The first concert I attended with a band I actually liked at the time was Depeche Mode in 1990. Violator had just been released, and was getting some serious play in my car. Jason told me tickets were avaialable, and we should Jason, his sister, Aaron, and I all went to see Depeche Mode at Cal Expo in Sacramento. I had NO idea what to expect.

I checked my ticket when it arrived in the mail to see the word Nitzer Ebb on the ticket as well as DM’s, and it was explained to me that they would be opening for Depeche Mode. (I was kind of unaware of how concerts went at this point in my life)

Wow, two bands for the price of one I thought. To better familiarize myself with the band, I went to the Wherehouse, and bought one of their tapes. I gave it a few listens, it was decent, a little more industrial than most of the electronic music I had been listening to, but not too bad.

The day of the concert finally arrived, and the lot of us drove to Sacramento (via Davis where we stayed the night before with Jason’s sister)and to Cal Expo.

“This place will be packed.” said Jason’s sister as we neared the site.

I had, in my head visualized it being crowded (I had seen videos of their concerts…and knew they had a large devoted fan base) but I wasn’t ready for the mass of people that they actually fit IN the place. Paco mentioned the Beastie Boys concert we saw at the same venue, and how crowded it was, this was worse. The show hadn’t started, and I wasn’t even able to touch the ground, I was hovering on top of people’s feet. It was jammed so tightly, there literally wasn’t enough ground for everyone to stand on.

Every once and awhile the crowd in front would surge backwards, trying to free up more breathing space, and nearly topple the entire crowd. We were located about 1/3 of the way to the front of the massive field. In front of me was not pretty. I witnessed numerous people being lifted out, limp, and passed to the sides so they could be taken for medical help. They had just gotten so smashed, and overheated that they’d collapsed. Keep in mind The concert hadn’t even STARTED yet.

Between crowd swells I watched as a group of roadies set up an electronic piano, with a lot of other gadgets, and 2 MASSIVE upright bass drums.

“Those are huge drums…” I thought to myself as 3 gentlemen more commonly known as Nitzer Ebb strolled to the stage. The first thing I thought when I saw the singer was, “Wow it’s the singer for Simply Red…how odd”

Two men took their places next to the giant drums, and all at once, began to beat them in a driving rhythm BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM

You could feel every beat deep inside your body. The crowd began to jump with the beat. I didn’t recall the album being so bass heavy, but the live show more than made up for that.

The first song they played was “Join in the Chant.” A number that even on the tape could cause a ruckus. The singer grabbed his mic’ and pushed a button on one of his machines beginning the “music” The crowd went insane as the singer continued to slam buttons on his devices and scream at the masses.

LIES!!!LIES!!!!LIES!!!GUNS!!!!GUNS!!!!!!!!!! GUNS!!!!!!!!!! FIRE!!!!!!!!!!! FIRE!!!!!FIRE!!!!!ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!!!”

I don’t really recall much of the rest of the set, I was too busy trying to keep upright. There was a lot of bass, and a lot of screaming. Quite honestly, I was just happy when they left the stage, because the crowd took a few minutes to calm down, and regroup.

When Depeche Mode took the stage the crowd quickly resumed its collective surging to and fro. I again watched numerous people being lifted from the front, lifeless warriors who had vigiantly waited to see Martin Gore up close. Now they were rag dolls badly in need of rehydration, and proper levels of oxygen. I constantly wished for the crowd to just pay attention, and stop moving, but it never happened. For an hour and a half the crowd jumped, and swayed to Martin Gore, David Gahan, and the rest of the band as they crooned through the best of the best. Even on ballads the crowd swayed like crazy people, only they added lighters and fire to the equation so that in addition to possibly being thrown to the ground and trampled, there was also the risk of having your ears or hair set ablaze by a drunken lady screaming “WOOOOOOOOOO MARTIN I LOVE YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOU!!!!”

I remember thinking numerous times, “This is the last show I’l ever see…if I make it out.”

The music sounded great, and I remember there was some leather wearing involved on stage, a lot of blue lighting, and a giant flower in the back (like on the violator cover) but really any details not directly involving my immediate survival escape me. I was more happy I was done with the show than the fact I had been AT the show.

Over time I learned better what to expect at shows given the size, location, and performer, and how to handle them accordingly—but for the immediate time that followed, I was not going to any more shows.