When will this year, 2020, be over? Worldwide illness, death, economic hardships, social unrest and permanent changes to our everyday existence for the foreseeable future is something people are dealing with all around the globe. Heavy stuff indeed. There will be a light at the end of this dark tunnel we are living through and life will return to a new normal eventually. Travel for USA Passport holders now is restricted to many parts of the world due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in the USA. Even travel between States is being monitored and restricted. Large gatherings in many parts of the States are still not happening. The Summer concert season would be in full swing this time of year but thanks to COVID-19, it's not happening. Many concerts have been rescheduled till 2021, hopefully things will be back to the new normal by then. So, all we have are memories of how life was before we rolled into 2020.
Besides motorcycles, cars, art and all things fast, music has played a big role in my life. Never a musician, but always a lifelong music fan, going to concerts was something I did monthly since I was a teenager. Living in New York, there was never a shortage of bands or performers playing weekly throughout the whole year. In my early twenties, I worked as a stagehand, at the local arena, for some of the biggest hard rock and metal concerts that came to the New York, New Jersey area. It was a great gig while it lasted. I would be assigned to the crew of the band performing and the jobs varied from making sure Metallica's sound man always had a full beer to helping install the quad sound speakers high above the stadium for Pink Floyd. It was a dream job for a 20 something metal head. Besides decent pay, there were many perks to having a backstage laminate in the time of sex, drugs and rock n roll.
One of the most memorable concerts I worked at was Guns n Roses, Deep Purple and Aerosmith. At the time, Guns n Roses were touring to support their first album, Appetite for Destruction. They blew away the other two bands, the raw energy between the crowd and the band was palpable. Opening scenes for the video, Paradise City, was filmed at this concert. I was on the side of the stage for their whole set. Great benefit of the job was you could hang out when the bands performed. I remember the cleaning staff refused to clean the dressing room of G n R after they left the arena. Vomit, piss, blood, broken bottles, used condoms, and used syringes was something the cleaning ladies drew the line at. Stagehands used a high-powered hose to wash the whole room down before setting foot inside. Guns n Roses and their hangers on were for sure living life in the fast lane at this point in the career.
I had first come aware of the band, prior to their huge popularity, by chance. I first came across their album in a famous record store in Manhattan called Bleeker Bob's. A small record store on Bleeker Street that had rare import records, and the latest new and unknown bands. What attracted me to the band was the album art. Anything with skulls, and I am in. I bought the record, with no idea what the band sounded like, in 1987. Once the record player needle hit side A, track 1, and Welcome to the Jungle echoed from my speakers I knew I would be a fan of this band for life. I have seen them in small packed steaming hot clubs in NYC, to huge Stadiums. As a support opening band for the Rolling Stones at Yankee Stadium to a co headlining band with Metallica, but the most memorable Gun n Roses concert I have been to was their performance at Slane Castle in Ireland back in 2017. Going to a concert in another country is always a memorable experience but the setting for this concert was amazing.
If there is one country, I can highly recommend you visit, it is Ireland. The countryside is beautiful, the people are welcoming and friendly, and the music and the drink flows from morning till night. After an almost 7-hour flight from New York to Dublin, we arrived in Dublin a couple of days before the concert. Having a Mother born in Ireland, I had been to Dublin many times as a kid, but this was the first time I went back with my wife who had never been there before. Dublin is the capital city of the Republic of Ireland dating back to the 7th century. There are plenty of things to see and do in the ancient city of Dublin. Since most of you like to drink, a visit to the world-famous Temple Bar is a must stop. The bar dates back to the 1300's. Painted a fire engine red, the bar offers the largest variety of whiskies in the world and traditional Irish live music nightly. This is the quintessential Irish Bar!
Since most of our customers are not the museum types, let's stick with places you can drink while in Dublin. No trip to Dublin is complete without a stop at the Guinness Brewery. Guinness is the iconic stout of Ireland; it is unlike any other drink you have ever tasted. The Brewery was founded 1759 and open to the public for a self-guided tour. The tour lasts about an hour and half, but you are welcome to stay as long as you want. Learn the history of the Guinness family, and the steps to make this iconic brew capped off with a free pint of Guinness to add to the experience. Every time Guns n Roses plays a concert in Ireland, Guinness donates a couple of kegs to the band and their crew as a welcome present.
