Sep 032012


Sometime in high school, I made the implausible leap from gangsta rap-lovin’ yo-girl to a classic rock hussy. One particular band I had an intense liking for was .38 Special, of all bands. I would listen to the classic rock station all day with a blank tape on the ready, waiting for “Caught Up In You” to come on so I could dive into some frenzied finger-stubbing “record” action.

My friend Lisa, who was into more alternative music, was probably the happiest of all my friends when I retired my gritty urban flava mix tapes in favor for music that didn’t scare, offend and irritate her. So in 1997, when I asked her to go see .38 Special with me, she was more than happy to agree.

I’m sure it didn’t hurt that my mom was buying the tickets for us.

The day of the show, my boyfriend Psycho Mike came to my house. He didn’t want me to go to the concert and thought that starting a fight with me would suddenly make my head clear so I could understand the error of my ways.

“You’re going to end up fucking some drunk guy!” he yelled, his eyes getting that crazy glint to them, like the time he told me he was going to poke out my eyes and shove them up my vagina. “Maybe even more than one!”

Yes, Mike. You’re right. Foiled again!

He left in a huff. Soon Lisa had arrived and we left for the Rostraver Ice Garden. Not surprisingly, we were the clear winners in the “Youngest Concert-Goers” category, and probably the only one who didn’t have the Harley-Davidson logo somewhere on their person.

During Molly Hatchet and another opening band that Lisa totally loved but I can’t remember anything about other than their wildly crimped and Aqua Netted manes, we took in the sheer fury of shaking mullets, over-sized tie-dyed shirts, and leather-vested bikers showing off prison-quality ink on their forearms. I loved every second of it. It was fun and the energy of the crowd was contagious.

During the bands, we made friends with a completely blitzed cradle robber named Nelson and his slightly sober and calmer sidekick Nick.


Sadly, if I were to revenge-cheat on Psycho Mike, Nelson and Nick were probably the cream of the crop from that crowd. I think Nelson sloshed his beer on Lisa.


Goddammit I loved that shirt. It was metallic! I didn’t love that hair though. I remember I had gotten a horrible hair cut at Fantastic Sam’s of all places (the only time I ever deviated from the fluffy salons I usually go to and immediately learned why I pay so much to get my hair done – so it will look GOOD) and spent the next month and a half pulling what was left of my hair back into ponytails.

Side bar: A few years ago, I was riding in the car with Henry, my mom and Corey after a night of haunted houses. “Caught Up In You” came on the radio and I shouted, “Yes! I love this song!” My mom, ever so casually, goes, “Huh. This is the song that was on the radio when I was driving to the hospital after your father wrecked.” You know, the wreck that killed him when I was three-years-old, no biggie.

Thirteen years later, I had just come home from seeing the Used in Cleveland; it was 3:00 in the morning and I was about to pass out on the couch when I noticed I had a voicemail from Lisa, who was living in Colorado at the time. The message on my phone started out with her humming something vaguely discernible before belting out “So caught up in you, little girl!” She went on to sing for a few more seconds before stopping to add, “So I’m at a supermarket right now and this song came on; I had to call and sing it to you.”

Not going to lie, that kind of meant the world to me.



Lisa texted me late Friday night and said, “Did you know .38 Special is playing at the Rib Fest this Sunday night for FREE!?” No, I did not know this! And just like that, I now had plans for Sunday night. You’ll never get me to go to something like this unless some relic of the 1980s music scene is going to be spitting forth free jams, like Eddie Money (where I got busted for videotaping, are you kidding me) and Bad Company.


[A few summers ago, my old neighbor Robin (she’s since moved and life in Brookline just hasn’t been the same) was slinking around her front yard in one of her standard terry cloth tube clothes, to the tune of Bad Company’s Greatest Hits. That was a good day.]

Since Lisa’s husband Matt was going too (an attendance for which he said she owed him), Henry said he would go too so his mom came over to babysit and we actually had one of those date things. Lisa’s friends Carrie and Wes met us down there too, so we had a legit posse which made me feel safe against all of the Steelers propaganda. (It was at Heinz Field, probably the closest I’ll ever get to that place considering my extreme dislike of football.)


