God, so there used to be this place called the Gateway theater out west on Lawrence Avenue and they would have these shows with fifteen bands for ten bucks or something ridiculous. (the gateway is actually still there, but I haven’t been there in like fifteen years. It’s just past the Admiral, which is the fully nude strip club that doesn’t serve alcohol. Talk about a classy clientele).
So, I don’t remember any of the details, but I do know that when I was a junior, Gladhand got a show at the gateway. We were so fucking excited we pretty much went crazy. This was a real show at a real club! We were going places. I think we’d submitted the same demo that we submitted to get the homecoming dance show…whatever, not important. The promoter was a guy named Matt Nelson, and he was a typical Chicago punk rock dude from the late 80’s: Flat top, leather jacket, dubious ties to skinheads, coke habit, sketchy fucker. SO, Matt gave us a hundred tickets to sell at ten bucks a piece, and gave us the following deal:
Sell all hundred, you get three bucks a ticket.
Sell seventy five, you get two bucks a ticket.
Sell fifty you get a buck a ticket.
Okay, now, these tickets, again, cost ten bucks. Right? Let me just spell this out for anyone who’s not hip to this scheme…This is a screw job. This was my first show, so I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s not the band’s job to sell tickets. That’s the job of the promoter. It’s in every way the equivalent of showing up with no gear and expecting the promoter to play your show for you…It’s fucked. BUT whatever, the entertainment industry is full to the brim with shady practices and this is hardly the shadiest. There are, as we speak, people getting literally fucked up the ass and in the mouth for some sort of paltry bit part in some crappy, direct-to-lifetime movie (yes ladies, even lifetime has it’s predators…they should do a movie about it. Woah, but what do you have to do to get a part in said movie, eh? It’s like a Charlie Kaufman script).
Well, we sold and sold and sold. My mom bought some tickets and gave them to her friends. I think all our moms did that, actually. We sold them around the park we hung out in and in our schools, especially to the younger kids who probably wouldn’t be allowed to go to the show out west on Lawrence anyway. Heh. You know, it’s all steps of finding your way as a young adult. We were playing at having a real show in a real club (which, by the way I now recognize as such a complete insult to real shows and real clubs everywhere) and these young middleschoolers were playing at being the kinds of people who could actually go do the things that they bought tickets to do. Well, in the words of David Spade, Not so fast, Billy Ray.
The night before the show, we, the wonderfully diverse pastiche of boys who comprised Gladhand met in Chris’s mom’s basement (which is where we practiced). We realized that we’d sold ninety tickets. A little quick math revealed to us that if we bought the last ten tickets ourselves, we’d get three bucks a ticket instead of two, and so even though we’d have to put a hundred bucks down, we’d still walk with more money. Genius.
The day of the show came and we were all so fucking geeked out excited we didn’t know what to do. Chris and I went to the same highschool by this point, and I just remember being in the diner across the street (we could leave the school for lunch) and banging the table and throwing a spoon across the room for some reason, just because I was so excited to be the SINGER in a BAND that was playing a SHOW at a CLUB. The whole day we were all nerves. I don’t honestly remember much besides that. Oh, I was wearing my favorite shirt with the Cheerios logo on it. This was back before ironic branding had become the international language of pseudo hipster suburban box store fashion, mind you. Not trying to be a snotty dick or anything (although: snotty dick! what an image! eew) just saying, the Cheerios shirt in 93, not exactly the same thing as the Cheerios shirt in 09. In fairness though, I had hair down to my nipples and was probably wearing more than just a few medallions and rings…So, I wasn’t exactly winning any ‘gateway theater best dressed’ awards that night.
We got to the show and we handed Matt Nelson a thousand dollars.
Just go ahead and read that sentence again, because by the end of this story, it’s that sentence right there that really stings. Here it is again:
We got to the show and we handed Matt Nelson a thousand dollars.
I remember a hardcore band called fifteen month pregnancy played and they had a song about a local convenience store called “White Hen” and then this band called Slugbug played. They, I recall were really together, with big amps and they sounded awesome, even though they were only our age. They also had these sweet demo tapes that were totally pro, as in, the tapes were screened, they had sleeves. Wow. I bought one. It had a fucking thank you list inside! This shit, in my mind, was so unbelievably professional. It was like, other level type stuff.
Well, we played and I’d been getting myself psyched up for so long, and I was so nervous, that my voice was completely shot before we even went on stage. It was a bad and embarrassing show, but it was a REAL show, and we were pretty stoked on that part.
After we played, Matt Nelson approached me and said, “hey, that was really great. I want to do a smaller show at this bar I do in Aurora, called Malo’s and I want you guys to play. It will be you guys, Slugbug and….” Fuck. I can’t remember the name of the other band….Hopefully it’ll come to me by tomorrow…Violent something…it was three words…Violent Youth Assembly!!!!!! YES!!!!!!!
Okay, so the show was gonna be Gladhand, Slugbug and Violent Youth Assembly. We were unbelievably stoked. We’d just played our first show in our hometown and now we were gonna play another show fifty miles away? This shit is all happening so fast!
Well, I came to realize, at the Malo’s show that the reason that Matt put us and Slugbug on the bill is because we were the only two bands that sold all one hundred tickets. VYA wasn’t even at this show, but I’m sure they’d pulled something similar at one of Matt Nelson’s other ‘screw-the-bands-a-thons’. Whatever, don’t piss on my cloud, man. This was a big moment. We had a real show under our belts, we had another booked and Gladhand was fucking going places.
Matt Nelson handed me a hundred bucks. “here dude. Thanks for playing. I’ll call you about the Malo’s show.” I was so young, intimidated, excited, nervous, confused etc. that I didn’t even say anything. I gave him a confused look, but he was already gone. Hey! After buying those last ten tickets, at least we broke even! Fuck man. He would eventually call me and mail me tickets to the Malo’s show too, which unfortunately, I couldn’t even sell to my parents. SO the night was one of highs and lows, especially when I found out that I’d locked myself out of my car. I called and woke up my parents…it was about midnight or 1, and Chris and our friend Cary and I had to sit there in the Chicago winter for an hour, farting on each other for warmth, waiting for my very disgruntled parents to wake up, shake the dust off and drive back to the Gateway to give me the spare keys.
Rock n’ Roll, man.