found myself right against the stage in front of Colin and Ross, who was wearing his beach attire, a Hawaiian shirt with a guitar strap made out of the same fabric.

Colin is still into crowd participation, and being up front I had plenty of opportunities to sing along to "Gunned Down" and "Prayer Of A Realist." "My God. Your God. Who's God? There is no God!" I screamed. Colin even relinquished the mic to the pit below. The kids shout out their part and throw the mike back to him.

Colin joked around with the crowd, performed some trick mic catching, and headed a beach ball around that had Barry and The Penetrators written on it. Like a scene right out of that crappy Tom Hanks movie where he talks to a basketball, Colin knelt down in front of the deflated dead ball and said a little prayer in its honor.

My favorite part of the night is when Colin pointed at me and said to Ross, "That's my friend Chris. He sends me e-mail." That's my 15 seconds of fame.

The new songs "Crush Em," "Punk Rock Ambulance," and "Superhighway Purgery" were mixed in between, and stand up to, the classics "Catch 23," "Give Me Fire," "Sick Boy," and "Womb With A View". They ripped the Fastlane a new asshole with "City Baby Attacked By Rats," "City Baby's Revenge," "Hey Keef," "Race Against Time," "No Survivors," "Necrophilia," and "Knife's Edge". My throat felt like it was grated raw with a rusty rake, but I continued to scream, because how many chances will I get to sing along with one of my favorite bands?

They joked around some more with Jock starting "Louie, Louie," "Paranoid," and a Led Zeppelin song, only to be told to knock it off by Ross every time. The three closing numbers were from their amazing first EP "Leather, Bristles, Studs, and Acne" - "Big Women," "Alcohol," and "Generals"; and at the end of that song, Colin threw me the mic and I sang the final chorus: "Britain needs you. Britain needs you. Britain needs you to die for her!"

They closed their set with a fitting tribute to the late Joe Strummer. Fans, as well as members of the Circle Jerks, were onstage singing "White Riot".

I peeled my sweat-and-beer-soaked body off the front of the stage and went to the dressing room where I finally met the tour manager, John Fletcher. He introduced me to Colin, not realizing we were had met earlier. Colin had a laugh about my reintroduction. I shook hands with the band and Colin said they will be back to the East Coast in January 2004.

The last thing I said to him was "You made my month".

How stupid am I? Colin, you made my year, my decade, my lifetime! Although I'm a publicist for bands, I usually don't go out of my way to meet them. Nobody wants to be let down by a bad meeting with a favorite band. With GBH, I just knew Colin and the band would be extremely down-to-earth people just from all of the times that I've been to their shows and I had no uneasy feelings about meeting them.

I bought GBH's latest CD from Sam and he said, "I guess you met Colin, because I heard him mention you onstage." Ah, another 15 seconds of fame.

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Chris Bade

Chris Bade is a Contributing Writer for Chorus and Verse.