I'm devastated to be missing the Big 4 at Yankee Stadium today. But to be perfectly honest, only because I'm missing Anthrax.
I've been a die-hard New York Yankees fan for as long as I can remember, and Anthrax are my favorite metal band. No disrespect to Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica, but I saw them all at the Southern California Big 4 - their Bronx experience will likely be the same.
But missing out on the opportunity to stand on the same Yankee Stadium infield as Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriquez, Robinson Cano and Mark Texiera and revel in the performance of a band that I'm blessed to call friends? A band that are excited beyond words to play on the hallowed ground of a team they love as much as I do, and in the city they call home? That's the type of once in a lifetime opportunity I'm fairly certain I'll never have a chance to experience again.
Which got me to thinking: while I am missing out on this epic afternoon, I have had my share of chances to experience pop-culture history firsthand - here are ten of my favorites...
10. Yankees vs Braves, Game 4 of 1996 World Series
Since we're talking Yankee Stadium, I'll start with the Yankees, who played the Braves in the 1996 World Series. My Bronx Bombers lost the first two games of the series at home, then won Game 3 in Atlanta. I was in Atlanta and had tickets to Game 4, and it was ugly, New York trailing 6-0 after five innings. They had narrowed the margin to 6-3 when Jim Leyritz came to bat in the eighth inning facing Braves closer Mark Wohlers with two runners on - he took him deep, hitting a three-run homer to tie the game. The Yankees would go on to win 8-6 in extra innings, and win the Series in six. One of the most memorable long-balls in Yankee history, and I was there!
9. Lions vs Packers, 1994 NFC Wildcard game
Staying on the sports tip, I had a field pass for the 1994 NFC Wildcard game, where the Green Bay Packers hosted the Detroit Lions in the first found of the NFL playoffs on December 31, 1994. I worked for the Associated Press and was assigned to pre-game coverage in the parking lot - no small feat at Lambeau Field, one of the world's most sacred stadiums and host to some of greatest fans in sports. I needed to file my story and notes when the game started, which took most of the first half - I spent the rest of the game standing on the Green Bay sideline watching the Packers defense dominate the Lions, holding Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders to -1 yard, and the entire Detroit offense to -4 yards on the ground. Brett Favre ran out the clock by scrambling into his own end zone and giving up an intentional safety to seal the 16-12 Packers victory.
8. Anthrax, House of Blues Anaheim (October 27, 2004)
What was so special about this show? I'll tell you... Frank Bello had briefly left the band, and this tour featured Armored Saint's Joey Vera on bass for Anthrax. But here's where things get crazy - Frank joined Helmet, who also had a show in Anaheim, CA, this night. Helmet's show ended in time for Frank to attend the Anthrax show, and I sat in the front row of the balcony and watched Anthrax - sitting next to Frank Bello. How freaking surreal is that for a piece of Anthrax history that only about a half-dozen of us can share?
7. 2011 Sunset Strip Music Festival
I recently wrote a detailed review of this slice of history, which you can read here. In a nutshell? I experienced The Doors on Friday night at the legendary Whisky A Go Go, then saw Motley Crue headline the third annual street festival Saturday night, literally performing on the Sunset Strip. Two bands that made the Sunset Strip famous, back-to-back. It never happened before, and will likely never happen again.
6. VH1 Behind the Music - Megadeth
I'm no stranger to VH1, but there are a few appearances that stand out for me, including being a featured guest on The List and providing commentary for the Behind The Music on The Cult. But the appearance I'm most proud of? Being featured in the Megadeth Behind the Music. The band is in a dead heat with Anthrax as my favorite metal band, and this was an honor I will forever cherish. We did the interviews at the video shoot for "Motopsycho," and Dave Mustaine was apparently pretty nervous about what I'd say - I'd been a bit too honest about my feelings regarding the Risk album in Metal Edge, and he was worried those sentiments might roll over to the documentary. I'll never forget him coming up to me after reviewing the footage and thanking me for my support and friendship. He remains my favorite personality in metal, bar none.
5. Contributing to David Lee Roth's autobiography
From my favorite personality in metal, to my favorite personality in music - Diamond Dave! I reviewed his Crazy From The Heat autobiography for Metal Edge when it came out in 1998, and apparently Dave took a liking to what I wrote. I was sitting at my desk one morning (not early morning, trust me), and the phone rang - it was Eddie Anderson, David Lee Roth's right hand man. He said that David Lee Roth had a favor to ask (I still can't wrap my head around that, but those were his words!) - the man has been my muse for as long as I've known how to write a sentence, and he wanted to know if he could use part of my book review as the back cover of his softcover release. Ready for the kicker? Eddie proceeded to explain that Dave was not a fan of Metal Edge's history, but he was a fan of mine - would I mind if he just attributed the quote to me, and didn't acknowledge the magazine at all... I've had the pleasure of hanging with Dave many, many times - he even introduced me to John F. Kennedy Jr. - and as great as those memories are, nothing will top the honor of being immortalized on the back cover of his book.
4. Working with the original lineup of KISS
I grew up on KISS, and Alive II was the first record I ever bought. I'll never forget walking out of Caldors with the album... Who knew that someday I'd make KISStory? To the best of my knowledge, there's not another person on this planet that has interviewed all four original members of KISS, done a band photo shoot with all four original members, and photographed an entire live show featuring all four original members. I can literally write a book of my KISS experiences, and have the photos to document them all - who knows, maybe someday. An honor and a privilege that I don't take for granted.
3. Ozzy Osbourne plays me Under Cover
I've had countless bands play me their new music before it's been released (or even completed, for that matter), but never quite like this... I was invited to the Osbourne house to interview Ozzy in summer 2005, and when we were done with the interview he asked me if I wanted to hear some of the songs he mentioned while we were talking - uhm, hell yeah! Ozzy leads me into his study and proceeds to play me selections from the Under Cover album on his stereo, with stories and explanations of each. I had tears in my eyes as he played me John Lennon's "Woman" after explaining how he recorded it for Sharon... Yeah, I wiped tears from eyes in front of Ozzy - what's more metal than that? Ozzy fucking rules. Period.
2. Paul McCartney & Roger Waters at Coachella
These shows were the perfect storms. I was raised on oldies, not the Beatles, so I discovered the Fab Four late in life - but when I fell, I fell hard and fast (I swear I appreciate them more as a result). A friend asked me to see McCartney at the Staples Center with him several years ago, and I was an instant convert. The Beatles are my wife's favorite band, and I absorbed the inner depths of their catalog like a sponge. Being able to see McCartney headline Coachella in 2009 with my wife and some of our closest friends was a celebration I'll never forget and one of the greatest concert experiences of my life. Roger Waters headlined Coachella on his Dark Side of the Moon tour the following year, and that was a much more personal experience for me - Pink Floyd are one of my favorite bands of all-time, and the set was an epiphany. Practically a religious experience...
1. Pope Benedict XVI leading mass at the Vatican
Yes, I realize I just called Roger Waters a religious experience - but music means that much to me. My wife and I went to Italy for our honeymoon and our time in Rome coincided with a mass Pope Benedict was celebrating at St. Peter's Basilica on October 9, 2008, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII's death. We didn't expect to be able to attend, but we wanted to try... We found ourselves in a Vatican line that we assumed was for sightseeing, and when we passed through security and got to the front they told us we couldn't go further unless we were attending the mass. We said we were - and it was really that simple! It was literally a religious experience - Pope Benedict passed within a few feet of us, and people reacted as you'd expect, but also as you could never imagine. Think of the biggest celebrity in the world - this was a hundred times that. This topped anything I've ever experienced in music.