Story Time With Bomb Volume 10...A Fish(boned) Tale Of Two Cities, Part 2: Sauced, Tossed & Lost In Boston
Fish(boned) Tale #2:
Sauced, Tossed & Lost in Boston
Date: March 8th, 1995
City: Boston, MA
Venue/Location: The Roxy (now known as Royale Boston), 279 Tremont Street
“What’s The Time? It’s Time to Buy Ale!”-Beastie Boys
Youth is wasted on the young, especially if the young are wasted. Which was certainly the case for newly minted 19-year-old Bomb, during the spring of his freshman year at Northeastern University, on the night Fishbone came to play The Roxy in ’95. Mind you this is not the famous Sunset Strip Roxy, in the West Hollywood section of L.A., where Jane’s Addiction recorded their debut album. This was The Roxy in Boston, apparently now called The Royale (with no cheese).
The old Roxy is apparently so forgettable that even on Fishbone’s own tour archive site, the show is listed as taking place at Avalon. Yet Avalon (also now closed) was on Lansdowne Street, directly across from Fenway Park. For anyone unfamiliar with Boston geography, the Avalon club was a short walk thru “The Fens”, a park separating the campus of Northeastern University from Lansdowne Street, where the ballpark is located.
No matter what altered state they’re in, broke college kids are not going to pay for a cab from Northeastern’s dorms to the main drag of Landsdowne Street. Especially not when footing that bill alone. Bomb did not start the evening alone. Instead he began it with two of his best buddies from the Stetson Hall East dorms, Dennis and Tim, before going to meet a larger gathering in the adjacent Speare Hall for some pre-game activities. As the sun began going down over Beantown, the group of eight to ten kids called a couple cabs and piled into them to head over to The Roxy to catch Fishbone in action.
With a ticket previously purchased at the Tower Records ticket counter on the corner of Newbury Street, Bomb was holding 13 dollars in cash heading into the show. It was a show that never seemed ready to start from the beginning as they’d gotten in just as the doors were opening and hadn’t factored in the multiple opening acts and DJ interludes beforehand. What to do? Hit the bar I suppose. While Bomb and his then-entourage of approximately ten were all under the legal drinking age, many bars around Boston during the mid-90’s would let people into the bar at 18 but put a wristband around their wrist to indicate “not old enough to drink”.
This seemed to be either a gross oversight or a nod-and-a-wink policy to Young Bomb, since the only move necessary to remedy it once in the bar/club would be to make a trip to the bathroom, then once sufficiently out of sight from the bar, security simply remove the wristband. Voila, now you were a customer legal to drink. And what else was there to do while waiting a few hours for the main event to begin?
The bar was running a special on 16-ounce Busch Light cans, selling them at $1 each. This special seemed both absolutely perfect and perfectly dangerous at the same time. Busch Light, among Bomb’s friends from home, was the Nectar of the Gods. A few of his Boston-based buddies made derisive comments about the brand on special but what did they know? These people drank Naragansett, which they bought at “the packie”, consumed until they were “wicked cocked” because they’d been “drinkin’ beeya, smokin’ paat, all nite”.
Bomb, born in Philly and raised in South Jersey, knew what time it was. With his wristband now safely discarded, it was time to head to the bar, plop a dollar down and grab a Busch Light pounder. Tipping? Well, that could be done at the end of the evening, once he could calculate how much cash was remaining.
As things would turn out, there wouldn’t be any. By the time Fishbone was about to finally come onstage around 11, Bomb had already spent 11 dollars.
The bartenders were already noticing that either:
a) this more-than-likely underage young man was being overserved.
b) this little asshole is giving us exact change every time he comes back for a Busch Light pounder every 15 minutes.
Senses dulled but still sharp enough to sense that the mood behind the bar had turned dark on him, Bomb handed his buddy Tony the last two dollars he had remaining, then asked him to grab him two Busch Lights on his way back to the back table where they had been sitting.
Sitting wasn’t really option for Bomb. It had been daylight when they got in here and now at least four hours later, the thing they’d supposedly all come to see was about to happen. After taking the last two big Busch Lights off Tony’s crowded hands, he made some passing mention that he’d be going up where he belonged, which was to the front of course, to see Fishbone do their thing up close.
“Everybody Is a Star”-Sly Stone
Navigating thru the crowd is easy if you have two drinks held above your head, while also being a skonkered teenager unencumbered by well-learned politesse. Within a minute or two, Bomb was up at the summit along the front guard rail. Moments after that, the band met him on the opposite side of it with Angelo Moore perching along the edge of the stage riser, sax strapped around his shoulder and mic in the other hand.
