A couple hours before the Alice in Chains concert last Friday I was standing in line with a buddy at the will call window when I struck up a conversation with a couple fellows behind us. Both were young, wiry, square-jawed lads; hair high and tight; standard issue U.S. solider stationed at Lewis-McChord. Sorry I didn’t get their names. I’m not a journalist, just a guy who went to the show.
One of them leaned on a crutch as he explained that they were both wounded in Iraq. We talked a little politics. We talk a lot about Alice. And of course we talked about the ticket line that never seemed to move. I asked, “Someone’s hooked you up with special access? They’re taking care of you – right?” I think one said, “Affirmative.” And the other explained, “You bet. Seating next to the sound board and VIP passes.” Sweet.
Finally, me and my buddy got our tickets. We said our good-byes, and then grabbed a little dinner with friends before the show. But when we stumbled back to the Paramount who do you think we ran into? You guessed it. So I insisted that I was going to buy them a round. They agreed. Duh. But when we walked into the bar it looked like something out of an old Wall Street trading pit, dozens of thirsty fans mobbing the counter and waving cash at the bartenders.
I took point and inched us through the crowd. As we slowly approached the bar, I asked one of the soldiers how they got the VIP passes. One explained that they met someone from the band’s record label while they were rehabbing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and let them know they’re huge Alice in Chains fans. Voila. Point of fact: the label is Virgin/EMI. About that same time the crowd was really crushing us. I noticed that one of the soldiers began to fidget and then became increasing anxious. A woman next to me asked if my friend was okay. He said the last time he was in a crowd like this a bomb when off. Instantly his buddy grabbed him by the shoulder and eased him out of the crowd.
I bought three beers and headed to the back of the room where they waited for me at a table puddled with beer. The one who had the panic attack said he was doing okay. Relieved, I handed him a beer and I asked if he was getting help – talking to anyone about what’s going on. He said, “Therapy? Oh, yeah. I’m talking to a lot of people.” He took a sip of beer and then added, “And a lot of meds too.” Now I’m no doctor, but I was a little conflicted about buying a beer for someone who’s on medication. But let’s get real. Two U.S. soldiers – wounded or not – are not going to allow a puss like me to take a beer out of their hand. I looked each of them in the eye, shook their hand and thanked them before I disappeared into the crowd. Soon after, the lights when down. The show rocked.
After the concert me and my buddy hung around the dressing rooms while we waited for the band to finish the “meet and greet” with fans downstairs. I had a chance to talk with Beth and Lori – the business management team for Alice in Chains. I had a similar conversation with Amy from the record label. Again, last names? Sorry, they’re wonderful people, but we didn’t swap business cards. I thanked them for what they did for the two soldiers. Lori was beaming ear-to-ear when she told me, “We spoiled them rotten. And during the show I took them backstage where Chris DeGarmo (ex-Queensryche guitarist) and others were hanging out for a real special experience. And after the show we got ‘em drumsticks. We took good care of them. We showed ‘em a real good time.”
I smiled and said, “We can’t do enough for them.” Lori’s smile melted away and she repeated, “We can’t do enough for them.”
The day after the concert a lot of my friends asked if I liked the Alice in Chains show. There are a lot of things I liked about the Alice in Chains show.