Battery Acid Blues: Bargain Shopping at PopMart

Keir DuBois catches U2’s latest tour in San Diego. (Originally published in the Artsweek section of the UCSB Daily Nexus on 5/1/97).

Where were we?

Oh yeah, following the death of our lead singer, we in the blues band known as the Clap have stagnated, voiceless, save for the gritty baritone of guitarist Adam Hill. Adam, my brother Bryn and I puttered around the studio this last weekend, drained of all creative processes. We knew all too well that if we were to hit the coffee shop circuit this June we absolutely have to record a good demo on our beat-up four track.
Well shee-oot, it’s the damnedest thing when someone dies; even if that person is fictional, there’s still some perverse sense of loss lingering. We knew that we couldn’t get anything done in this condition, and our fearless and faithful non-profit legal and logistical organization evidently realized this too.

Jen Abrams, the woman running our financial wing, sought to drag us from the doldrums by getting us tickets to see a performance of that giant behemoth of a rock institution known as U2. She figured that we would be perked up by seeing a band who were insanely more popular than we ever were trying to put on a gazillion-dollar show and knowing that they’d have to do it 98 more times over the next twelve months and subsequently age eight years in one, risk their marriages, lose all sense of real world time, and totally lose their minds in the craziness of attempting to exercise such an endeavor. We jumped at the chance to go, excited by the prospect of cheap stadium beer, and enthusiastically assured Jen that her job was secure.

The PopMart ‘97 Tour came to San Diego on April 28, and all of the Clap except our prodigious drummer Kevin attended. We also made sure to bring along another good buddy, guest guitarist and proud classic rock fascist Jason Ross. He got us our fist gig, playing on the deck of a boat in Newport Beach in a freezing Orange County December, and we thought it was only fair to return the favor, so, all clad in Magnum P.I. Hawaiian shirts and ripped, faded jeans, we trekked to the old Jack Murphy Stadium to spend money, get blasted, and rock out.

When we got there Jen remembered that she forgot to remember to tell us that one of the tickets represented a seat that was way far away from the rest of us. Being the good Americans we are, we drew straws at In-n-Out Burger, and poor Adam ended up with the bum seat.

We scattered through the zoo of cars in front of the stadium and then through the zoo of bloated concert-goers who were wildly contorting in front of two occupied portable toilets. Soon Adam departed for his nosebleeder seat, saying “Ye shall know me by my loud shirt alone! Synchronize your watches!”

“Cool,” I replied. “You’ll know me by my loud shirt and my goofy walk!” We got to our seats just in time to witness opening act Rage Against the Machine play “Bulls On Parade,” the final song of their set, which was weighted heavily on Tom Morello’s Hendrix-like fretboard excursions, which more than made up for lead screamer Zack de la Rocha and his repressed Irvine pedigree, but we slammed away nevertheless, all except Jason, who refuses to rage to anything he deems uncool.

U2 took the stage to mass hysteria, entering from the back of the stadium and shimmying toward the stage like the techno-mavens they so want to be. We were already slightly sloshed and gladly took part in said madness, though we were wrong in thinking that we would be the most inebriated- as U2 strode fearlessly down the aisle next to our seats, drummer Larry Mullen noticed a toasted male yuppie two rows in front of us putting the moves on a gorgeous but unflattered girl next to him. Before all of our eyes in eye-popping video techno-color, Larry put on his sheriffs badge and became John Wayne, taking the drunk yup by his nose and beating the crap out of him as we all cheered with vicious bloodlust.

“Wow!” exclaimed Bryn as he high-fived Adam, who had eluded security to return. “So that’s why they’re the rock stars!”

They opened their set with “Mofo,” an openly blatant electronic opus that still rocked. Bono, dressed as a hooded boxer (including the fake-muscle shirt), threw the show’s first curve ball when he sang the opening bars to “I Will Follow,” U2’s golden oldie from 1980, as only the second song of the set.

The band alternated hits with new songs for almost the whole show, but at some points U2 lost some energy from working out the kinks on this, only the second show of the tour; after the new “If God Will Send His Angels” petered out halfway through, Bono asked, to no one in particular, “What the hell song are we playing now, anyway?”

Guitarist the Edge responded, saying that it was “time to cut the crap and really rock” and then led the whole stadium in a karaoke version of the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer.” Oh, how the Velveeta flowed. The Clap answered by adding an ugly, high-pitched “oo-a, oo-a!” on every beat, creating a monster in the process, as every Bic-toting teen in the place copied us ad nauseam. During “Please,” Bono sang the title and then held out the mike for the fans to sing it after him. Confused in the din, our little entourage answered “please” like we were taught, with a strong, assertive “Thank You!”

When the first encore came, U2 re-entered the building in a UFO disco ball, and as they segued into “Discotheque,” I watched proudly as my brother calmly took on Travolta-like airs while dsco-dancing his way across the stadium. Stationed all around the Murph were monstrous spotlights, and as Bryn passed each one it shot a brilliant beam of brightness towards heaven, unintentionally accenting every two-step he expertly executed.

As U2 closed the show with “One,” Jen was apparently so moved that she began sensuously massaging our remaining all-male party. We forgot to tell her about our horrible sunburns from the previous day’s trip to the beach, but there was no pain- she’s a genius.

In the end her whole pal worked. We came home and recorded six new songs and two covers in three hours. Rock’n’roll is so much fun that it’s contagious, and seeing a good show like this one is enough to energize even the most stubborn of pricks.