The first thing the uninitiated learns about Fishbone when seeing them live is that the speed of the music along with the frenetic activity onstage seems to come at you impossibly fast. Blistering pace akin to Bad Brains but with some funk/metal elements more their own. The second thing you notice, if you were initially too preoccupied with what’s happening on stage to notice it first, is the slam-dancing.
Damon Wayans, back when he was the biggest stand-up in the game in the early 90’s, touched on it in a routine that had ended up in “Swim” off Fishbone’s latest album. It was sheer madness, particularly when you saw it for the first time. Bomb had gotten a taste of it at a Murphy’s Law show at The Rat in the fall of ’94. He had been chilling in the back of the basement venue watching the band, turned to say something to his friend Dennis, then realized he was no longer standing there. Looking around puzzled for a second, the next vision that stayed with him to this day is seeing Dennis in his hooded sweatshirt being passed along by a plethora of hands, with his legs squirming around like a horseshoe crab turned upside down on its shell, then within a matter of seconds passed all the way from the back of the venue, up to the front of the stage.
Bomb did not have that same level of daredevil in him, nor level of trust in a crowd of strangers, that they wouldn’t let him drop on his head or spine onto the cement floor if he attempted anything similar. Bomb was crazy in other ways but you were never going to hear anyone say “Bomb’s motorbike didn’t quite make it across that ravine after he sailed off from that jump” or “Bomb’s parachute just didn’t deploy properly” at his funeral. This was simply not his style nor could it ever be his destiny.
However, there was a leap while weighing the risk: reward ratio, down to a final king can of Busch Light, Bomb did feel willing to make. Which was to hop over the nearly neck-high guard rail at the Roxy, then get up onto the stage to join these crowd-conquering Fishbone soldiers.
No one could say for sure.
Perhaps it was the result of the slam-dancing already resulting in Bomb being slammed up against the front guard rail, while the much bigger meatheads behind him began to work the quickly-forming pit like they were spinning a merry-go-round directly in back of him.
It could have been how wild and free Angelo Moore, with a small tuft of hair at the very top center of his head, while shaved bald everywhere else, as if some kind of shaman or head-banging Hare Krishna; seemed to be while sailing across this open sea of people.
It certainly had at least something to do with the level of alcohol in Bomb’s system which, especially at this young age, could make a bad idea seem like a good one.
Maybe it was that same hammy exhibitionist streak that he displayed as a child in stage plays.
The same one he’d entertained many of his freezing fellow Northeastern students from Stetson Hall East, West and Speare Hall during a recent fire drill with an improvised foul-mouthed version of KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight” atop the dorms stairs the night that damn fire alarm kept going off.
The same one now regaling you with this tale.
Whatever it was, just was. Bomb was getting up on that stage, no matter what. The meatheads behind him seemed to sense this, then while watching Bomb struggle to clear enough space on his own to pull himself up against the back-building building pressure of the pit's throng, soon offered to help.
“You trying to get up there, buddy?” one of them asked.
“Yup!”, came Bomb’s reply, then with no further words exchanged, handed over his final Busch Light to the inquire muscle to hold, while gathering his grip atop the guardrail, before receiving a significant boost from the meatheads behind him. Somehow he managed to make this move unseen and quickly slid into the gap, between the stage and the gated-off pit up to the left side of the stage, a few short steps led up to the side of the stage, where then-guitarist Rocky George was playing, minding his own damn Fishboning business.
Before Bomb could even process his decision, he and Rocky were now side-by-side onstage. Rocky being the fairly unflappable type who had played a lot of crazy shows in his life, stood in place, waiting for Bomb to do what he'd thought Bomb was going to do, which was make a running start and then dive back off the edge of the stage into the great abyss of arms held aloft, voluntarily waiting to catch him.
But nah, even 12 ½ Busch Light 16-ounce pounders in, that just seemed unnecessarily scary if not flat-out stupid to Bomb. What did seem cool, now woefully misguided in retrospect, was to dazzle Rocky George, the rest of the band onstage and The Roxy Boston crowd with a rousing display of his air-guitar abilities. Bomb was probably only up there for five seconds but it felt like at least five minutes before security grabbed him and brought him back down the stairs, power-lifting him and plopped him directly back down on the other side of the barricade, while shouting some commands at him about staying off the stage.