If you prefer something a little stronger the Guinness, book a tour of the Jameson Distillery, also located in Dublin. If you are a whisky lover, you can't miss this tour. Knowledgeable tour guides take you through the history of Jameson, as well as a hands-on demonstration of the distillation process and whiskey tasting at the end of the tour. So, if you are going to visit Ireland, be prepared to drink. Along with castles, museums, shopping, bar hopping, there is no shortage of things to do in and around Dublin there is plenty to do and see, add in a Guns n Roses concert and you in for an Amazing time.
The day of the concert started out rainy, not unusual for Ireland. We picked up our rental car and headed for the concert. One thing you should know is they drive on the opposite side of the road compared to us in the States. A word of advice to you as a driver, you should always be in the middle of the road behind the steering wheel. Takes a little bit to get used to it, I did find myself turning onto the wrong side of the road at the beginning. I was lucky to make this mistake on country roads with no other cars around, a quick adjustment and all is good. Famous actor, Matthew Broderick, was involved in a fatal car crash in Ireland, making the mistake of driving on the wrong side of the road, the accident killed the two occupants of the other car he crashed into. Renting a car and driving around Ireland is a great way to see the country, but for sure be alert at all times. The drive to the concert was about an hour drive outside of Dublin. The event was to take place on the surrounding grounds of Slane Castle. As we got closer to the town of Slane, we were soon in the stop and go line of traffic heading to the concert. In Ireland, a popular phrase used by the Irish is "Taking the piss” for them it means teasing or joking with someone. For me as an American it literally means taking a piss- urinating, while waiting in the traffic line to the concert all the Irish, both guys and girls, were hopping out of their cars to take a piss on the side of the road. Watering the grass as they were fond of shouting to us with a big smile and drink in hand. The party had already started.
Over 80,000 people were attending this concert, so we were guided to fields outside of the town where we would park our car. Remember it rained in the morning, so a good muddy field, miles away from the event is where we left our car. There were no real parking markings in the fields so finding our car after the concert would be another Irish adventure. Will worry about that later. We happily excited our car and made the trek through the mud with all the other concert goers. You had to walk through the Town of Slane to make it the castle concert grounds. Every bar in Slane was packed to the brim with people getting their last-minute drink on. As you got closer to the event, check points were set up to check for hidden alcohol. Pretty comical since there was about six people checking bags and your person, while hundreds of people walked by the six security guards. So was pretty easy to sneak your drinks into the concert. One we got into the concert grounds; beer tents were set up everywhere, so I didn't really understand the last-minute downing of drinks to get into the event. Maybe it's an Irish thing.
Slane Castle is perched on a hilltop above the River Boyne. A truly spectacular place for a concert. The castle has been hosting concerts since 1981, with mega acts such as Queen, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, The Foo Fighters, just to name a few. The event took place on the grounds of the castle, the castle was fenced off from concert goers. You can take a tour of the castle when private events, weddings or concerts are not taking place. A huge stage was set up on the banks of the river in the valley. I was able to secure VIP tickets, so we were led to the front of the stage. Looking back at the 80,000 strong crowd of Guns n Roses fans in the beautiful green Irish countryside with a castle in the background, the vision reminded me of a scene out of the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart. Pretty incredible sight. It had been 25 years since the last time Guns n Roses played Slane Castle, so the crowd was more than eager to whet their Appetite for Destruction. Everybody was in good spirits and almost everybody was buzzed or just outright drunk. The concert had not even started yet.
Three opening acts to kill time until the greatest Rock n Roll band hit the stage. The crowd was there for Guns n Roses. 80,000 tickets sold out within the first 48 hours of the gig being announced. A military style helicopter circled the crowd to get a view of the impressive scene. It was the band getting a bird’s eye view of their Irish fans who had assembled. About an hour after the last opening band was finished, Guns n Roses hit the stage around 8pm, still light out in Ireland. The roar from the crowd was deafening with the first notes of "It's So Easy" for the first of 27 songs the band would perform before the night was over. A highlight was a Sound Garden song, Black Hole Sun, played in tribute to the death of Chris Cornell who had recently passed. Overall it was a great show and experience. Guns n Roses just announced the tour schedule for 2021, which brings them back to Dublin on June 22, 2021 at Marley Park. So, what are we waiting for? Eventually we did find our car and made it out of the Irish field onto new adventures.