My Dad surprised me with tickets to see Guns N’ Roses on New Year’s Eve 1991 at Joe Robbie Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins.
GNR was touring in support of their smash double album Use Your Illusion 1 & 2. They were rock gods approaching the apex of their career. Dad scored us great seats on the center of the field about 30 yards from the stage in the north end zone.
I was 15, and my formative years seemed ready to ignite with the start of 1992. Like many teenagers of that era (or any, I suppose), music, along with raging hormones, was a close companion.
I wasn’t musical in that I couldn’t and still can’t play any instruments, but I loved music and had great exposure to legendary bands. My baby boomer parents paid $5 to see Led Zeppelin, watched Jim Morrison get arrested at the Doors infamous concert at Dinner Key Auditorium, and my mom saw the Beatles live when she was a little girl on the Ed Sullivan show when he brought his act to Miami Beach. I heard the stories. I listened every morning on the way to school to the cassingles Dad played in his Datsun 280 ZX of The Cars, The Knack, and The Charlie Daniels Band.
My first concert was Night Ranger and The Outfield, followed by Genesis with Phil Collins and U2 on the Joshua Tree Tour. As far as I knew, rock was the only musical genre. At least it was the only one that counted for me.
Needless to say I, along with the 60,000 fans at Joe Robbie Stadium that night, were ferociously chomping at the bit for Axl, Slash, Izzy, Duff, and Matt to take the stage. We were hungry to hear the classics off Lies and Appetite for Destruction, as well as new hits November Rain, You Could Be Mine, and Estranged.
We forgot there was an opening act which felt cruel because it threatened to sap the energy of the crowd. There had been rumblings (only limited to that because this pre-dated the Internet, let alone the pervasiveness of social media) that a new movement called grunge was taking root. But Seattle couldn’t have felt farther away from Miami. You could have told me new bands were popping up in Mars. Still, there was the slightest feeling that a changing of the guard was looming and that this piddly opener better hurry the fuck up so that the headbangers could start head-banging.
A tall man with long, scraggly, black hair whispered a few words to the inattentive crowd. Beside his hair, nothing about Chris Cornell or his band called Soundgarden shouted rock n’ roll. Their expressions were gentle, sensitive even, and they wore flannel. In Miami. Chris strummed his guitar in front of a pyramid structure, and I tuned out the rest of their set.
Within a few months of that concert, grunge exploded across the country and then internationally. I heard Pearl Jam’s Even Flow the most on the radio. I bought the Ten CD at the record store and also picked up Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger, adorned with the pyramid from the concert on the cover.
Ten blew me away instantly, and I latched onto Pearl Jam, never releasing my grip. But Soundgarden grew on me slowly, probably due to the spacing of their albums. Whereas Pearl Jam pumped out 10, Vs., Vitalogy, No Code, Yield and even Merkin Ball in my teens and early 20’s, Soundgarden released only three albums. Still, put me on a desert island, and you can bet your ass I’d choose Badmotorfinger, Superunknown, and Down on the Upside as my survival records. Oh, and the Singles soundtrack and Temple of the Dog, too.
I believe there is great music always despite the cries of the purists and curmudgeons, but Grunge is the music of Generation X, my generation. My busy brain can compile a list of these bands faster than anything else:
- Pearl Jam
- Alice in Chains
- Mother Love Bone
- Sonic Youth
- Stone Temple Pilots
- Mad Season
- The Smashing Pumpkins
- The Melvins
- The Screaming Trees
Guns N’ Roses put on a show for the ages as the year came to a close and snapped into 1992. That concert is such a bittersweet memory. I saw my present music icons perform live while ignoring my future ones. Nearly 26 years later, I still regret not knowing who Chris Cornell and Soundgarden were, not marveling at the pyramid symbolizing Badmotorfinger, not remembering what Outshined sounded like live, and not realizing I would never see Chris Cornell in person again.
However, I take comfort in knowing that Chris Cornell and Soundgarden introduced me to grunge. Though I’m constantly rushing from point A to Z, working, parenting, maintaining my current events addiction, I will wait in the car until Black Hole Sun, Spoon Man, Burden in My Hand, or Sunshower is over.
I will wait until Chris Cornell’s voice finishes his song.
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