What rock 'n' roll offers, above all else, is its shared experience - shared in a way that includes those who may not have been in on the initial shared event. Take Woodstock, for example. If we are to believe all of the post-boomers who say they were there, the attendance would had to have been in the millions, as opposed to the 400,000 who actually were there.
It was June 1986, and my hair was perfect. I was a 20-year-old rock 'n' roller working on my hustle outside the club Rumours (what is now known as Lux) on South Avenue. You see, I was of legal drinking age when it was 19, but they had changed it to 21. And even though I had played in this joint with my band, there was a chance I wasn't going to get in to see what is still my favorite band, The Blasters.
Long story short: I got in. And apparently so did everybody else, as the place was sardined to the extreme. There was nowhere to go but up. People were dancing on the bar, perched precariously on bar stools, and flinging arms and legs carelessly about the place.
It was just a matter of time before the crowd spilled out onto the street while The Blasters' vintage American music blasted out of the door and to the attention of John Law, who shut the show down because of noise and the size of the crowd. Frontman Phil Alvin suggested they play acoustically, but to no avail.
What we did see of the show was magical and memorable. I've gone on to see The Blasters countless times all over the US, but nothing has come close to that night on South Avenue and the people who were there and - those purportedly there.
The Blasters come from Downey, California, and still manage to blow through town every year or so. I never miss it. Over the years, in the bizz-buzz of excited pre-show chit-chat, I started hearing about the show so many years back from a lot of people - alot. It was their shared rock 'n' roll moment.
I won't begrudge them their self-inclusion, whether it's true or not. But it's kind of like that Woodstock math I mentioned earlier. If all those who said they were there, were there, the club that held roughly 100 souls would have topped out at around 10,000.
So The Blasters played Abilene last Tuesday to a capacity crowd. Some people tapped their feet. Others danced like incurables in the steam heat as the band, all black leather and denim, played all the hits and performed like a band half its age. While I stepped out for some air, I heard fragments of conversation discussing the long-ago South Avenue show, but I pulled the fly-on-the-wall-act instead before walking over to The Blasters' bassist John Bazz to pull on his coat about that show. Hell. I know he was there all those years ago.
"That's one of my favorite shows," he said.
It was June 1986 and my hair was perfect...