He soon found himself back in the same spot by the meathead crew up front, the captain of which handed back Bomb's beer that he was somehow still holding onto.
“Yo, that was SICK!”, said the biggest of the big, as he handed the beer he'd been holding.
Bomb pounded the rest of it, then re-focused on the show he was at and which he had briefly played a part.
Angelo Moore dived again into the audience, this time as he was floating atop the hands, Bomb seemed to sense a scolding look in his eye as they made eye contact; but it was probably just Bomb's imagination.
Soon after they launched into “Freddie’s Dead”, a song he recognized without knowing Fishbone’s catalog fully, primarily because he had grown up on Ice-T, who introduced him to Curtis Mayfield, who both had introduced him to Blaxploitation soundtracks.
Now it was on.
They were playing Bomb’s song.
And that stage?!?
Well...it was almost time to get back on.
Shortly after Angelo Moore was ushered first by helping hands along the crowd, then passed back by the crowd plus the security back upon the stage, Bomb got a devilish twinkle in his eye.
But the big boys standing directly behind him up front recognized it right away.
“Yo man, you tryin’ to get up there again?!”
Bomb’s grinning response gave him away.
Having already pounded what was left of that Busch Light the big bulldozers behind him had held in his absence, he got back to clutching the top of the front fence.
Shortly thereafter, one of the encouraging members of their crew helped to lift him atop the guardrail again, yet this time the Roxy security was waiting.
As they charged for him, Bomb had one or maybe two options…leap from his perched tip-toes atop the guardrail and/or allow himself to be tackled by The Man.
While one security guard went to make the top shelf tackle, Bomb leaped across the cement moat, praying he’d make it to the other side, while keeping himself afloat.
He cleared it like that ravine he'd never attempt to navigate.
All the sudden, Bomb was right back in the place he’d been, accompanying Rocky George on the left side of the venue's stage as he played his electric guitar.
But this time, Bomb not only could play electric guitar, he knew the words…
Hopping up and down now like an old school punk pogo, yet with a side of hip-hop, shouting in Rocky and the rhythm section's face:
Do to the discombobulation caused by the missed dive-tackle between the concrete gap below, Bomb at least had an extra few seconds before security came to yank him off the stage, then drag him down the stairs…
This time there would be no polite lifting nor simple putting him back on the other side.
This time, he was being dragged out of the Roxy, all the way to and out the door, while the sympathetic meatheads screamed obscenities at the security and all the while Bomb’s legs were flailing much like his friend Dennis’ were at the Murphy’s Law show, except this time in the opposite direction.
Now, show or no show, the staff was demonstrating to Bomb that it was time to go.
“Nobody Rides For Free”-Jackson Browne
It was all bad from there.
Bomb did his best to play dead as he was Fireman’s carried out the door, briefly looking up from the dizzying madness to see the table by the door that his friends had commandeered earlier. He was pretty sure they didn’t see him at all, nor bother to hear his shouted cry for help, which felt muted each time the security guard’s shoulders drove into the soft underbelly underneath his rib cage, taking all of the wind as well, as any forcefulness, left in his voice.
Bomb got tossed out of The Roxy Boston like his birth city’s Jazzy Jeff used to get tossed out Uncle Phil’s Bel Air home.
Don’t you know it always seems…that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.
A moment ago in paradise, now out in the parking lot.
With no real idea where he was or how he was getting home.
So Bomb did what any too-drunk-to-walk college student might do at that point.
He hailed a cab.
They were already waiting in the wings. It probably wasn’t two minutes before an enterprising young cabbie from an Eastern Bloc country picked him up.
“Where are you going?” the cabbie asked in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice.
“Where is Home?!?”-Cabbie
*pausing for a second before giving a straight answer, then throwing a curveball*
“Huntington Ave... near Symphony”
Now Bomb was in the cab, safe, headed "home".
There was one major issue: he didn’t have a nickel of money on him. Meanwhile as Commando pressed down on the gas pedal, working hard to get him there, Bomb suddenly felt happy for not giving him his actual coordinates because he had a new plan...
It was about five minutes from Tremont when Feaux-Arnold made a right in his cab onto Symphony Avenue.
By the grace of the Get-Home Gods, there happened to be a Boston Pops symphony performance letting out right at that moment, with people now spilling down the stairs, walking out either onto Symphony or to the corner of Huntington.
“This is me”, Bomb told the cabbie, now slowed to a near-stop directly in front of a crowded Symphony Hall staircase.
