AVING HEARD FROM A FRIEND THAT RAMMSTEIN was doing a U.S. tour, their first since 2001, I immediately contacted Red Fez Editor-in-Chief and Treasurer Michele McDannold and proposed an assignment. I would attend the May 10, 2011 Rammstein concert in Chicago and write a review of it, broadening the scope of Red Fez Magazine and giving it a cool European music vibe. Several minutes later, I had a green light and a generous reminder of Red Fez funding policy. “Huhm. Well, you can do it I guess but buy your own ticket and don’t expect any of your expenses to be refunded, ever,” McDannold said.
Twas victory enough for me and I did as any non-credentialed journalist would do. I laminated myself a Red Fez Media badge complete with my 1998 high school graduation picture, which I always thought a much better likeness than my current grizzled, hollow-eyed, semi-homeless look. Then I went on ebay and checked out the price of tickets, in case for some obscure reason my Red Fez Media badge wouldn’t work. I found scalpers listing single tickets starting at $60, a price within reach of an enterprising freelance journalist/internet salesman/scrap metal recycler like myself. So I resolved to skip my car payment for the next two months and purchased the ticket from the shadiest ebay seller I could find.
The afternoon of the concert, I filled up my gas tank (11 gallons for $45) and began the three hour journey up north to Chicago. It was smooth sailing until I actually got within range of Chicago. Then, literally, every few hundred feet there was an 80 cent toll that I had to pull off to the right side of the highway and pay. People with an electronic pass can just bypass this and get electronically ripped off by the toll debit. Needless to say, I completely missed one or two tolls (there were at least five of them) so unless these tolls operate on an honor system (chortle!) I’ll probably be getting some nice little fines in the mail.
Arriving in Chicago (Rosemont, to be more specific) three hours early, I located the arena and looked for someplace to chill. I found a little park with a manmade lake and walked around there for a quarter mile, became exhausted and collapsed on a park bench. I was minding my own business when a young Indian boy and his mother, dressed in a traditional sari, started waving at me. At first I wasn’t certain they were waving at me, so I ignored them. Now, call it mental illness but whenever strangers act friendly towards me I get suspicious. And seeing how I was a long-haired, scraggly-bearded man alone in a park, I didn’t think it wise policy to start waving my arms at a random young boy.
So mother and son kept waving and eventually started walking toward me. At this point I became a little freaked out, and started tripping to myself on my bench, rocking back and forth, as I usually do for comfort in times of stress. The boy was kicking a soccer ball in the air, quite skillfully I might add, with his mother trailing a few paces behind. He kicked the soccer ball under my bench and shouted, “SOCCER!” I smiled, nodded. His mom giggled, and finally they walked the fuck away from my area.