At one point, I realized I had meat sweats, which was impressive considering I don’t eat meat.

But if anything was going to convert me, it was going to be the goddamn Rib Fest.

OMG, it smelled so good.

OMG and so many trophies! How can you argue with trophies?!


And then Henry spend $5 on a black cherry old-fashioned soda for me, can you even believe it? I only had to beg him for 10 minutes and then point out all of the other men who supplied their ladies with flavored wets in a tin cup.

Wow, it really was a date, you guys.


And since Henry was surrounded by barbequed flesh, about to see an age-appropriate band, he couldn’t even PRETEND to frown.


Pork samples keep my man placated.


The King of Meat! He was my favorite person there, even after he creepily demanded that Lisa take his picture with me after this. I was like, “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly—” but then his meat-hand was around my waist and I was all, “Oh! Ok…”

He made me feel like my cleavage was on point, so I made Henry go back and patronize his booth for some mac n cheese and cornbread.

I just don’t eat enough cornbread, and that’s a goddamn shame.


We soon realized that .38 Special wasn’t coming on until 9:00, two hours later than we thought. So we walked down to Rivertown, where Lisa, Matt, Henry and our waiter Mike held my hand as I took babysteps into beer-liking.


In my 33 years, I have not once been able to drink beer without clamping shut my nose. But a co-worker suggested Summer Shandy, which I just had Saturday night (along with a Lemon Berry Shandy), and while it took me 2.5 hours to drink it, I DRANK IT GODDAMMIT. And it was not too bad.

Mike kept pushing me to get the Woodchuck Fall, but hard cider is always my fall-back when I go to bars and all my normal friends are drinking beer like it’s water. So I got some Belgian white thing which wasn’t very bad but I still had to drink it slowly, and then I eventually just gave it to Henry (after drinking more than a third of it!!).

With Matt and Henry shaking their heads in the background, Lisa let me try her IPA; my tastebuds promptly curled up and died, reanimated and gnawed off the back of my throat.

(I am open to your beer-sampling suggestions, my friends. Just remember that I have a very weak and girly ale palate.)

Since I’m not a beer-drinker, that was enough to get me a little buzzed, so I was even more stoked for .38 Special. Plus, this enabled me to better fit in with my beer-breath brethren.

“We’re going to see .38 Special now, aren’t you jealous?” Lisa said mockingly to Mike the Waiter.

“Actually, I kind of am!” Mike said. “‘I Want You To Want Me’, right?” he offered as proof that he knew who we were talking about.

No, Mike. That’s Cheap Trick.


.38 SPECIAL!!! Oh my god, it was so much fun! The crowd was a perfect cross-section of middle-aged couples reliving their youth, from aging biker-babes now with literal saddle bags to 50-year-old men in polo shirts and khaki shorts clinging to their yuppie-youth. Before the show started, Lisa and I were talking about the last time we them in 1998, and how long ago that was.

“The last time I saw them was in 1980,” Henry said dourly, and we all got a good laugh at his age. Oh god, I hope he wore a Confederate flag belt buckle with his bitchin’ Adidas shirt.

(To give you some perspective, Lisa and I would have been 1.)

Lisa and I were so amped for the first 30-45 minutes, even during the medley of songs we didn’t know. Three songs in, I turned to her and shouted, “I don’t remember there being two singers!”

She just shrugged.

Henry even made physical contact with me numerous times, like we were a real couple or something. It was amazing, but then I realized he probably felt more comfortable doing so at a show where he was part of his own generation.

Then a mid-40s drunk couple drunkenly pushed past us and began drunkenly dancing and copulating through their Coors Light-sloshed boat clothes. I guess Southern Rock is the next best thing when there’s no yacht rock shows going on in town. The woman was unattractive, squat like a troll, and dressed like a nondescript mom. The man had on a white polo and jean shorts and looked like he probably worked for an insurance company or sold swimming pools. They were extremely amusing to watch as they staggeredly gyrated against each others’ clothed genitals, and the woman kept doing these washed-up stripper body rolls which was vomit-inducing in and of itself, but when she dragged one sultry hand down the man’s back, across his ass and then IN BETWEEN HIS LEGS, I had to look away. The look in her eyes was crying out, “PORN DIRECTORS! LOOK AT ME! OVER HERE!” and I felt sleaz(ier) by association.