“Thought you was, Haantington”, he asked confused.
“Yeah, Huntington is right here, hold up my professor is coming out of the symphony right now, he needs a ride too”.
*Bewildered but still pulling the cab over*
Bomb at first casually got out of the car, pretending as if he was about to ask an elder gentleman exiting Symphony Hall for the time or a syllabus.
Meanwhile a group of touristy-types began to flock towards the vehicle as if Dolph Lundgren’s cab had swung by upon seeing him exit.
It was in that moment of hesitation and confusion that Bomb decided to RUN…
Running like his life depended on it.
Up Symphony Ave…
Making a hard, breathless right onto Huntington Avenue, just four to five blocks from Northeastern’s campus.
Still the old Eastern European in the cab he’d deserted at the corner was still trying to keep chase, holding a grudge like the Cold War was still in full swing.
He must have briefly attempted to keep pace on foot before returning to his cab, then hopped on the gas making a hard right onto the busy Huntington Ave, while based on the reaction of the crowd now in his rearview, had nearly run over some dignified symphonic types who had been hoping to ride along in his cab that night for a much longer fare than he would get out of Bomb even if he did catch him.
Bomb was now as they said growing up in South Jersey “booking”.
Ready to expend every bit of energy that he had left in his already-ejected frame, not even trying to find out what else this crazy cabbie chasing him for blocks might have for him.
He dashed past the Store24 on Huntington.
A couple of the homeless men that used to bum smokes or change now saw Bomb burning his fastest quarter-mile yet in Boston right up the block.
One old donation-dependent musician had just started putting his beat-up saxophone back in his case when he became a witness to this hotly contested race.
“HE NO PAY”
These were all the short bursts of huffed-and-puffed words Bomb could hear the old Russian cabbie bark forward in his direction, perhaps seeing if he could sway any street jurors.
But the crew outside Store24 had no loyalty to this man chasing from his cab on the corner nearly driving up along the sidewalk and then parked by a steam grate, abandoned temporarily, if anything their loyalties swung in the opposite direction.
“GO-GO-GO-GO! GOMOTHERFUCKAYOUBETTAGOKEEPGOINHECOMINHECOMINYOUBETTAGOMUTHAFUCKAGO!!” was all Bomb could make out from the Huntington Avenue sideline audience as he was approaching Northeastern's campus, late winter Boston winds whipping his hair in all directions with his baseball hat already charged to the game somewhere up the block.
By the time he’d made the next right at the end of the block, then darted left down the alley of the little university corner store that sold two-dollar packs of Camel Lights and dipped thru the next alley leading back towards Speare Hall…
he knew he’d made it…
however, being still only nine months removed from his high school track distance-running career, he kept moving because he could and there was no need to slow down or relax now, at least not until he reached the steps of Stetson Hall East, dug into his pockets then inserted a key.
He was wheezing as he made it past the sober strange kids in the common area watching The Honeymooners like it was a new show, made it back up to his buddy Mike’s room because he knew his roommate would be gone, while also knowing if the authorities did come for him he’d be able to hear it all happen from the sanctity of the next room over.
When Bomb entered the second floor by the common room right next door to the dorm room he actually lived, slamming his fist on the door with authority, alerting his likely very-tentative good friend/next-door-neighbor to open the door, all Bomb could muster was:
“YO!!!………MIKE!!!……*huff, then puff*…..OPEN UP!!! QUICK!!!!”
Michael Simard obliged, as he always did during those days.
Bomb nearly fell thru the no-longer-holding-him-back, steel Northeastern door, and nearly fell while wiggling his way inside.
“Dude…what the fuck?!?” a confused Michael said, as his decidedly new and unfamiliar female company looked on at the scene in a state of shock and horror.
*still unable to breathe or speak full sentences*
“Fish-bone…” was all Bomb could muster before just stop-drop-and-rolling to the right of the door into a good cozy hiding space.
Michael later told Bomb about the campus police, who circled their parking lot outside the window from where both slept on the floor two of Stetson Hall East.
But Bomb had by then already found himself laying atop a laundry bag and pile of seemingly fresh-scented towels that Mike’s out-of-town-roommate Donovan had left there, all while Bomb was laying in his closet hiding from The Beast.
And when he woke up in that same space between the door’s threshold and Room 210’s right side closet the next morning, Bomb didn’t complain in the least.
Because he’d made it thru that potential Hell, still living to tell, while his number of stories continued to rise like yeast.