And We Ran

Millvale Industrial Theater

The first show I went to I was twelve.

My friend's sister's boyfriend's friend was in a band. They were playing in Pittsburgh that night and had an extra seat in a car. My friend, Chaz, asked me to come along. It was Tuesday night, so when his sister came to pick me up I crawled out my window and hopped in her car. She drove us to the the Big Lots saving store on the other side of town. Here we met a group of her friends who were also going but didn't know the way. I ended up riding in a car with Mike, Mike, and Chaz.

The first Mike was in a band with Chaz's sister's boyfriend - also a Mike but not one of the ones in our car. Don't worry about keeping up. I only knew Chaz anyway. Moff Mike was four or five years older than me and some of the trash in his car was probably older than Moff Mike. He played bass for Casey's Killing (Chaz's, sister's, boyfriend's… band) and was what my friend Le Doug called a “Moff” bass player (*Note: This was not Ligonier Doug). The theory of Moff was based on a simpler hypothesis. Of all the bass players in the world the majority fit in to one of two categories, tall and skinny or short and fat. If they fell in to the latter category and had a beard it was even better. Moff, Le Doug said, was the bobbing motion a fat and bearded bass player makes when they move to the rhythm of the song. They can't get around like small guys so they stand in one place and… moff.

Mike was a moff bass player and probably one of the happiest people I had ever met.

The second Mike was my age. Frizz Mike was also in a band. In fact he'd always been an amazing guitar player and was one of the folks who taught Le Doug how to play guitar. Frizz Mike never told me so but I always figured he wanted nothing more than to be in a band making music. As we grew up he went to more shows, played in more bands and released more music than anyone else I know of. Frizz Mike road shotgun.

That left Chaz and I in the backseat. I had never really listened to the band we were going to see. I only just started seventh grade, that was junior high for us. Music was really only introduced to me a few weeks ago. I wasn't going to pass on a chance to get out of the house, though.

The band's name was The Juliana Theory. Eventually they achieved some acclaim around the turn of the century. Their lead singer had been in a band before this one, Zao. I knew about Zao. They were the originators of Christian Hardcore. Zao was the biggest band from our town at the time. The Juliana Theory sounded nothing like Zao. Instead of religion they definitely capitalized on the edgy pop packaged as punk/emo image. The headliner was a band named Elliot. At the time I thought they were from Canada but later I discovered they were form the midwest. They were an emo band, I should have figured that out.

The show was being played at the Millvale Industrial Theater. I didn't know it at the time but Millvale had a history of being a pretty rough town, hit hard with economic down turn. I guess they had a lot of problems in the past with violence until this police chief Vietnam veteran was hired and he roughed up some of the more dangerous folks. Regardless, the theater was, in actuality, 4 row houses built back to back. The guy who set up the shows there, Manny, had knocked one entire wall down between two of the houses and smashed holes in the other walls connecting all the buildings. No one knew what was on the other floors of the houses. To get in you had to walk around the back of a block of houses, go up a fire escape and follow this rickety metal walkway around the houses and go in through a window.

Manny was about 5'2“. He had a long blond pony tail, thick glasses was 100lbs soaking wet and took zero shit from anybody. At shows he kept a metal pipe sticking out of his back pocket.

None of us had ever been there before. As our convoy of six cars pulled out of the Big Lots parking lot none of us knew what we were getting in to.

After ten minutes of highway everyone was bored. It was warm enough to keep the windows down, in fact it was a great day outside. Chaz found sauce packets on the floor of the car from Taco Bell. His sister was in the car behind us. As we were flying down the highway on our way to Pittsburgh Chaz tears open the salsa packets and climbs halfway out the window. Moff Mike is relatively unphased. He jerks the wheel a little bit at the surprise but for the most part stays steady. Meanwhile Chaz is throwing Taco Bell salsa all over the front of his sister's car, soon Frizz Mike joins in. Liz, Chaz's sister, was visibly pissed from what I could see out the back window. Her boyfriend was cracking up in the passenger seat.

We had so many people because supporting local music was the thing to do growing up. I didn't really know anyone, in fact this was my first time meeting most of these people some of who would be part of the rest of my life.

Of course, no one actually knew where we were going. We realized this just before getting to the toll highway. Liz's boyfriend was the one who spoke up with directions that could get us to Millvale. From there we met up again at a 7-11. Moff Mike and Liz's Mike went inside to try and get directions. The clerks had no idea what they were talking about. By sheer chance someone in the parking lot overheard us talking and ended up letting us follow them the rest of the way.

While waiting in line I met Ryan. He was Gabe's boyfriend and Gabe was Le Doug's older sister. Ryan was in a band with Liz's boyfriend Mike, Band Mike. Band Mike, Ryan and Moff Mike were all in the same band - Casey's Killing. Their drummer, Joe, was absent. I don't remember while, the only thing I really remember about Joe was that he drove a little red car and would drive up and down the highway listening to Kashmir on full volume wearing a motorcycle helmet. At red lights he would stare at people in the car's beside him.

Most of these kids were in high school, some were preparing to graduate. Chaz and I didn't have much in common with them but we kept our conversations to ourselves or listened to theirs. Band Mike warned us before going through the window to pay the cover to have the money ready. Apparently Manny gave zero fucks about correct change and thought anyone who was slow to pay or complained about the $4 cover was trying to rip him off. He'd slam the pipe on the counter and stare straight in to you to as a final word on any issues concerning paying.

I paid with correct change and hurried towards the hole in the wall to follow everyone else. Chaz needed to wait for change. When he caught up he ran in to my back, you could tell her was nervous. The first room was filled with old furniture. Manny could have found it here or dragged it in from off the street. There wasn't much of a difference. The larger rooms, the ones where the wall had been torn down, had a small stage built of plywood and two by four. The first band was already playing.

They were loud. The sound system sucked and no one could really hear any part over the next. The singer just kind of yelled and moved around stage throwing things at the crowd. Over top of the stage was a projector playing a black and white movie on the screen behind the band. It was a loop of a guy being chased around a neighborhood and then finding his brain in the trunk of a car. We were brave enough to claim a couch and we sat there, waiting out the opener.

The Juliana Theory had just released their first album. I don't really remember the name, it's probably on Amazon though. I didn't think they were that good but I was still interested in seeing the show. They took the stage and looked like a mixture of rockabilly and teen idols. Their lead singer, Brett Detar, really put me off. The guy was like a precursor to Miley Cyrus. He wore skinny jeans before their were skinny jeans. You could tell he was in a band to be a singer and a douche bag… but mostly a douche bag.

After their first song someone from the crowd got up on stage and took off their shirt. On their back was a large tattoo that read “Pittsburgh” and beneath it in black sharpiee “Not Greensburg” was written. Ouch, I didn't know the competition was that fierce. After that show the Theory started to tell people at shows they were from Pittsburgh.

The show was good but the best part was the crowd. It was like every person a doting mother had ever pointed at the said “Don't be like them” was here. I loved it, not once did I feel afraid. In fact everyone I met was extremely nice - except tattoo guy. We ended up leaving early because we didn't want to stay for the Canadian Emo band that was headlining. I ended up liking Elliot in the long run though. Before we took off I bought my first CD - The Emo Diaries, Chapter 1. Despite the title there was a lot of good music on there. This was way before emo became hairstyles and makeup and screaming about how your parents bought you the wrong tampons.


QR Code
QR Code and_we_ran_-_millvale_industrial_theater (generated for current page)