I started to record this lascivious display, but then they moved on, becoming engulfed by the crowd. I thought it was because she caught me taping them with my phone, but I think they just felt it was time to unleash their classic rock burlesque show on fresh eyes.

This sums up the set list:






I DON’T KNOW THIS SONG. That’s because it’s Lynyrd Skynyrd. I STILL DON’T KNOW THIS SONG.




I also learned that Henry knows A LOT about .38 Special and was answering all sorts of questions for us. Like when there was this somber moment in between songs while the one singer was talking about his brother and then we realized, “Wait…his brother was Ronnie Van Zant?!?” and Henry was like, “Um, yeah!” And then when they sang, “Second Chance” and Lisa and I exchanged confused looks and shouted to Henry, “Wait, this is .38 SPECIAL!?” He said yes, but we didn’t believe him. Lisa was even trying to Shazam it at one point, when Henry sighed and showed us his phone. If GOOGLE says it’s so…

I always thought it was a Steve Perry song. I guess I shouldn’t have made fun of the 21-year-old girl in front of me who said, “And ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’!” when John Burnett from KDKA got on stage and rattled off a number of their big hits when introducing the band.

(I’m still dwelling on this a day later. “But it doesn’t even SOUND like them!” I cried just now to Henry. “That’s because it was sung by their keyboardist!” he shouted irritably, ready to close this chapter.)

Then we were subjected to a five-minute drum solo in a song that was written for the Super Troopers soundtrack, and Lisa and I both started to taper off. But they hadn’t played “Hold On Loosely” or “Caught Up In You” yet, so I remained firmly planted in my spot.

Does a song on the Super Troopers soundtrack (appropriately named “Trooper with an Attitude”) really need a drum solo?

Of course, they saved their two biggest songs for the end. When they sang, “Caught Up In You,” I thought I was going to die. Memories of driving around, waiting for the classic rock radio station to fulfill my request.

(I used to call CONSTANTLY asking for it; one time they played “Hold On Loosely” and I was supremely disappointed, but let’s face it, that song is pretty fucking great too.)

Lisa whipped out her hair brush and serenaded me and all of a sudden I was 18 again, with a 47-year-old man pressed up against me. Yep, sounds about right.

The company was quality, the music was fun and nostalgic, and the people-watching was prime. I really needed that night. After Henry came back from taking his babysitting mom home, he admitted on his accord that he had a lot of fun, and even THANKED me for forcing him to go.

You guys: HENRY HAD FUN.

I mean, of course he did. He was surrounded by smoked meat, Southern Rock, and had a girlfriend who was STILL younger (and with better, less reptilian skin) than most of the other women around that stage. What could have possibly been bad about that? Clearly, we need to add .38 Special to the imaginary set list for our Never-Wedding.


Henry’s heyday, reflected upon his eyeglasses. I get the biggest kick out of seeing him in his own scene.


I wondered out loud why it was taking Henry forever to wake up this morning.

Chooch said, “Um, he’s probably TIRED. He was with you for a LONG TIME last night, probably somewhere he didn’t want to be.”

For once, son, you are wrong!

  6 Responses to “.38 Special, FREE at the Rib Fest”

  1. The beer of the gods. And Belgians.

  2. thank you for this!!

    you just took me right back to my senior year of high school… “Caught Up In You” was a hit that year… I can remember cruising around the strips of Houston blasting .38 Special, Rush, Lynrd Skynrd, Styx, REO Speedwagon… oh hell… I could go on forever!

    thank you – i am smiling big time!

    • Making you smile was worth it!

      Revisiting music that we liked in high school can be so much fun. Last night was literally one of the least-stressed moments of my recent days! It was so good to just relax and reminisce with my friends ;)

  3. I was raised on that music. I learned to headbang at an early age. :) It’s pretty weird to see Henry (sorta) smiling like that. And there’s no way I could go to Rib Fest and not eat meat. You’re a champ!

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